A Conversation with the Candidates: Katie Pool for President

Grace Bolling, May 11, 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):  Hey, Katie. Thank you for coming to interview with me today. My first question to ask you is what inspires you to run for USAC President? And what specific goals do you hope to achieve during your term?

Katie Pool: Originally, before last year, I didn't really have a lot of involvement in USAC, I was a business-economics major and USAC was mostly on my radar. And so last year, I was really inspired to run because I took a look at our student fees. I was noticing that a lot of our fees were going towards programs that outlived and reached its point of diminishing return--like a lot of the seismic reconstruction for Kerckhoff and Ackerman. And so last year, I was really inspired by that. And I'm like “I'm biz-econ! Let me focus on it from a finance perspective; this is gonna be really fun. I'm gonna run.” So I had a really fun time campaigning, and I won. And I was like, “Oh, my gosh, this is awesome.” I've had a really wonderful year, and I've gotten to accomplish a lot of things. So I would say one of the big reasons I was inspired to run is I noticed a lack of community at UCLA. And I think, we started to fall off from a Bruin-like community and kind of get into this divisive negative space. And I've noticed a lot of hateful speech or targeted negativity. And that's just something that I look at in the present as the job of president, and I don't think the job of president is necessarily a very fun job. There's so many aspects that are fun about it, and I would have the most wonderful time. But I think the best part is that it's a large responsibility. And that responsibility, in my opinion, is about uniting our Bruin community. And that’s what I hope to accomplish. Do you want me to go on to my platform?

BPR: Yeah, go for it. 

Katie Pool: My platform is DIVE in. So "D", I want to deliver improvements. This has to do with the John Wooden Center shut down. I've been in close contact with the Wooden Center and with our gym representatives this whole year, talking about what that shutdown is going to look like. And then alternatives to different gyms in the area, getting students discounted memberships, and making sure that when it does close down, the Wooden Center is partitioned off so that we have the minimal amount of time with no access. I also really want to improve the ticketing process for basketball games. I spent an entire night on Bruinwalk for the USC game, and then I got the flu. [The process] was awful, and I think we need to really fix that. 

Another thing I want to accomplish, which is something I've already done a lot of work this year, is bringing back the off-campus meal plan for all students, which is all under delivering improvements. So this year, I've met with Pete Angeles a lot, who is the Assistant Vice Chancellor of Dining and Hospitality at UCLA, and we were able to get the off campus meal plan back in a 'shortened way'. So it's for university students, but I wanted to get back for everyone. So I really want to deliver more improvements for UCLA. 

Next, I want to increase opportunity. This is also part of my platform that I just want to keep doing exactly as I'm doing this year. This year, I was able to get financial literacy nights and different nights with engineers and help students find more internship opportunities. I also sit on BOD, which is the Board of Directors Funding Body and we were able to fund a lot of really cool clubs that want to create opportunities to display research, and also help people get more research opportunities. So I was able to hear about them, and BOD was able to get the funding, and I was looking at that and I'm like, wow, like, I would love to help you more. So I want to kind of bring that more in.


BPR: I'm going to stop you there. I do have a few questions about that. In your initiatives, a lot of what you talk about is working with off campus organizations and businesses. How do you plan to facilitate that collaboration between UCLA as a university and businesses that don't necessarily owe anything to our student body?

Katie Pool: Such as a local gym?

BPR: Yes. That would be a great example.

Katie Pool: A way to do that is just subsidizing them through USAC surplus or subsidizing them through USAC initiatives. I think that at the end of the day, it's wonderful to pitch from a student-perspective. I think a lot of businesses do give leniency towards the fact that, "Oh, we're UCLA students” and are like, "We want to help these students". However, at the end of the day, money is what is going to make a difference. I think that as we get UCLA's fees, we should put those fees in place where they're being used properly by students. A lot of our fees, just kind of disappear and students don't really know where their fees go, or they don't go to events that their fees are paid for. In terms of partnering with local gyms, you're going to be able to see a real tangible aspect to that. I don't really use the gym that much. I like to run outside. But there are a lot of students that do and a lot of students are so concerned about it. And that's what's important about it, just addressing those concerns. So I think it's going to take appealing to outside businesses as a means to help students that are getting an education. At the same time, it's providing the money to fund that. Students don't have the money to fund it, and their fees are already going somewhere. [Their fees] might as well get them a discounted membership at a local gym.


