A Conversation with the Candidates: Joshua Bances for President

Rachel Jos, May 10, 2024

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 president?

Joshua Bances: So I've been very straightforward about like, you know, being the newcomer. I mean, I'm, if you saw the Bruin Daily, Daily Bruin, um, and you know, 40 candidates in all of these and one referendum, um, you know, my name was first because of my last name, but the key word there is transfer student, you know, and I think, and out of every president, any like president that's running right now, I am the only transfer student and the only Latino presidential candidate.

So a big part of that is like, wow, like people would be like, if I were a freshman because, you know, and I'm barely here 20 something weeks, I would have probably jumped into running for president. But the reality is that what I've noticed, and I've done a lot in these past 20 weeks, is that there is this problem with USAC. And the problem is the nature of how it works with administration.

And I don't believe that they were close enough. Um, you know, there is a counterpart of A and B, and hopefully you get, you know, AB. But right now they're kind of separated.

And I think a key part of that is that they, you know, people can say in USAC, oh, I'll work with administration. And, you know, it's like, okay, I'm like, that's great. I'm like, I mean, like, that's great.

Like, you can work with administration. I'm like, who in administration? Yes. You know, which vice chancellor, which associate vice chancellor, which director, executive director? How do you know them? Like, you know, um, do you know what they're working on right now? Is there a way we can help them? You know, and it really is that collaborative effort.

Over the last 24, 26-ish weeks, I've really honed down and I've really made those relations with administration. And prior to coming to UCLA, I worked in administration. I was a fundraiser.

And I worked for development at Pepperdine. And I worked for the vice chancellor of mass appeal and alumni relations. So I know how administration works.

But I also know how student government works because I worked with student government before in the past. And yeah, I think that was a big thing was how much change could be done when you really combine the two. And I think that is always what makes me really unique.

I don't have to establish relationships because I come in as I become president. I just have to work with them, which I already have in the past.


BPR: And then you said that you've been in USAC for a little while now. So what initiatives have you led at USAC? And how they impacted the causes that you're personally focusing on for your campaign?

Joshua Bances: Well, no, I haven't been in USAC at all.


BPR: Oh okay. So you mentioned that you were working with the administration. What is your experience has been within USAC so far? Or are you completely a newcomer?

Joshua Bances: Completely like out of it. Oh, completely out of it.


BPR: Okay. Okay. So what are some of your experiences working within the administration of Pepperdine? So what were some of the struggles that you encountered? And how did you kind of overcome that?

Joshua Bances: Sure. Well, you know what I can more than that I can talk about that for sure. But I can talk about my experiences here working in the committees that I sit on at UCLA. Okay, that might be a bit helpful.


BPR: Yeah, that would be awesome. 

Joshua Bances: But Pepperdine wise, I traveled a bit. My job was to do mass appeals.

So I helped with the campaigns and everything approved, like fundraising money. So Pepperdine Gives was an initiative that we did in the first year of doing affinity groups, and we raised a million dollars in a day. 


BPR: Oh, wow, that's amazing.

Joshua Bances: Pretty, pretty good number. Yeah, I worked with a lot of the student orgs and I you know, and kind of bridged that gap. But you know, I think the most I want, if I'm honest, in the article, as far as Pepperdine, the experience I did there, not how much of what I did.

Okay, I feel detracted from what I do now here at UCLA, which I think is more important. Okay. Um, so at UCLA, I sit on the Dean of Students Committee.

As a panel member, I sit on community rep through the for Denef Towers, which is composed of Gardini and Holly, Holly being the transfer dorm. And then I am in Chancellor's Link. 

BPR: Okay.

Joshua Bances: And Chancellor's Link is where I have been able to do a lot of change, I would say and get those connections with administration. Chancellor's Link is a leadership program that is run by Vice Chancellor Monroe Gordon. And it is an initiative to that where they pick around 20 students to fly out to DC after December ends, after fall quarter ends, and you go with the Chancellor, and other members of the administration.

And me personally, I actually did lobbying in Capitol Hill with government community relations, for we were lobbying for doubling the Pell and keeping and not lowering the Pell, which was something that was going to go through the House. But it was a passing Senate. I haven't kept up with it.

