A Conversation with the Candidates: Javier Nuñez-Verdugo for External Vice-President

Rachel Jos, May 11, 2024

This interview was co-led by Rachel Jos and Aashna Kothari.

Note: The views expressed in this interview do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bruin Political Review, and the publication of this interview does not constitute an endorsement for the candidate. Vote through MyUCLA between May 10th and May 17th.


Bruin Political Review (BPR): Why are you running for office of the External Vice President?

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, so I've actually been involved in student-led advocacy since like early high school and whatnot. Fun fact, I'm actually from the East Los Angeles area, closer to the border of Chinatown and everything. So, you know, from a young age, I didn't really have the privilege to not be aware of a lot of systemic issues that sort of plagued predominantly like Latino, Southeast Asian, immigrant communities and whatnot. Notably, I worked a lot to help address homelessness as someone who was also formerly unhoused. Also just, you know, the growing concerns of gentrification that were going on in my neighborhood especially. So I worked a lot with the Chinatown community for equitable development. Throughout my years in high school, they're like a really notable) non-profit that like also does some work with some UCLA orgs to help address like the gentrification issue, the proper, I guess like distribution of land and whatnot. And where I'm going with this is just the fact that because of this and because of the fact that connected so much to my own lived experiences, these are realities that I have been forced to acknowledge from a young age and I can't really get away from them. Even here at UCLA, I've struggled with, you know, having housing and access to adequate food sources and whatnot. As well as, you know, trying to navigate a campus that's not really built for disabled folks as someone who has a mobility issue. So I got into EVP mainly because of the fact that it has so much of a strong arm of resources for advocacy, you know, to our governmental bodies but also, you know, it has a space for me to properly get my own perspective on, you know, like why it's important to have like marginalized voices like at the table. Why it's important to have people who aren't just trying to go to law school build up their resume but also have someone who's like wants to improve the state of life for students, for workers, and for everyone who like, you know, occupies the area of the UC.


BPR: And talking about your experience with USAC, what initiatives have you led and how have they impacted the causes that you're personally focusing on for your campaign? 

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, so I actually started off in USAC my second year, so I'm currently a third year right now, so it's been like around two years of experience. I started off in the internal vice president's office. I was part of their education accessibility committee and through there I focused on a number of initiatives. One, mainly just expanding the network of housing connections that we had and also bringing back the off-campus housing fair, which, you know, was sort of the first of its kind, you know, back, you know, after, you know, COVID shutdowns and whatnot. It was really just a way to, you know, bring students accessible housing options, especially those who are facing more severe housing insecure statuses. So we had Bruin Shelter, their network of, you know, housing shelters that they were in touch with, you know, also attend and really just try to connect with the general student body on Bruin Plaza. I think also just offering my own perspective, again, I mentioned that I have previously experienced, you know, being unhoused and, you know, the amount of impact that that can have on someone's psyche, on someone's physical and mental health too. So really being able to offer that and that eventually led to us forming a housing relief fund, which is like a mini grant that students can apply to for any sort of basic needs oriented asks and whatnot. So that was like my main purpose in that office, especially since it was this much smaller office and full of folks who weren't from predominantly first-gen, low-income backgrounds. So it was really me spearheading a lot of the networking, a lot of the, a lot of the like language revisions to make sure that things are not only accessible, but also non-invasive to folks who are facing these struggles, because it could be really, be traumatizing to have to revisit a lot of these, you know, like lived experiences with housing and food insecurity. And then translating that to EVP, I currently serve as the campus-wide racial justice now coordinator, which is a current like ongoing campaign to secure a $1 billion endowment UC-wide for black student access recruitment and retention at the UC. I'm also staff of the UC relations team, so my main job in the office is to really just bridge the access gap between students in USAC, but also like students with the greater UC system, you know, like administration, the UC Regents, which governs all our campus, and you know how those bodies sort of impact student life here on campus and why we need to keep on fighting for transparency, for accountability, and you know, just making sure that we prioritize a better quality of life. 


BPR: That's awesome. And I know you definitely covered this a little bit, but you seem to have a very extensive background in advocacy. So what kind of spurred that interest first for you in advocating for other people and what they need? 

 Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, I was actually labeled as a problem child a lot by my parents, because I was always so argumentative. But really, just because of the fact that I've had all these lived experiences with like rather negative systemic issues of potential gentrification and being pushed out of our home neighborhoods and whatnot, it really, it like catapults me to being a little bit more confident to speak up about these issues, because you know, I was in a community that was predominantly immigrants. I myself came from a mixed status family, you know, it's like, so having these conversations with people was like second nature, just being like, oh, this is like our way of bonding over it. But then, you know, interacting with more people, especially in high school, who came from different areas and whatnot, seeing that that wasn't the case. And there are real disparities and equity when it comes down to like, you know, addressing certain issues. Like, that's what really spurred my interest in advocacy, because it gave a purpose to all the quote unquote trauma dumping that I was doing about my lived circumstances. And it really just goes to show that like, everyone has a place that they're learning from, that they're coming from. And it's valuable, you know, whether you're someone who has a lot of lived experiences and a certain aspect of things like me, or you know, you're someone who has a lot to learn about said lived experiences. So I engage in advocacy for the education aspect of it, especially because I think it's so important to hear everyone's perspectives. But also, you know, like, make room for folks who don't traditionally get those spaces.  


BPR: And then kind of just focusing on the UCLA community, what do you think are some of the main challenges that students are facing right now on campus? In just your personal opinion?

 Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah. I think the main thing would honestly have to be, and this is like a really big umbrella answer, but just the lack of access. When I was thinking about this question, and I was thinking about like how I started coming into USAC and the EVP office specifically, I realized that like, in a lot of my conversations in the past few months, whether it be for like the Racial Justice Now campaign, talk about affordable housing and financial aid, you know, with like different lobby groups and whatnot, or even just like talking with my friends about the work that I do, because like, they're so taken aback by like all the treachery that goes on within USAC and the UC administration in general. There's a real lack of access to knowledge regarding how the UC works, how power is structured and everything, you know. I've actually had to tell a lot of people that at the most recent Regents meeting, which was held on UCLA's campus, they tried passing a political censorship bill that got tabled to May. So now we have to figure out how to mobilize to UC Merced, which is in the Central Valley—very inaccessible. 

I think that's one of the biggest issues that like not only plagues the UC as a whole, but also just UCLA specifically, because administration, even in conversations that I've had with like Chancellor Gene Block, for example, about, you know, addressing Black student access and Black student needs in my job, he hasn't been the most, you know, transparent and accessible. He, you know, very much hinges on an HR perspective on things like, you know, how do I best save my image while also shutting up the student who is bringing up very serious criticisms about my administration. And I know this is gonna sound really corny, but I really do love this quote. I think what's really important for students to emphasize is we have never been outnumbered. We've only been out organized. And this is from Linda Sarsour, who's a Palestinian activist and whatnot. But I think it speaks really true to the fact that like, you know, we're just, we're like out-educated on the ins and outs of the UC system about UCLA administration as a whole. And that's why it's important to engage in the work that EVP does, because it really helps, you know, bridge that access gap and like helps connect students of so many different experiences and backgrounds to, you know, ways that EVP can help them, you know, connect with, you know, legislators to administration, to the regents and whatnot. And overall, to fight for more change.


BPR: Our next block of questions is more focused on your initiatives. Aashna, do you want to take the “fund this campus up” questions? 

BPR: Yeah, yeah. So to discuss your first part of your platform, which is about funding this campus, how do you plan to fight for financial aid within both the UCLA administration and the state government? 

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Okay, okay. I'm sorry. I have like a really deep, like, really deep place in my heart for these platforms, just because a lot of it does encompass my own lived experiences and my friends' lived experiences.But to answer the question, the main initiative that EVP has been taking this past quarter, and one that I intend to continue into the following year is Cal Grant Equity. So just like a quick little, like, breakdown of that, that's essentially trying to increase the access and the amount of funding to the current Cal Grant to non-traditional students over the age of 28 and work on the ground to increase the visibility of non-traditional student programs, you know, ones that we see in the resource center, like the undocumented students program, students with dependents, et cetera, et cetera. And, you know, this has already been passed in the California State Legislature, but, you know, because of the budget deficit, it's been really hard to fund. So that's what we've been advocating for. We've been pushing for alternatives, like dipping into the state reserves. I think that's something that's, you know, really important, especially in the past year of work for racial justice now, which has connected to, you know, the wide variety of, like, lived experiences by Black students, a large amount, you know, who happen to be in these, what you call it, like, non-traditional student programs and everything. That includes transfers, by the way. So, you know, being able to work with the previous transfer student representative, Tyra, who is also the African Student Union's chairperson, it really helped open my eyes to, like, just how much, you know, something as, you know, like single issue as Cal Grant Equity can really go to help, you know, expand access to UC for all students, even prospective students. 