BPR: You did mention a lot about a lack of transparency about our finances in where our fees go. Would you take any steps to make it more apparent and more transparent for students about where their money is going and how you're going to redirect it?

Katie Pool: Yes! I think a big part of my platform would be a transparency report. My office, you can easily access everything that I've spent my money on. And I think in some of the offices, there have been questions like what they're spending their money on. And that's just, in my opinion, it's something that just needs to be addressed. I think, if I were to be president, I would require monthly transparency financial reports. We don't currently have a period of time where all our committee members, all of our council members, present everything they spend their money on. They will report like, "We have this much money going into this fund". But it would be nice to have a breakdown that will be available once a month for students, posted on the President's Instagram, or posted on our website, where you can see a breakdown of literally every single thing that was spent. Because, at the end of day, why wouldn't there be? It's their money, it's students money, it's not our money, and there's no reason that they shouldn't be able to see every single line-item of what it's being spent on. 


BPR:  Thank you. And you also mentioned one of your main initiatives: fostering community. Where do you see the most division? And where do you see the most room for how you, as president, could improve that and, honestly, extend an olive branch out to people and different groups that don't necessarily fall on the same side?

Katie Pool: I think I see a lot of division, just with the local political climate on our campus. I love that students feel very passionately about outside political issues. And I think it's incredibly important to foster a community where UCLA students have freedom of speech. What's going on at USC, I do not think that that is appropriate whatsoever, even "kind of". Freedom of speech is, especially for a public school, of the utmost importance. 

At the exact same time, simultaneously, I don't want to ever foster a community at my USAC meetings, or at UCLA, where hate speech is tolerated. And that's a very delicate line when you deal with outside political issues. Because I think that's probably what divides us. Every student wants a lot of money for meal vouchers and more opportunities for internships and more opportunities for research. But we do disagree on this outside political issue. So I think that a big area that we can improve is having more collaborations with organizations and clubs, for workshops and forums and bringing people... at the same time we're all human, you know? 

I have so many friends that have differing opinions from me, and we still meet up and we're friends and it's awesome. I think just meeting face to face, having dialogue in a respectful, not hateful sense, is really what's gonna bring us together. And I also think that USAC taking a stand and saying, "we respect every student, and we want you to have freedom of speech, and we want you to have freedom of speech in a respectful way". And I think the way we do that is to showcase that at our meetings. So if I was president, I would never shut down someone who wanted to sit and have the freedom to speak. Or once it gets to the point where my discretion, or the admin discretion, or someone on council's discretion feels like it's hateful, I would have a dialogue with the individual. I would probably say something like a "point of order" at the meeting. I would honestly want to address it privately first, because I do believe that I want to give people a sense of responsibility to explain their side of the situation. I think that also something that happens a lot is miscommunication. And then today, I think it's just fostering a community that has free speech and doesn't have hateful speech. And we're able to have more forums and workshops, like how to bring the community together.


BPR:  Do you think that it's your role as president to ensure that these groups have balanced voices across beliefs, excluding hate speech and discriminatory perspectives? Would you seek to uplift groups as a whole outside of your meetings, and how so?

Katie Pool:  100%. I think a big part of doing that is funding. In the Board of Directors, we get about 100 or more than 100 clubs that apply for funding every single quarter. I've sat in on hundreds of meetings and hearings, talking about what [clubs] can spend their funds on. We focus mostly on educational and cultural clubs, but a lot of educational clubs are educating different perspectives on politics or different sectors on religion or different perspectives on cultures. And I think it's so important that you fund them all, and that you fund them all, in an equitable manner. I may disagree with someone's opinions on something. However, when I'm President, that doesn't really matter. You need to be someone who students can say, "I may not share the exact same major as my President, but my President cares about what I have to say about this issue". A big way you do that is through funding, because ultimately, that's what USAC is responsible for. It's taking your student fees and spending them and representing every single student. So I would make 100% sure that if any of any club ever felt like they weren't getting funding, due to a differing opinion from someone else, I would love to encourage them to come to office hours and speak to me about it. And I would change it immediately, like [inequitable funding] is not okay.