But we were, we're there, we met around five congressional staffers. And obviously, they were going to relay the message to whoever they, you know, up the ranks. And I think that that just kind of shows, you know, at 20, at that point, I was what, 11, 12 weeks into UCLA.

I was already, you know, running around doing things. And it's like, I don't see that from a lot of individuals. And, when I think about it as a transfer, I'm like, yeah, of course, I'm the underdog.

Like, like, I shouldn't be able to run an actual campaign after 20 weeks and have a possibility of winning. But because of the relationships I've had, because of the work I've done, because I've, you know, worked, we've gone to cultural events and gone to different things and have different friend groups and whatnot. I really have assimilated well to UCLA and, you know, to different communities.


BPR: That's amazing. So it seems like you've been interested in advocacy for a while, with your experience with lobbying and your experience on Capitol Hill, too. So what spurred that interest in advocacy?

Joshua Bances:  Um, you know, there's a couple things.

And I think one of the big things was that I'm very, I would say, growing up, I think I've always been like, the, like, outspoken. I've always been very outspoken. I've always, I've always fought for what I wanted.

And, you know, there was a time where I realized that, that you can't get everything you want, and that life isn't completely fair. So when I was in sixth grade, I got hit on the head with a brick by one of my classmates. And it became a very political thing.

There was a lawsuit and everything. And at the end of the day, I got post-concussion syndrome, I struggled for many years. And at the end of the day, we settled for a number.

And, but like, out of that number, I got around 10% of it, even though I was the person that suffered the most. And that really showed that, like, you know, the system doesn't work sometimes. And that, you know, if someone dies, and they sue, you pay them off with money.

And that is the value that, in essence, sometimes we are portrayed to have. And advocacy really spoke to me in the way of saying, okay, wait, like, money's great. And like, we are a capitalist society.

But like, human life is not worth a million dollars, two, three, five, even a billion. You know, there isn't a number you can quantify it with. 


BPR: I'm so sorry that happened to you. And I mean, that's amazing that you've turned such a horrible situation into such a positive thing with your work with advocacy.

Joshua Bances: Yeah. And I'm doing undocumented students tomorrow.

And one of the things that I'll be talking about is my sister. And that was actually something I said in Capitol Hill, because my part of it was actually lobbying for, like, urging Congress to actually allow Dream Act students to be able to access federal money. And the reason why that's close, I guess, to my heart is because my sister went to UCLA.

And my sister is 23 years younger than me. No, older than me. Sorry.

We're 23 years apart. Okay. So she really was more like a mom to me.

But she wasn't able to come to UCLA. Because, even though she got a full ride to it, she did not have her documents because my parents immigrated from Guatemala, along with my sister when she was eight years old. And they asked her for her social security number, and she wasn't able to come.

So then she poured her entire life into making sure I would have everything she did. So I think that's why I see undocumented students now. And I think it's great how they have this opportunity that I know my sister would have really fought for.


BPR: So in your personal opinion, what do you personally think are some of the biggest challenges that UCLA students are facing on campus? This can be transfer students, regular students…

Joshua Bances: Go ahead. Sure. So I think, you know, what makes me very unique when it comes to, you know, obviously I am a transfer student, but I am the age of all the sophomores.

I'm a year ahead. When I was in high school, I did dual enrollment. And I graduated high school with four associate degrees three days after high school graduation.

I had my community college graduation. And then I went off to Pepperdine, and I was only there for around three months. So I had the experience of being a freshman, and living with freshmen and everything, you know.

And now I have experience of being a transfer and kind of being in and out. So I know how both, you know, sides go. And I think that makes me very unique.

And that's why I do try to say, you know, present for all, because I understand what the freshman is going through, because I went through it at a different institution, but the feelings are the same. And I went through it now as a transfer. That being said, I think that the biggest problem with freshmen specifically is obviously the adjustment.

Being away from home, being a little bit younger, you know, straight out of high school, 18 years old, barely, you know, an adult, and having to fend for yourself. And as a transfer, it's, I have two years. This is my first fall quarter.

Next year's my last fall quarter. Yeah. Like you're in and you're out, right? So you really have to hit the ground running.