I think also, just to close off this question, continue to push administration, the regents, and the UC offices of the president for meetings to discuss racial justice initiatives like RGM, which focuses on, you know, like, academic reparations. More funding for student-initiated programs. So think of things like SHAPE, which is the Black Student Union's retention program, CHINESHLE, which is for Latino students, and an early academic outreach program. But more funding for that, and also just funding, like, putting enough money to pay workers, you know, because when, you know, you're working, like, two part-time jobs and whatnot, like I am, to be able to afford housing, food, while also being a full-time student and everything, it's kind of insane to, you know, make the concept of being able to pay for education, the right to an education, making it, like, such a political, such a, such a, you know, like, hard, like, difficult ask to meet, you know? So I think, like, that's some of the really important initiatives that I really want to focus on, and how it can apply to both UCLA administration, but also the state government, too, so we can incorporate students, you know, and take them to Sacramento, take them to Washington, D.C., and to advocate for these initiatives.


BPR: I think you've kind of already answered a little bit of the next question, but do you think that currently there are enough financial aid opportunities for students? And if not, what ideas do you have for expanding that beyond what already exists?

 Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Oh, yeah, okay. I'll try to make this one quick, because I already kind of answered it, but the quick answer, no. Like, in my lived experience as a low-income student, even though, like, I receive a lot of financial aid and support, you know, for being in, like, one of the lowest income tax brackets, I've still had to take out loans just to pay for housing. There's also, like, a lot of re-traumatizing experiences back there that I won't get into just for the purpose of, like, you know, keeping my own privacy. But, you know, like, having to do that as a queer and trans student, someone who isn't guaranteed safety, you know, everywhere, doesn't have the full support of their family, it's a really difficult, you know, like, thing to look back on and just think, like, wow, I was really considering all of these really bad alternatives to being able to pay for school, you know, putting my own life on the line just to be able to afford a housing situation that, you know, actually that would be safe for me, you know, in my lived experiences, you know. But connecting this to the broader student end and everything, I know I've been talking a lot about underrepresented students and students who can't traditionally afford college.

But, you know, there's also that bit of middle-class and upper-upper-class folk who can't afford college, even though, like, their family income says they should, you know. So I think also being able to support middle class students who don't traditionally get full aid through programs like the Blue and Gold Plan is also incredibly important, which brings me to, you know, my point of my platform relating to, you know, the UC Divest Movement. Divest from war and invest in students. The UC has $169 billion in, like, investments, some of which goes to companies like BlackRock, which are directly or which, you know, through some means or another directly fund the Palestinian genocide, which is ongoing right now. I know that's something that maybe you guys won't want to talk about as much because y'all are nonpartisan, you know, but it really goes to show that, like, instead of taking our tuition dollars and prioritizing it into making housing cheaper or college more affordable, we're putting it towards, you know, US imperialism and, you know, negatively affecting a lot of the students that make up our, like, very diverse UCLA culture.  


BPR: Definitely. And then I think we have one more question on the Fund Campus Up one. Aashna, do you want to take that one? 

BPR: Yeah, of course. So, our last question was just that you had stated that you mentioned advocating for the rights of students to work under fair and safe conditions. And you had mentioned that earlier, too, as you were speaking. What issues do you think students are currently facing in UCLA workspaces and how would you improve their conditions?

