Nha Ha, a biomedical engineering senior who decided last Wednesday to run as a write-in candidate for the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) presidency, talks about accessibility to students, his plans for the California State University (CSU) and how he hopes to secure a come-from-behind victory this week. Though Ha’s opponent, social sciences junior Katie Morrow, had the advantage of early campaigning, the former Mustang Daily photographer said he believes this week will be key in gaining votes.
You spoke in the debate about your experience with different clubs and organizations you’ve been involved with. How have these changed your perception of Cal Poly?
Being in so many different clubs gives me a wider perspective of how there are so many different aspects and students here at school instead of just a narrow view. Say, if I was only in ASI government, then I’d only know those types of people.
If elected, you’ll be the co-chair of the Student Success Fee allocation committee. How important is student voice in deciding where that money goes?
Being the co-chair, I would make sure the students know half of the committee is composed of students and that their voice goes a long way. The first round of money is already going to be set this spring, so we would basically be planning for the future. So I would have to make sure everybody knows where the present money is going and that’s not where it’s always going to be.
I’d like to have open forums and talk to different groups of people to see where they’d like to see the money. Also, I’d have to talk to teachers to make sure it’s just not the students, but it’s also the teachers that need to understand, too.
Kiyana Tabrizi and Morrow chose not to take a stance on the Student Success Fee. If there’s a similar controversial issue that comes up while you’re president, what would you do?
As ASI president, I think it’s important not to take a stance just to not influence anybody’s decision. Because everyone should have their own opinion about it. My stance would be to better inform everybody.
If you think you knew better than the students about how something should be, would you feel comfortable telling them what you think?
I wouldn’t try to dictate how their decision should be made. I would just try to inform them in a better way. Because if they’re ill-informed, it’s not their fault.
The CSU has been putting pressure on schools on the quarter system to switch to semesters. The president and provost both are currently in favor of this, what is your opinion?
Personally, I believe Cal Poly is better as a quarter system just because it’s how we do our Learn By Doing — we get to do more things in a shorter amount of time. If we switch to the semester system, it will change the whole Cal Poly experience for students.
The unit cap coming next fall is one of the first obvious effects on students we will see due to the budget. What will you do as ASI president to mitigate these negative effects on students?
That’s kind of a hard thing to do. Because if it’s coming down from the top, it has to be redirected to the top. So what I would try to do is petition with as many students as possible from our school’s and other CSUs to say, “Hey, don’t do this to us, because you’re just inhibiting our learning.”
Let’s say for a minute you’re Governor Ha. What would you do to get money back into the CSU?
We’d have to look at the financial reports of the whole state in general. It’s a broader situation than just looking at giving money back to school. It’s about how do we get more jobs, more money, where that income’s going to come from. Do we raise taxes? There’s a lot of factors that come into it, so it’s a hard decision to make.
But what would you do?
We have to judge how the California schools are doing. If they’re not performing up to par, then it’s no use throwing money into a broken system. If the system’s broken, then we have to restructure them.
Faculty union negotiations are at a virtual standstill with the CSU. What role does the ASI president have in helping these two parties?
It’s important the ASI president talks to the teachers and gets the feel of what they’re feeling, what issues they’re having, to let them know this is a big impact to students.
Do you think they should be striking if they’re not able to negotiate with the CSU — even if that would directly impact students?
I believe that if the teachers feel strong enough about it, then they should. It’s their right. But at the same time, they should think about their positions as teachers and how it will affect us as students.
You’re relatively new to ASI. Why are you running and why do you want to get involved with the organization?
I believe that ASI plays a big role in student life and that the best way for me to give back to Cal Poly and my fellow students is to run for office.
Do you have any secret weapon to take this election?
No, no secret weapon. Just my faith in students.
Do you care if you win?
Yeah, I care. At this point in the campaign, it’s kind of a waste of resources to set up posters, buy all the stuff, waste all that money. I feel that students, in this day and age, they care to an extent. They don’t really think about it until two to three days leading up to it, so the best time to speak to them will be Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Tomorrow I’ll be speaking at the WOW (Week of Welcome) leaders-in-training meeting. I’ll be telling them a little bit about my platform and how to vote. In between, I might be speaking to the classes I’m in. Just letting different groups of people know there’s another candidate running. Keep an open mind.
ASI voting begins 7 a.m. Wednesday on students’ My Cal Poly Portals.