And then things pass so fast. It's like, oh, yeah, this was due in November. Oh, well, I mean, I still have next year, right? And they're like, well, technically this was for next year.

So like, you really only have one shot. And I think streamlining those two and showcasing how different those two experiences are, but yet finding the commonality in them is something extremely important, because like under everything, we still are all part of the same community. As far as besides, you know, transfer specific and freshmen specific problems, I think the biggest problem right now that obviously, you know, everyone will talk about is the separation and the polarization of just UCLA in general on different topics.

And, you know, it's something that is rough, not only at UCLA, but as we have seen, like in every institution across America right now, and places around the world. And I think, you know, as president, you really have to unite. And I think, you know, you recognize and understand what everyone feels, try to improve situations for all, and on either side, and engage more with focusing more on versus the politics of the situation, the feelings of how everyone's feeling and how to address those emotions, address that and how do we can move the needle in some way as a community.


BPR: That's awesome. And like, let's talk a little bit about some of the initiatives that you're running on. So let's talk a little bit about Transparent UCLA. So what ideas do you have for increasing the transparency between the UCLA student government and undergraduates on campus?

Joshua Bances: Sure. So I put out on my Instagram last Monday, a couple policies on it. So there's nine in total. So the way, you know, that I broke up, you know, my plot, eboard would call “platforms”, I went with initiatives. So in total reality, I have nine platforms, subdivided into three categories each, and around three policies for each that rollout, which obviously are subject to change, you know, based on input and things like that. And Transparent UCLA is, you know what, let me put up.

So I want to make sure I'm getting the right one. No worries. Um, so I know, I know my policies, I just don't know, I don't remember where some of my policies fall under.

BPR: No worries at all. 

Joshua Bances: Um, where is this? So I know, for example, one of, here we go. [referring to Transparent UCLA policy] One of our things that we put under Transparent UCLA was collaboration and outreach. So something that we said with that one was pre-presidency. So if elected president, the summer going into the school year before, I would have any, all clubs make basically a form.

And I would, you know, have that form and basically see how many members are you serving? What are you doing? You know, just update everything, you know, which clubs are not active anymore, which because there are a lot of clubs, you know, me that I've been doing outreach, you know, there's like 1,500, but yet there's like, but then maybe some, some of them have one member, two member. I'm like, okay, I understand. I'm like, like, you know, you have your niche, but like, is it a club then? Or is there, or can you coalesce with someone else? And could you needle in another mission? And I think it's important to know where we stand with that and just great data to have.

And, um, and that really would also shape my agenda building for the, for the upcoming year. So while some of my opponents, you know, have an agenda and they have, this is what we're doing, blah, blah, blah, blah. I look at it and I'm like, well, like that only serves a couple of people, you know, and it's the people that in a way they, it's their community.

But I think as president, it's not the same as running as IVP or ISR or TSR. You really have to represent, you know, from a freshman to a transfer to Caucasian to Hispanic and so on and so forth. You have to represent everyone, you know, and that is the job of a president.

That's why you are the chair. And, um, and so pre-presidency, I really want, you know, the input of being able to build a platform. That being said, I really want the council next year, um, at least under me, I would want it to work together on a single agenda.

I know USAC is extremely divided and everyone has their own tasks and I respect that a lot. Um, but I think that in the past years from what I've heard and what I've seen this year, everyone does their own thing. And then it's like, well, why aren't you doing this? Well, why aren't you doing this? And they're like, oh, well, we're voting on this.

I'm like, how would you expect, how would you expect people to vote on something that they have no idea, you know, just on a short pitch of what's going on. But if you now take one initiative and divide it and everyone's working on something collaboratively, that's a game changer. Um, one of the other things is Westwood businesses.

We are, you know, we have first Thursdays and everything. I think we really need to rank up that type of partnership because that is something so unique to UCLA and something that is just would really change the dynamics. I mean, you know, we all saw the article yesterday on about the daily brew with the meal swipes, you know, so we have to start thinking, okay, outside the box, if we're not doing it on campus, then what can you sack do with, you know, maybe a restaurant or maybe even tax reductions.

