Students looking to elect an Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president supportive of social and environmental justice were given an easy way to do so this year.
The Responsible Voter Guide (RVG) is a newly-formed, student-run organization dedicated to electing candidates supportive of environmental and social justice to ASI. RVG acts as a media source for the student body. It endorsed certain candidates and highlighted those candidates’ specific goals and policies on the RVG website. The organization also aimed to boost participation in student government.
Landscape architecture senior Natalie Montoya is the founder and chair of RVG. She said she hopes RVG will bring issues of environmental and social justice at Cal Poly into the spotlight.
“We would love if RVG could be a really powerful force and something that’s known not only to help elect candidates, but to see social justice and sustainability elevated on the campus as a whole,” Montoya said.
To make her vision come true, Montoya collaborated with other student organizations, such as Empower Poly Coalition —which acts as the facilitator for RVG — Mustangs United for Israel and Students Influencing Curriculum. Together, they created a questionnaire for ASI candidates pertaining to their stance on issues of social justice and sustainability. After interviewing all the candidates, the RVG committee, Engineering without Borders and a few other clubs, decided which ones to publicly endorse on their website.
“We supported the candidates that we felt were super in line with our vision of social justice and sustainability,” Montoya said. “We want to endorse people who have experience about these topics.”
One of these endorsed candidates is Chase Dean, a political science junior running for ASI president. He said his platform heavily prioritizes social justice and sustainability and he plans to work closely with RVG.
RVG will work with the next ASI president on a variety of projects, Montoya said, such as increasing the availability of healthy food on campus and making textbooks more affordable for students.
“Something that’s really powerful about [RVG] is that it’s a group of students coming together … and letting the ASI president know that they are going to hold them accountable,” Dean said. “I think it’s a new form of accountability for whoever’s elected, and a way for students to amplify what they want to see at Cal Poly and what they want to see changed.”
Dan Hedden, an environmental protection management senior and president of Empower Poly Coalition, said RVG helps to bring a wider range of viewpoints to student government.
“I think with a lot of previous ASI elections, a lot of presidents have been from agriculture, and it would be nice to shake that up a little bit, and make sure someone’s in office who has different views,” Hedden said. “We’re just trying to bring up the smaller ideas to the biggest part of campus.”
Next year, Montoya said RVG will be fully independent and won’t need the Empower Poly Coalition to act as a facilitator. She said the RVG committee is aiming for more equal representation from cultural and social justice clubs as well. Meetings are open for any interested student to attend.
Montoya said RVG’s ultimate goal is not only to elect its endorsed candidates, but also to see an increase in election participation.
“I feel like Cal Poly campus is really ready for something like this,” Montoya said. “If we’re going to go towards a better world, we have to take a stance, and this is the stance we’re taking.”
Correction: It was previously written that all the student organizations that collaborated with RVG helped interview candidates. It has been changed to state that the RVG, Engineering without Borders, Epsilon ETA and a few others helped interview candidates. MUFI wasn’t included in the interviewing process; MUFI only helped created the questionnaire.