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah. So, in the past year especially, I've been able to do a lot of work with Student Labor Advocacy Project and Starbucks Workers United because I do have friends and connections there. But, you know, through those talks and also, you know, being a student worker on campus, again, I mentioned I work two jobs. There's not enough protections for things like sick pay or sick leave. Being able to safely report grievances in the workplace, you know, like recently SLOP put out a worker grievance form, which is something that had to be pushed by students in order to protect students from, like, employment or management retaliation for saying, like, hey, our workplace isn't doing enough to make sure that, you know, we aren't fighting rats who are eating our oat milk and everything, which is an actual thing going on on campus, by the way. The more you know, don't go to Jimmy's. But we don't get paid enough for some of the things that, you know, we have to deal with as workers, you know. Like, I don't know why I, as a student worker working in the film school, have to teach, like, senior citizens basic manners on how to treat, like, you know, like, service workers to not throw stuff in my face and, like, throw temper tantrum because I'm unable to, I don't know, like, move someone out of their seat with my mind and everything. 

You know, it's like those really difficult situations that, you know, work puts us in that aren't being properly addressed by the UC. There's also the work of, you know, larger labor unions like ASME 3299. If you guys were at Ackerman Union, you know, you saw, like, picketing and asked for labor contracts, housing justice. So ASME is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and they're the largest employee union in the UC with, like, 30,000 workers system-wide. And they've been operating since 1948 on the pillars of, like, social justice and economic opportunity beyond their union but for everyone because, you know, worker issues are student issues. Student issues are worker issues. These are also disability issues, racial issues, you know. So our issues are all intertwined, whether it be, you know, helping them fight for $25 to combat, you know, the rising cost of living or, you know, like, securing housing where they work because it's hard to make the two-hour commute every day by public transportation when all these workers come from, like, you know, other countries and don't have, like, a solid social safety net because, you know, our legislature is trying to take away these social protections. 

So that's why, you know, fair and safe conditions for workers is such a huge thing for me because how much it, like, comes to affect, you know, the livelihoods of not just students but also the adults that make up our, like, you know, our school, the very backbone of the UC. And it's just sickening that we can't properly unionize, we can't ask for worker protections without the fear of retaliation and, you know, like, wondering where our next meal is going to come from.


BPR: Definitely. And then for your next initiative for Bruin representation, our first question is, what contributes to an unsafe environment on campus? And do you have any methods in mind to work towards creating a more trusting environment?

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Let's get into it. I'm sorry, this is, like, my Roman Empire. So one of the main things that I've been advocating for on the ground for, like, such a long time is divesting from UCPD. And overall, just, like, you know, the carceral prison system as a whole. But, you know, in order to ensure the safety of, like, students who are, you know, Black, Indigenous, persons of color. And in times of crisis, you know, there aren't really a lot of alternatives for us. You know, like, there's the CSO and the safe ride programs, but, like, even those aren't enough. I found myself in dangerous situations at night, you know, going back from work or, you know, like, picking up food from the grocery store. And I haven't been able to safely rely on CSO and safe ride. I've been robbed in Westwood, like, at gunpoint. And when I went to UCPD, they did nothing. Like, just goes to show how useful they are. So there's also the fact that there's a lack of proper community input from communities who feel the most, like, unsafe with, you know, these resources like UCPD. You know, they feel so unsafe from this idea of, you know, safety at a predominantly white institution that aren't properly getting reached out to and being asked, like, hey, you know, like, what's your feedback for how we can improve, like, student safety, pedestrian safety and whatnot at our campus in Westwood? But also just more funding towards affordable healthcare and community wellness, because safety is not just, you know, like, oh, how do we protect ourselves in times of crisis? But it's also, like, how do we protect ourselves from sickness, from, you know, severe, like, hospitalization, from death, even? So, you know, like, I work at the LGBT Resource Center, for example, and we have, like, a institutionally funded, you know, like, resource cart full of contraceptives, Plan B menstrual products, but also, like, masking for students, because COVID and, you know, like, disease in general are just still a very serious thing, and disabled students are disproportionately affected by these, you know, disparities and whatnot. 

So it's also, you know, that aspect of things, like, how do we protect some of our most vulnerable student populations, whether they be Black, Indigenous, persons of color, or whether they be students, like, disabled students who lack proper, like, support from administration, because you know, UC SHIP is so, like, unnavigable, you know, when we're allegedly supposed to be getting, like, free, like, four free CAP sessions if you're not on UC SHIP, but yet my friend the other day confided in me and told me that they tried charging her $30 for her first session, and wouldn't budge when I mentioned that, hey, she's supposed to get these for free. So, you know, these all contribute to an unsafe environment on campus. It's so, so, so important that we have someone on the ground who's, like, willing to have these meetings with administration, with the vice chancellor on student wellness and whatnot, to be able to address these concerns. 