And that's where I have a lot of experience because I was, you know, in the business world, I was a corporate guy, you could say for like nine months, I was an insurance broker and I did capital management for tenant legal liability. And within that role, I basically contact CEOs across the country that have property management companies and a portfolio and basically try to ensure that portfolio. Okay.

And creative solutions and, you know, working with money, it's kind of, it's my backbone in a way. Um, you know, then the biggest thing, and I think this, I saw your questions about United Bruins and Transparent UCLA. And I think that this one kind of answers all that in a big thing.

One of the big things that I think has not been done to my knowledge is committees. So as president, I, as you said, you know, what would I be commissioning? Right. One of the biggest things was committees.

So what I mean by committees is let's say Daily Bruin, Bruin Political Review, and, you know, give me 20 more magazines or reviews that, you know, law journal or whatnot. All presidents of all organizations. And that's why the form is so important to see who's, you know, the signatory and the leader and whatnot.

That person comes to the committee to be a chair. So they have a chair on a committee that basically oversees all reviews or all chairs. And every president has their respective, you know, chair and they're representing their group.

So the question is, you know, can we make a fair with all the reviews? You know, can, so people can find which ones they like, because besides the ginormous activities fairs, you know, people are like, oh, how do I do this? How do I do this? And then we go back to the sole website, which you look through and you're like, okay, they're like, wait, how do I get in contact with this? So updating the sole website is a must do, you know, and, and, you know, we've talked to, we would have to talk to Mick DeLuca, who is Associate Vice Chancellor who runs SOLE and all those things. But that's a big thing. So within those committees, for example, specifically cultural committees, one of my dreams, I would say, is to be able to approve funding within the council and say, here's a certain X amount of money.

And your job is to work together, you know, cross collaborate with clubs that have similar missions and goals, and create an event for the entire campus that showcases your organization, as well as the entire culture that you represent. Okay. So coalition building, I think, is huge.

I think, you know, even though, and it's threading that balance and being very open minded about everyone should be open to talk to everyone, right? We don't want to segregate people and be like, you can just talk to this coalition, but also find the respect of saying, maybe you would, maybe you want to talk to someone that grew up like you that has the same culture as you. And facilitating that in such a big campus is really a blessing, I would think. And I think that honestly, that leads well into my next questions, which is basically how we can increase inclusivity on the UCLA campus and how we can advocate for students.


BPR: So do you think that these committees would be a good way of doing that? Or what are your ideas on how we can promote inclusivity within our campus?

Joshua Bances: So these committees would definitely be a good idea with it, but something else that has not gone out yet. And the reason was because I do a policy drop on Monday.

And United Bruins, which was supposed to come out today, but the eboard is just slammed with approving that. So I'm gonna have to do it later in the week. But I can tell you a policy that's on there is an ambassador program.

Okay. So basically, it's interviewing leaders within those committees or outside the committees that have a lot of pull, you know, there are certain student leaders that have a lot of influence in certain communities. Being to give those student leaders, even though they're not appointed with USAC, a direct liaison between their community, my office, and therefore Murphy Hall, the administration.

Okay. You know, because I know for a fact that, you know, the president is the main voice that's going into Murphy. And, you know, and I know that, you know, as much as that's, you know, the, you know, my chair and my prerogative, because of constitutional powers and whatnot, that doesn't mean that I can't take someone with me and, you know, discuss a certain event, or that I can't take, okay, this is you want me to do this? Okay, let's talk about this.

And of course, there are things that, you know, won't happen. And I'm very transparent about that, you know, and that's why I'm very transparent. People can say that maybe my policies are vague, maybe my policies are, you know, just idealistic, but they're policies I can actually implement.

Definitely. You know, because there's some of my opponents I see, and I'm like, well, that's not really, because I know, you know, where things fall under the administration. I said, that doesn't really fall under your, like, just because you're president, you're not going to get it done.

Like, you have to get this approved by the Regents, you have to get this approved by this Vice Chancellor, they're not going to do it, they're not going to do this. And I'd rather be honest and forthcoming about where, what I can do and what I can't do, versus, you know, saying something because it's a good campaign slogan.