BPR: Thank you. You talk a lot about your experiences. You were the general representative last year—you won that election. And then you've also served on the Board of Directors?

Katie Pool: Yes. 

BPR:  From those experiences, what do you think the biggest challenge that you're going to face in achieving your goals is going to be as president, if you are elected? And how would you go about facing those barriers?

Katie Pool: I think a big, big challenge is going to be just the political climate that we have coming up at UCLA. We have like an election year, and a lot of like tense political issues. And I think oftentimes, we get so focused on what's going on outside of UCLA that we forget about the students inside of UCLA. And we get overwhelmed. So many students have reached out to me saying that it's been a very emotional year, and they haven't received proper accommodations or proper leniency from professors.


BPR:  We're just talking about what you think the biggest problem is, and how you're going to bridge the gap. Or how you're going to foster a sense of community inside of UCLA, in the face of people focusing on issues outside of it during an emotional year.

Katie Pool:  So I love bridging the gap, because I think a big strength of mine is bridge building skills. It's just always been something that I've thought that people have told me like, "Oh, you have a great ability to bring people together". And I love that. That's exactly why I think I would make a really wonderful president because, at the end of the day, I just want to bring students together. And like we were talking a lot about, it's so important that we focus on outside issues at UCLA, because ultimately, this is a college campus. This is when you learn about your opinions on outside situations in the world. Simultaneously, this is a place for USAC and the USAC president to focus on the needs of their students. Because we need to make sure that we're a stable unit that can continuously provide the proper support and the proper needs for our students. So I think a big challenge is going to be bringing the dialogue and the conversation back to what students need at meetings. And, you know, totally giving the space and the time to talk about outside issues. But if a student comes to campus, and they're saying that they're not feeling safe, for some reason, we need to make sure that we're addressing that immediately. Or the student comes to the meeting and says, "My club was supposed to receive X amount of funding, and it's been two months and they haven't received anything"... like those are the issues that USAC is responsible for. So I just think I will firmly say right now that I will always be making sure that the conversation is always about UCLA students, first and foremost. I want to talk about other things, and I want to make sure that we get our students space and time necessary to talk about them. But as President, I will feel responsibility for our students. And I want to make sure that they feel like they're being properly represented.


BPR: How do you think that the office of the President and other offices within USAC have been lacking in addressing the needs of students as opposed to focusing on the outside political climate?

Katie Pool: I think safety. We had a meeting where many, many students came and said that they didn't feel safe, and it wasn't just one side of a political issue—it was multiple. I remember listening to that meeting and feeling very, very disappointed because not feeling safe on UCLA campus is probably one of the most heartbreaking things you hear students say. And you're thinking, "How can we fix this?” or "What can we do about this?” So in order to address that, I think a big part of that is the work that I've been doing with sexual assault victims and sexual [assault] prevention, and going around to Greek life. I've been reaching out to Panhellenic trying to get a different education for Title IX going around. And I just think, first, dealing with sexual assault victims is really important. And in addition, I've heard a couple of instances of people not feeling safe at their dorms, like reaching out to ResLife asking why that is the case. I think it's just going to be a continuous fight. I also think that it would be really nice to see a different kind of campus safety. Not just focused on the UCPD—a more safe and a more welcoming, campus safety crew. We have the campus safe, like the people who drive you home, [SafeRide]. That's something that a lot of students don't know about. Or the car that can pick you up from wherever you are in Westwood. Just telling students that there's other options for safety, not necessarily one option. And that kind of feels like educating students and letting them know what resources are available to them. 


BPR:  That's definitely something that I've heard across campus and within different communities that I'm a part of on campus. There's a lack of awareness about certain resources that we have available, ranging from sexual assault treatment to even just mental health services, and the safety [officers] that can take you home from the blue lights through Safe Rides.

Katie Pool: Yeah.

BPR:  How would you make those resources more transparent to students? Would you implement them more during orientation at the beginning of the school year? Like, what examples can you really give me about how you'd do that?