BPR: How would you plan on increasing the representation of students from diverse backgrounds on the UCLA campus, and what can we do to promote inclusivity on our campus? 

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, so I think, for one, this is actually something I addressed at USAC public comment, I believe, this past week, but I called on, you know, the USAC offices to begin forming a program, or begin forming, like, anti-Blackness awareness trainings, not just for commissioners, but also the staff that they house, just because, and again, I reference racial justice now in the campaign I'm working on, like, so much during this call, but it's because, like, it's such an amazing initiative, and I've really grown a lot as a student leader in terms of, like, how I talk to people and how I educate them, but essentially, you know, like, having that sort of anti-Blackness awareness training is, like, crucial, because, you know, it's no secret that, like, Black and Indigenous folk face some of the largest, you know, degrees of, like, discrimination, especially in higher education, you know, as well as barriers to entry, like finances, the cultural gap in academia, etc., so I think it's just incredibly important that, like, especially with a lot of the commissioners for next year looking like they might also be white, it's incredibly important that we advocate and champion for racial justice in these spaces to increase representation, not just in USAC, but of students who want to be involved and use the resources that USAC has to offer with its different commissions. 

I think also collaborating more with existing student programs, like the Bruin Resource Center, which has a myriad of programs I've already touched on before, and getting them connected with what the EVP office has to offer, whether it be funding, access to identity-based lobby days, and, you know, special trainings and bureaucratic navigating, you know, getting them meetings with the new chancellor, because I forgot Gene Block's not going to be here next year, the UC office of the president, the regents, you know, including other student programs that can be found in the Student Activities Center, like the undocumented student program as well, but, you know, also acknowledging the fact that, like, even if commissions have these resources, like funding, that throwing funding at orgs, especially historically marginalized orgs, isn't going to do anything, because some orgs don't know how to properly access these funding grants, but also these issues run deeper than just we can't afford to put on programs; it's we don't feel safe, we don't feel supported by our students, the government, and the very institution that we're, like, you know, learning and getting our degrees in, so I think that's also a really big part of it, you know, improving the retention rates of our own communities that are already in UCLA, so that we can promote more to students from similar backgrounds who are looking to be a UC student, I think is also incredibly important, and this definitely takes more on the ground work than just, you know, working to get more funding in our funding bodies and just tossing that at orgs, you know, hoping that it leads to some net positives.


BPR: Definitely, and you talk a little bit about working within the UCLA administration to accomplish these tasks, so in your experience serving on USAC, how can you make the administration and the government an ally in advancing student interests?  

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, I don't, like, I definitely think getting them to be an ally is the ultimate end goal. I think in my experience, yes, making these bodies an ally is, like, a net good for our communities in terms of, like, being able to negotiate and, you know, meet the needs of students, but I think, in general, we have to, in order to get these institutions to collaborate with us, we have to antagonize them a bit because, frankly, like, if you look at the people who are leading these committees compared to the people who are on the ground fighting for our rights, which are predominantly Black and brown people, you see the disparity in, like, who's in leadership, who has the power to allocate these funds, who has the power to, you know, create policy and whatnot, I think it takes a bit of antagonizing because you have to give them that rude awakening of, hey, these institutions were not made to properly serve marginalized students. 