BPR: And do you think this ambassador program would do a good job at kind of helping represent all of the diverse voices within our campus? What do you think are kind of the main goals of the ambassador program when it comes to representing students and promoting, like, a more welcoming environment for UCLA?

Joshua Bances: I think it's a first step. I think, you know, I think, and you know, back to that honesty, I'm not going to, I'm not going to be the change. I'm not going to be the change that, you know, transforms UCLA in a year.

You know, we see, and that's being honest, and we both know that, right? And anyone knows that because there is so much history. There's so much history, and there is so much that has gone on, and that will continue to go on. But I think what it sets is something unprecedented, something unprecedented and more of an openness.

And, and I really hope that, you know, if elected, and, you know, after elected, these are things that stay. And these are things that stay implemented. And that really is my goal.

The things I want to do are more like seeds, you know, I want to seed them, water them, make sure they sprout this year, but I really want them to grow. And I really want, you know, obviously to transform USAC and that so that the following years, even though I obviously will be going away, because I'm really in and out, whoever takes that chair can really grow it and have the resources to make it better and make new history. That's awesome.


BPR: So my next couple questions are on your Supporting Champions initiative. So, basically, what ideas do you have to increase student involvement in our campus organizations and activities? And how can we also improve the mental health resources that we have on campus and the academic support services that we have on campus?

Joshua Bances: Sure. So, um, as far as the first question, we go back to like that coalition building to those committees.

And I think that really, you know, I think those are really, you know, the key bread and butter, I would say, because they are so versatile, you know, and we can talk about any initiatives. And I could probably relate it back to that one. Because, you know, it's that, like I said, like I answered before, that those committees would be able to say, here's a fair about, you know, today, we're doing kind of like the Career Center does like today, we're doing pre-med, right? The Career Center.

Okay, today, we're doing review. Okay, today, we're doing today, we're doing, you know, Greek life today, we're doing, you know, and that, that constant consistency, I think, you know, will make people find their group. Something I put in transparency, which kind of doubles with this one is weekly newsletters.

For example, newsletter, these are all the events we're doing, you know, and, and we're all doing this. And that's, you know, partnering with administration to be able to send that out or as UCLA. So that's a process as well.

But it's a process that can be done. Definitely. And, and, you know, so or let's say, you know, even more, there's all the data out here.

We can say, for example, if I know that there is a poli sci history, and your app, you know, the managers that usually are pre-law, send out here's a pre-law, we're hosting this fair, you know, so taking the Career Center's ideas of kind of employers and now doing it with clubs, and really meshing them together, I think, is what needs to be done.


BPR: That's awesome. And then just to kind of read the second question, for mental health resources on campus and academic support services, do you have any kind of ideas on how we can improve that or what some of the issues are currently with those two things?

Joshua Bances: You know, I think one of the big things that we need is a partnership with telehealth.

BPR: Okay. 

Joshua Bances: That's something I would push for. And that's something that's not under my you know, and also very forthcoming, that goes under the Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, and they oversee all of the Ash Center and all of that, that's their purview.

But they actually went on a trip, the trip with us to DC. So I know them. That's awesome.

So see, this is where we start getting into, you know, those relationships in a way that I know that I have that could facilitate real change, or could at least open the conversation. And that I would say telehealth is something I would push for, or would want to push for. And I think I think that's something we don't have that I know other schools have.

And it's like, and it's like, it's just like, kind of like a QR code, you scan and then you download the app. And then you know, you can schedule it there. And it's free.

And I think that now the free part, we're going to have to see how that works. If who's going to subsidize that because with whatever whatever is with money, it's going to be who's subsidizing is it going to be, you know, our budget in USAC? Or is it going to be an administration? So you know, that's a conversation to be had. If it gets to that point, mental health, I think that's great.

You know, something big that we're also thinking about is obviously, you were all aware of the seismic renovation of Wooden, right? So we've all all know that like exercise is very like important for like mental health and like obviously, like your overall health, physical and something we do is implement partnerships with like yoga, meditation, things like that on like, like in the Royce, like outside in Royce Hall, something else that we're doing is we would want to push so I know a lot of my opponents have put out policies regarding it in their platforms about partnerships with outside gyms, okay, closest outside gym, one of those is Equinox. Okay, no, no college students paying $200 a month. I wouldn't.