Katie Pool: So as you know, a president gets the opportunity to speak to incoming freshmen class, at orientation, or their Bruin Welcome Day. And, oh, my goodness, I would take that opportunity as much as I could. As much as I want an opportunity to say, "Guys, I love UCLA! You're gonna have such a fun time.” At the exact same time, look at all these resources... And not just how you know  people would be like, "Oh, here's a link to resources, like, let's talk about it"... No, no. I would start listing out the ones I think are really important, like the Safe Rides. I would probably have a list of, I don't want to overwhelm students, but like five to eight resources that students need to know of. I'd let the freshman class know, "Guys, these are all the resources". Same for the incoming transfer year. Then you do have, as you know, your sophomore and your senior class--they've been around for a little while. I think a big part of that is, while posting on social media is great, a lot of people don't follow the President's account. So I think you'd have to work with the official UCLA Instagram. They always post things like, "Here are your resources", which is wonderful. But I think people have been like, "What's SAC, where do I find that?", or , "What app is that?” So I think it's just going to be a really big push for the UCLA administration to help out with that. And I think that that will definitely be doable.


BPR: Thank you. Do you want to go through the other aspects of your platform? 

Katie Pool: So I got to the "D" and "I" of DIVE. So V. We talked a lot about validating community. That's like expanding our accommodations for students with tests and assignment deadlines during very high tension, busy periods. And I talked about facilitating assemblies with speakers and diverse groups. Validating communities is one of the most important aspects of my campaign and of my platform.

The last part would be equalizing access. And that's like, your equitable funding and their distribution of funds and resources. And I think that I'm probably best qualified to have equitable funding. I've spent so much time on BOD, and I really know what clubs need resources. And I also know what clubs don't apply their resources. And that's another huge factor that I would really want to focus on. I've seen hundreds of clubs that will reapply every quarter, and then I'll have a friend in this column like, "Oh, you guys have never applied for funding through BOD, do you apply to other funding bodies?” And they're like, "What are funding bodies?” And I'm telling them about other funding bodies that they could apply for. I also think that kind of goes into educating students about our funding bodies. 

Then I talked about demanding financial transparency. The last kind of final aspect of my equalizing access would be advocating for student worker needs and worker conditions, and then supporting transfer student needs. We have 30% of our population made up of transfer students. And as President, that means that I'm representing many, many, many, many transfer students. And I want to make sure that like, not only are their needs something that we consider, their needs are something that are something that is put at the forefront of conversation. I think that especially can and has been kind of overlooked. And that's not that's not what we should be doing at USAC.


BPR:  As you said, our transfer community at UCLA is so strong, and the culture around them is so strong. What means do you see for integrating them more into our community, as opposed to other campus organizations viewing them as an isolated group, without sacrificing the needs that are unique to transfer students?

Katie Pool: Oh, 100%, I love this question. So my brother was a transfer student at Santa Barbara, and he's my oldest brother. And [his experience] was kind of what I thought of college. Like you spend two days at home, and then you go to college—that was just kind of the norm. And so when I was running for USAC Gen Rep as a Business Economics major, a very unfortunate part about business clubs is that they have very small transfer acceptance rate, and they're very competitive. And so I spent this past year talking to clubs asking them why that is. Why are we not like [being inclusive]?  Especially if you want to do recruiting—this is my Business Economics perspective. And I have talked to people in like, Comp Sci majors and like mechanical engineering majors, and in Poli Sci, about how this also has to do with their major. But for my major, for example, recruitment for certain internships start, at the latest, the beginning of your junior year. So a lot of clubs are like, "[Transfer students] are just behind". I believe that they're not behind, but they're just on a different schedule. And we need to make sure that we're bending to that schedule. So that includes, you know, encouraging clubs to open up their special portal for transfer students. And that includes, and a big part of what I would love to do is, over the summer, getting so many resources on what major clubs transfer students apply to, what clubs they get involved in, and what options are available, so that they can hit the ground running. Like I said, they're just on a different schedule. They're there, they're not behind, and we're not ahead. We just need to work with them to help get them where they need to be so they can succeed.


BPR:  Perfect. So that does bring me to this...So many of the notable student organizations on campus, such as the business clubs that you mentioned, that provide students with the most research, employment and internship opportunities are highly selective and exclusionary—not just to like transfer students, but to people of a variety of different backgrounds, or people that don't have that past experience, or the privilege to have had financial knowledge before coming into college. What steps will you take to counter exclusionary practices while fostering student engagement and supporting campus organizations?