These institutions weren't made to serve Black indigenous persons of color or disabled folks or queer and trans folk in general. So, I think, in terms of being able to do this, you know, we have to make students more aware of the degree of influence that administration has on governing student life, get them to participate in things like bimonthly regents meetings, which, you know, have public comments, but also, like, demonstrations where students can get connected with other racial equity, racial and economic equity orgs like ASME 3299, the labor union I spoke about earlier, and also just allowing for this coming council to be able to look back at what the previous council has done, what their own reflection of their policies, you know, is, you know, in terms of what they could have improved, and how there's a disparity between that and, like, what the community thinks of what council did, because I'm sure y'all were there when we were fighting for epidemic reparations and it got vetoed by Ms. USAC's president and everything. So, you see, we have the council side that thinks that they did a positive by, like, you know, saying that, oh, but these people have now have access to BOD, board of directors funding, but in reality, it's like, well, these have been historically inaccessible, we've been telling you that, and yet you guys chose to veto $200,000 for Black and Latino students, specifically, you know? And then last but not least, you know, just doing the work early, like, right now, like yesterday, on educating folks on what the government's up to, what initiatives they're doing to be trifling, because, you know, like, an example that we focused on early on in the fall for EVP was, like, phone banking to get the Republican caucus to stop trying to cut supplemental education opportunity programs, or grants, SELG, and federal work-study, you know? I'm a federal work-study student.

If that gets cut, I'm out of a job. I don't get protections as a student to be able to work and everything. and as someone who, you know, is trying to graduate in four years, as someone who already has to deal with, like, you know, remissions from my disability and whatnot, like, that's not, that's not something I can afford. So it's also something that we have to, like, actively work with, you know, student leaders, but also our administrations to ensure that, hey, you guys created this university allegedly for us, fight for us. You guys have the power, you guys have the lobbying experience, like, please just make sure that we're able to have access to this quality of life resources.


BPR: Absolutely, and our last block of questions about your initiatives is about your Mother Orgs initiative. So, Aashna, do you want to take those questions? 

BPR: Yeah, yeah, of course. So our first question was, most people outside of USAC wouldn't know what Mother Orgs are because they're not familiar with USAC in general. To be honest, they're not really familiar with USAC, and so could you just explain for us what Mother Orgs are and their purpose and why they're important? 


Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, of course. So the Mother Orgs, Mother Organizations—this is a direct quote from the old Mother Org Instagram that I'm  going to be citing, but, “they're the coalition of political identity-based student organizations constantly working to break down institutional barriers that prevent the success of historically marginalized communities at UCLA and in the greater LA area”. So, in short, there's some of the oldest identity-based student orgs that exist here in UCLA. Their work started—I believe their work as a coalition started around, like, the late 1960s, especially in response to Ronald Reagan putting in the first student fees at the UC, which was a way to keep Black and brown students out of college, who would have guessed. All our problems go back to Ronald Reagan. But it initiated, like, a really huge barrier to entry for Black and brown students, and they're meant to just offer space and representation for racialized students in a higher education system that wasn't really meant for them to begin with. You know, that's the importance of Mother Orgs. So, you know, when you think of them, I'll offer some examples. You can think of the African Student Union, Empowering Latinas Against Struggle, ILAS, or, which was formerly MECHA, the Vietnamese Student Union, etc., etc. 


BPR: That's awesome. Yeah, and so our next question has to do with those Mother Orgs and its relationship to USAC and EVP. So how has USAC and EVP worked towards helping underrepresented students, and specifically those that are represented by those Mother Orgs, and how do you plan to improve this if you take office?

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, so I think I'll just leave with the fact that—and this is something I didn't need to consult anyone on—but there's a lot of strain and distress between the Mother Orgs and USAC/UCLA administration as a whole. Those have definitely been exacerbated, you know, due to COVID and, you know, the shutdowns and how that's really disconnected, like, students and people in power from these underrepresented student populations. But, you know, in my experience in EVP, when I first joined, there was a Campus Partnerships Committee, which primarily dealt with Mother Org relations. It's now been rebranded as Student Relations, and they're set to directly tackle these issues of, like, you know, addressing some of the most pressing concerns of basic needs, racial inequities that plague—that specifically—not plague, but, like, specifically affect Mother Orgs primarily. 

