Candidates for next year’s ASI president talked with Mustang News about their priorities and goals on Friday ahead of the April 20 ASI Election.
The six candidates, who students can vote for via their Cal Poly Portal on April 20-21, are listed below in alphabetical order by their last name. You can read more about them on ASI’s official candidate page.
Gracie Babatola — Sophomore, Political Science
Gracie Babatola, who serves on the board of the Black Student Union, says she wants to educate students on what ASI actually does, as well as revamp club procedures.
“I’ve felt the disconnect between ASI and the regular student body,” Babatola said. “A huge hindrance to us actually participating or hosting club events is we don’t want to jump through all these hoops and hurdles trying to get our money and funds.”
Babatola is advocating for a P-card system in which clubs would have a credit card they could charge their business expenses to instead of going through funding approval processes within ASI — arguing it would make hosting club events more accessible.
Babatola isn’t currently involved in ASI, which she says provides her a useful outsider perspective to the organization. She wants to be a president with an open schedule so anyone can come and talk to her, and she also wants ASI leaders to interact more with students and clubs on both their personal Instagrams and the ASI Instagram account, which was started this year.
“I have a disdain for feeling like I’m put on a pedestal if I was president,” Babatola said. “I want to make ASI so that you can just walk in and talk to anyone.”
Despite her lack of ASI experience, Babatola has a background in high school student government. She has also organized youth climate justice marches at her school and would speak at the annual MLK march in her town. This past year, she was a student speaker at Cal Poly’s Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy event.
“As a political science major, I just always knew I had a knack for representation,” Babatola said. “I’ve just been really involved in student advocacy.”
Babatola is a resident adviser and has an additional job on campus.
“My life revolves all around this campus,” Babatola said. “I hardly actually ever leave, so I see what is going on day in and day out. I understand the problems.”
She promises that while it might not be feasible to fix all of Cal Poly’s problems, students will see a noticeable difference after her term.
“I was really scared to come to Cal Poly due to the blackface incident and things I’ve heard from other Black students,” Babatola said. “I have learned that in order for Cal Poly to be a school that is welcoming towards all students, I have to be willing to go in and make that change myself.”
Suha Hussain — Junior, Civil Engineering
Suha Hussain, who chaired the ASI Board of Directors this past year, has been involved in student government since representing the College of Engineering on the board her sophomore year. She said she is running for president in order to continue connecting with students and conveying their opinions to ASI.
“People really don’t know what ASI is, so having students understand what ASI is would be a big part of my campaign and also making sure students feel heard,” Hussain said. “One of my main philosophies would be ‘lead by listening.’”
Hussain said in the past year especially, ASI has struggled to plan events and retain student leaders due to burnout and exhaustion. As president, she wants to help increase energy and lift ASI’s spirit.
She said she aims to raise student government’s visibility among the student body by creating various focus groups, including groups for students who feel marginalized on campus.
If elected, Hussain says she will be a “steward of student opinion.”
“Coming in with a list of to-do items is hard because student government is a place where you have to be really adaptable and flexible,” Hussain said. “I want to listen to students without coming in with my own agenda and be able to reshape that as the year goes on.”
If students do vote for Hussain, she said she wants them to elect her for her values and not due to campaign promises.
“The only promise I can really make is that I’m going to show up for them and that I will continue to show up for them,” Hussain said.
Andrew Kim — Junior, Political Science
Andrew Kim, the current vice chair on the Board of Directors and previous representative of the College of Liberal Arts, said he has been interested in advocacy and government for years.
Kim highlighted several of his priorities if elected president, one of which is re-connecting ASI to Cal Poly’s clubs and student-led organizations.
“There’s so much complication and the ASI and club relationship is so inefficient,” Kim said. “I truly believe ASI could support these organizations a lot more.”
Kim said clubs and organizations are the lifeblood of the university, as they connect students with similar backgrounds at a large school where everyone has differing interests.
Kim also hopes to revamp student government’s accessibility.
“Student government engagement in the student body has been very low because it’s inaccessible and business-oriented,” Kim said, highlighting the fact that open meetings are intimidating and complicated for students to attend. “I want to make ASI student government more student-oriented, like a club organization where we can have a lot more fun within it.”
Kim also proposed awarding student government members with two or four units of credit for their work, saying it may deter student leaders from resigning during the year.
“Only six people out of forty or so people in student government get scholarships, and I don’t think that’s fair. The amount of time and effort that other student government members put in, I thought they should be compensated,” Kim said. “While the scholarship policy is really complicated … I would love to propose incorporating a political science class credit.”
Kim praised his opponents, predicting that the high number of candidates (there were only two last year) will increase ASI elections’ voter turnout.
“This will be the catalyst that will get the voter turnout up again,” Kim said. “We have six presidential candidates who will hopefully campaign in all their interested areas and have that turnout rate increase.”
Catherine “Caty” Ogden — Junior, Experience Industry Management
Catherine Ogden has direct experience working with previous ASI presidents — for the last two years, she has served as the Secretary of Community Relations on the ASI president’s Executive Cabinet.
“That’s offered me a direct line to work with our past two ASI presidents which has honestly been the most incredible opportunity that I never really thought I would get,” Ogden said. “I’ve gotten to be a part of so much positive change on campus which truly brings me so much joy at the end of the day. I’m running for this position to have the opportunity to continue that work at a higher level.”
Ogden highlighted student voter turnout as one of her priorities. In the last eight years, voter turnout in ASI elections has only been 30% or lower.
“This past year in the executive cabinet, I felt like I could help so many people if they only knew who I was and if they only knew what ASI was,” Ogden said. “Moving forward, my plan is to be very communicative with students, because we are meant to be an extension of the voice of the student body and we can’t do that if students don’t feel comfortable coming to us.”
Ogden wants to be “on the front lines” connecting with students and says “[her] door is always open.”
“I don’t want my platform to be about me; I want my platform to be about what students want,” Ogden said. “Once students are aware of their representatives and can put a face to the name of who could be a resource for them, they will start utilizing those resources.”
She said as president, she wants to be an extension of the student voice.
Marley Timmerman — Junior, Electrical Engineering
Marley Timmerman — who currently represents the College of Engineering on the Board of Directors — is centering her campaign around strengthening the club experience on campus.
She promises to bring back a council consisting of club presidents who would meet with ASI representatives and discuss problems they would like to fix in the club system.
“Clubs are a major part of ASI that I feel are underrepresented in the student government space,” Timmerman said. “[They] often say that they don’t have a voice in student government.”
Timmerman said she believes ASI and the president don’t have the proper connections in place to respond to large issues like sexual assault and racism on campus. Instead, she said she wants to focus on something she sees as more achievable — the relationship between clubs and student government.
“With that connection between club presidents and ASI student government, students can start to feel more visibly the solutions that ASI student government pushes forward to hopefully tackle some of the issues on campus,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman also stressed that as an engineer, she is wired for problem solving and well-equipped for the duties of president.
“I want to bring that engineering mindset towards the presidency — I want to tackle it almost as if it was a project,” Timmerman said. “Before [joining ASI], it felt as though there was no connection between ASI student government and students like myself.”
Timmerman also shared that she is asexual and is the founder of Cal Poly’s Asexual Alliance.
The one other presidential candidate, industrial technology and packaging junior Will Newell, is running off of a write-in campaign. Newell was not available for an interview prior to publishing this article.