And I think the cheapest comes out to 120. And is that what they even want? Can they handle UCLA? Yeah. Now it also becomes a safety issue.

You know, because we have, you know, they read our cards, okay, you can come in. And we really have to prioritize safety because now we're going external. And we're not investing.

And I know someone I remember who it was. And even though I did, I wouldn't say it because, you know, I'm not going like other candidates. But I know someone was like, saying about subsidizing that amount with USAC money.

Now we reach into another problem. USAC money is student fee money, which should be used to invest at UCLA. So my idea is, you know, those like strength centers are like outdoor jungle gyms, equal, equal, friendly type of thing.

So building those working out in those ones in the garage next to the parking lot next to Sycamore courts, tennis courts, and one at the bottom of Drake Stadium. Okay. And though that and that's gonna stay here, right? It's not going anywhere.

And it's going to be even when Wooden opens eventually one day, depending on how long it takes, it's still going to be there, you know, so we've now expanded our facility use. So those types of initiatives are really important with academics, I would want to work closer with departments. And I know that our commissioner, academic affairs commissioner within USAC appoints a lot of people into the Senate.

And I think that, you know, really vetting those people and seeing who we approve for Senate is at the end, it does come back to the overall council is really important to see where next year is going to hold. Next year is going to be a different year because we're going to get a new chancellor. So it's definitely going to be a transitionary year.

And I think that that's going to be super important, you know, just being bonded as a community and being able to obviously ride that wave. And with all the changes that might come, you know, it's important to be together. Definitely.


BPR: So in the last couple minutes, because this meeting is set to end at around 5:40. I want to go ahead and get to some of the closing questions. So what is something that you would want students or voters to know about you as a person? 

Joshua Bances: As a person, I would say that I'm very, I would like to think that I'm very open-minded.

Okay. That I can see both sides, that I can see both sides of anything and evaluate and sometimes not do what people want, but what they need. That's awesome.

And I think leadership, you know, like it says, heavy is the head that wears a crown. And leadership, you know, you really have to be mentally strong and know that not every decision you make is going to appease everyone. And my job in reality is not to make everyone happy.

My job is to hope that I'm making the community and making us better, you know. But I also acknowledge that every decision that I make will be good for someone and bad for someone.

And threading the balance on that, I think that's what I really stand for, is that I actually do care and I will always try to do my best. I won't be perfect because no one will be. And anyone who says that they will, it's not true.


BPR: Definitely. And what are you most excited about accomplishing in this position?

Joshua Bances: Most excited, I am very excited about the Big Ten transition. I know that sports are going to be absolutely wild this year. We’ll see how we do, but I know that USAC used to travel to the USAC PAC-12 conference with the other presidents and that the Big Ten is no different. I think we went to Ohio this year. But, the biggest thing that I want to accomplish is those programs that really set the stage for whoever is going to take over office next year.


BPR: And then my last and final question, and you covered this a bit in the first one. But, why should students vote for you and what qualities do you have that would make you a great candidate for president?

Joshua Bances: I think that owning that I am the new kid on the block. That I have not been in USAC before and I do not know how it works people would say if you do not know how USAC works then how are you going to run it, but that is exactly it, USAC is from what I have seen and what I know, they are symbolic and that is the issue, the issue is I can say I want this, this, and this, and this, right? I can put out a page on Instagram saying we just passed this resolution and then I am like that is great-how are we going to implement them? Rules without enforcement are not actual change, they are symbolic and for show. And what I want to do is ok here is what we passed now we are going to have to advocate this to the administration, who do we need to talk to, how can we make it into something tangible? Yes, we are probably not going to get everything we need. But, we are going to try and succeed in something. I think that being able to work with the administration hand in hand is incredibly important. The way that I think about it is that USAC in a federal relation, we are like Congress, right? We can pass suggestions, and the presidency in a way is administration and they can enforce them, so we need their support, they need our support. At the end of the day, we are their clients in some capacity, there is no UCLA without its students. But also there are no students without UCLA. So, accepting that and working on both sides of the aisle is super important and that goes for everything.


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