So in terms of what I would do, you know, if I were to take office, essentially, these are all stuff that I'm gonna publicize within the next few days. I'm just waiting for the graphics to get approved, but one, a USAC-wide anti-Blackness awareness training, and also just workshops on Indigenous allyship, just because we are a land grant institution, and we do currently occupy the Gabrielino-Tongva land. So it involves, you know, working with the Native Bruins Coalition on their Native American Opportunity Grant, that they're trying to expand past, like, federally recognized tribes, because not everyone falls in that. There's also, you know, the fact that we need these trainings because there were 3,000 additional enrollment spots at the UC in the past year, and not a single one was allotted to a Black freshman or transfer student, you know. I can drop the link for the Racial Justice Now resolution, which includes a lot of this information. I can get it to load, but I think it's also important to, like, reference on y'all's own time, but this has been publicized for, like, the past couple quarters, so feel free to look at that. But back to what I was originally saying, moving off from that, there are also needs to be more accountability from the Hispanic Serving Institution Committee that's housed in the office of the Chancellor, you know, to properly push for things that benefit Latina students directly, like a Latina Student Resource Center, which, you know, these resource centers have been proven to, like, boost retention rates, make students feel more at home. And, you know, UCLA wants to be an HSI by 2025, but they don't really take any tangible or worthwhile means of, like, housing Latina students and everything. Like me, as an indigenous Mexican, you know, I don't feel properly supported in my identity here. The most I feel supported is on the Chicano LLC floor in Sproul. Like, that's the biggest cultural hub that we have, you know. 

There's also supporting transfer and non-traditional students. So, you know, more stats. Sorry, I'm going to throw these at you, but for the 2024 transfer application at the UC, they've grown, like, 10% to 43,000 students. A lot of transfers and non-traditional students are largely Latine. Those are, like, around 40%, Asian-American, which are 30%, Black students were 7%, you know, etc., etc. And so, that really involves working with the incoming transfer student rep and transfer leaders to push for more institutional funding for admit weekends that have special events, like, you know, the ability to house students overnight, you know, because that's a really key way to, like, boost retention rates because it goes to show students that, like, oh, this school isn't as wide as I thought, you know. Oh, this school has a community for Black students, for Asian students, for Latina students and everything. Give them a sense of belonging on a campus that they want to call home. And then, last but not least, you know, there's also me wanting to initiate the first Black Student Affairs team and continuing the RJN campaign. So, you know, this team would look like fighting to increase Black student enrollment and retention at the UC, fighting for more institutional funding and support for Black student events and programs, like AfroGrad, their retention program, SHAPE, Black Student Lobby Day, but also collaborating with other UC campuses and UC leaders because that's what EVP is about, cross-campus collaboration, on ways that, you know, UCLA can leverage its own privilege to support smaller campuses while also learning from campuses that may have a higher Black student population than us and are better at making space for racialized minorities than UCLA is. And also, just help them meet with the UC Office of the President because we tried meeting with him over spring break and he avoided us. He sent his staff towards us and that was such an unproductive meeting. I could talk more about it in a paper call, but what I really want to top this off with, I don't talk about a lot of initiatives that I would want as an EVP, but our advocacy needs to be aligned in intersectionality. We have to be willing to work with these mother orgs, learn how they've already been advocating for themselves and they've been fighting for themselves for the last couple of decades, and how we can, you know, work with them without intruding, without being all, like, savior complex-y, you know? That's also another really important part about being, you know, a USAC leader is learning how to work with these marginalized student populations without taking away their autonomy. 


BPR: Absolutely. Yeah, you pretty much addressed the next question that we have, but you could talk about it more if you'd like. What ideas do you have for increasing the USAC support services available to underrepresented groups on the UCLA campus? Maybe, since you've already addressed some of that, you can talk more about EVP specifically and its relations to other campuses or lobbying days or state government? 

 Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, so I'll try to make this one quick, but, you know, we have funding bodies, we have the Bruin Advocacy Grant, we have the Grassroots Workers and Organizing Grant, GROWS, so one of the things is trying to increase the funds that we have for that to, like, make it more feasible for, like, multiple orgs to, you know, like, apply, because especially post-COVID shutdowns, a lot more orgs have been applying, and these are predominantly, like, orgs for underrepresented, like, advocacy programs. You know, pushing for more education on how to apply, long-term coalition support to get USAC to be able to support them, again, without taking away these orgs' autonomy, but also listening and actively incorporating the feedback of students. In terms of  leveraging, like, cross-campus connections, I think it's important to also, you know, bring student leaders, both within USAC and out of USAC, to our various conferences, like the Student Organizing Summit, where we make, where we come up with some of our, like, statewide initiatives that the UC try to champion for the year through the UC Student Association, the Students of Color Conference, which, you know, I led this past year and managed to bring 50 students to, in order to, you know, educate them on how power is structured at the UC, and how, you know, we as students can mobilize towards a better future for Black Indigenous students of color. That's just ways that we can, you know, leverage that, and, you know, make these resources more accessible, while framing it in a way that's, you know, like, palatable for the average student who isn't interested in USAC, but maybe is interested in meeting other folks and making cross-campus connections. 