Katie Pool: Yeah, so that's kind of tangential to what I was talking about earlier. And that's kind of like putting it all out on the table. The way I want to do that is just having a page or an Instagram post about things saying, “this is the reality.” For example, when I was a freshman I did not know I should be applying for a business club right off the bat; I was just like a little freshman. And because my parents aren't in the business world, that's just not something that I even thought of. I had friends that immediately applied to very competitive clubs, and it's easy to get them when you're younger. I was like, "Oh my gosh, like I'm behind, I'm behind". So I think laying it all out on the table being like okay students, these are the clubs are available to you, these are the clubs that, if you join this club, this club wants to filter into this part of the career world, this club focuses on this, and this research opportunity opens up on this day and close on this day, and like people from this research opportunity include this person. I think it's gonna be a lot of work, but that's really something that I want to spend the summer working on. I already have representatives from different majors that are going to be helping me work on this. I'm collecting a database of clubs and organizations, and also speaking with them and being transparent about including their club on the database. And that's a good thing. They're getting advertisement. Their clubs are great; they're doing amazing stuff. At the same time, like let's make sure we open up to everyone. Everyone needs to have a fair shot, regardless of their age, regardless of where they're coming from or their background.


BPR: So how will you put pressure on those highly exclusionary clubs to ensure that they're working within their organization to open up access without sacrificing what they perceive to be prestige?

Katie Pool: I think a major part about that is just dialogue. I think that most of the time clubs don't want to have this reputation of being oddly exclusive. Prestige is important, but exclusive I think is a very negative word. You know? Prestige is a great word, but I think that a lot of clubs ended up having this exclusive connotation. I'm gonna be upfront with them like I have been with some clubs. I've just been like, "I think you're very exclusive, like, you target this demographic and then like, let's just look at the facts about the people who are part of your club". So I think it's just opening up that conversation, like letting them know, "Hey, I see you, like, I'm USAC president, I see that like, you're not like letting in this type of people such as transfers or international students". After presenting them with my findings, I'd ask them if they wanted to fix it. And if they say they don't want to fix that, I mean, I'm not gonna force them to change. But I would definitely like to start to make note of it when it comes to funding. A lot of more exclusive clubs don't really apply for funding. So it's like not a big deal for them. But it would just be a note in my mind, and then a conversation I'd be having with club members and with their president, saying "This is an issue and it needs to be addressed.”


BPR: In handling that issue and also, with the entirety of your platform, what do you think sets you apart from the way that other candidates would go about, like handling the situation or handling other issues about divisiveness, or lack of inclusivity on campus?

Katie Pool: I think what sets me apart is really that community, and a united Bruin community, is kind of at the forefront of what I'm focusing on. I want to make sure that when I'm walking on campus, like any one student knows who I am, like, they're excited to see me because they know that I care about them. So I think what really sets me apart is my experience. I really know what I'm getting into. The role of president includes a lot of appointments and meetings that are just like not always the most thrilling experiences, and I know what I'm getting into. So that's a very big part. But simultaneously, my care for the entire Bruin community is going to be at the forefront of my mind, all the time. And I'm going to make sure that if any person doesn't feel like they're being represented, that I'm also a comfortable person to come and speak to. So I just wanted to be like, you know, someone that people can get to know and will be comfortable around and want to speak to, and it'll just be a really happy, fun year.


BPR:  So what do you hope to see as the biggest point of change for the UCLA community at the end of your presidency, if you were elected?

Katie Pool: I think the biggest change would be just a fostered, respectful, and safe community. I want this to be a place where people feel comfortable speaking about any topic. At the same time, I want to feel like they get a sense that they're receiving respect, both from USAC and other students. And I want students to be excited to speak with people from different opinions, like we're going to be in this little UCLA bubble for not much longer. And we're gonna go out into the world and go into our careers and be around people that are probably similar to us because we're all on the same playing field or whatnot. But at the end of the day, I want people to feel like they're leaving this community and this community is respectful, safe, and like one entire Bruin community that really just likes UCLA.

BPR: Great, thank you so much. And thank you for your time, Katie. I really enjoyed interviewing you.


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