BPR: Definitely, and that's the next section of our interview is basically just wrapping up and some closing questions. So, what is something that you would want students and voters to know about you as a person? 

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Oh, okay, um, I want to apologize in advance, but to the voters, to the students, I am a Gemini. Take with that what you will. I know there are a lot of, I know there are a lot of astrology gurus out there who have a thing against Geminis, but no, like, in all seriousness, like, as a person, if you ever catch me outside, like, I'm very, very much visible because of my jewelry and my dyed hair, and you want to say hi to me, or you want to talk to me about something, feel free to come up. I usually have my earbuds in, because I'm, like, trying to get from one place to another, but if you want, tap my shoulder and say hi to me. If you want me to, like, spare a swipe or something, let me know. I'm an approachable person. I like to think of myself as, and I'm also just, you know, someone who likes interacting with the general community, even, like, when I'm busy, so don't be afraid to come up to me. I want to be an approachable candidate, but I also want to be an approachable potential, like, student leader on campus. 


BPR: That's amazing, and what are you most excited about accomplishing in this position? Oh, and if you could also answer what you're most nervous about, that would be great, too.

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Oh, okay, okay, wait, that's actually a really good follow-up. Okay, so what I'm most excited about, honestly, is trying to mend some of the relationships that, you know, aren't as strong between USAC and the Mother Orgs. I know I've already been doing a lot of work for that this past year, and, like, I've been still trying to do it, like, during this election cycle and everything, but that's something that I'm really excited for, just because, like, it's really nice to see students come together in solidarity for a lot of different initiatives, especially, like, in the past week where we've seen campuses like USC, Columbia, Yale, like, stand in solidarity with, you know, Palestinian students and Muslim students, especially, like, when we have that sort of, like, solidarity, like, among students and everything, it creates really beautiful means of organizing, of creating change by students for students, and, you know, really, really just goes to show that community does so much in the face of, you know, racial capitalism, in the face of systems that were not meant for us in the first place, and making those systems ours.

And in terms of what I'm most nervous of, the same exact thing, because navigating the Mother Org space is scary, especially when you have a lot of built-up generational trauma passed down from student to student of how USAC has wronged these underrepresented student populations, you know? So while I'm, like, equally as nervous as I am excited to work with the Mother Orgs, I do want to acknowledge the fact that, at  the end of the day, that's a fact that I'm willing to make. That's something that I  have been pushing for since I stepped onto this campus, and since I've been in student advocacy here at UCLA specifically, and I'm prepared to do that, and also help other leaders within USAC, within other student orgs to make that jump, too, because it's something that we can all benefit from. Right, right.


BPR: Absolutely. And our final kind of wrapping up question is, in a brief statement, why should students vote for you, and what qualities do you think you possess that make you an ideal candidate for EVP? 

Javier Nuñez-Verdugo: Yeah, so just to close this off and everything, in the current social, political, economic environment, however you want to, you know, phrase it and everything, we really need someone who is connected to the community, but also has real experience in organizing and advocacy work, who has lived experiences with a lot of these issues that students are prioritizing, like affordable housing, like, you know, the safety of, you know, our families abroad and everything, which, you know, is seen as an issue separated from UCLA, but in reality, when your campus is funding genocide, you know, but also someone who understands the importance of forming relationships beyond just getting a vote, getting an endorsement, you know, and prioritizing forming relationships with students who are often overlooked. We need someone who knows the exact projects that EVP should be prioritizing, has been working on, and have been successful. And honestly, at the end of the day, USAC as a whole, it's more than just drawing funding at students, at our constituents and everything. It's about forming community, forming coalitions, forming lifelong bonds that transcend graduation, and being able to create a safety net for some of our most underrepresented students.




Conversations were recorded to ensure accuracy, and writers made slight edits for clarity.