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Meet This Year’s ASUCI Presidential Candidates

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ASUCI election season began earlier this month, with the voting period opening on April 17. Voting for offices such as ASUCI president will run until April 21.

In order to learn more about them, the New University spoke with Jonpaul Cohen and Jun Jang, the two candidates for ASUCI president.

Jonpaul Cohen, a third-year cognitive sciences student, is running with the election slate “Empowered Anteaters.” He told the New University that the importance of community influenced his decision to run for president.

“I grew up volunteering a lot in my community,” Cohen said. “Something that always meant a lot to me was being able to serve my community and give back … Whether I’m the one that gives back or whether [Jang] gets to give back … whichever one of us wins, I just want to give back.”

For example, Cohen has experience working directly with the government of New Zealand on the issue of climate change.

A July 2022 School of Social Sciences newsletter says that Cohen wrote a letter to the New Zealand Parliament and was invited to speak before them a month later. Cohen also claims to have been nominated for a Pacific Island Youth Award by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Cohen also spoke about his Jewish and Polynesian identities, a background that he says has shaped his experiences at UCI.

“Being Jewish has been the absolute hardest,” Cohen said. “Being Jewish here [is] not easy at all.”

Cohen claimed that he “had trash thrown” and “slurs hurled” at him in the past for being Jewish.

“I realized the campus hasn’t felt very safe for me as a Jewish student,” he said.

Cohen also identifies as Polynesian. During the presidential debate on April 11, he said that he was from New Zealand, that his family was from Samoa and that his grandmother was from Tuvalu. Cohen said he is involved with UCI’s Pacific Islander community and meets with Pacific Islander students and faculty every quarter to socialize and eat Pacific Island food.

Cohen also discussed the limitations of emergency housing at UCI and how a lack of housing affects students.

“I feel like the bar for emergency housing is a little low,” he said. “You have to meet with a social worker and then you get very short term housing. I don’t think we can expect students to academically succeed if they’re [housing] insecure.”

Cohen also clarified his comments on R58-97, a piece of legislation passed by the Senate earlier this year to address the effects of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. During the presidential debate, Cohen claimed that R58-97 endorsed a controversial political organization.

“That’s not a part of my campaign,” he said. “My campaign is about student housing. It’s about food … Anything that I have said with Turkey, I said as a friend of people that were struggling, not as a candidate for student government.”

The New University asked Cohen to share some fun facts with members of the UCI community.

In his free time, Cohen sings and acts in musical theater shows in Redlands, his current city of residence. He also enjoys karaoke and plays a number of instruments: the piano, drumset, ukulele, imzad, baglama and theremin.

The New University also spoke with Jun Jang, a third-year political science and Asian American studies student who is running with the election slate “ANTvocating for Change.” He is the current ASUCI Senate President.

Jang spoke about his various involvements on campus.

During his two years in the Senate, Jang led the now-dissolved Anteater Safety Net Grant special committee, to which eligible students could apply for a $1,000 grant to pay for basic needs expenses.

While Jang did not create the committee, he was the vice chair from the 2021 fall quarter to the 2022 spring quarter and the committee chair from the 2022 fall quarter to the 2023 winter quarter. During his time on the committee, its budget allocation increased from $20,000 to $200,000, allowing 200 students to receive the grant as opposed to the initial 20 students. Jang also led the charge to increase the grant from $275,000 to $350,000 in the winter 2023 quarter.

In addition to serving as the Senate President, Jang is the commissioner of the Office of the President’s Student Programming Funding Board (SPFB), which allocates funding to on-campus organizations with the goal of promoting “social, cultural and education awareness” on campus.

“It’s one thing to suggest an idea for how our fees are used and it’s another thing to actually understand the limitations,” Jang said. “It makes me sad [that] there are a lot of limitations on how we can use our student fees.”

Outside the Senate, Jang is the current chair of the Student Fee Advisory Committee (SFAC), a campus committee in the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor that looks at the fees that students pay in their tuition along with the budgets of campus departments that receive funding from student fees.

Jang also holds two jobs. He works at the Student Success Initiatives office, where he helps students file for scholarships with the Learning & Academic Resource Center (LARC), and as a CalFresh Advocate, assisting operations at the Basic Needs Center at times and helping students apply for CalFresh at others. Jang is also a member of Hansori, a traditional Korean drumming club at UCI.

“I’m all over campus,” Jang said. “With that, naturally, comes the opportunity to speak to a lot of people … Out of all the candidates in all the elections, I may have the most relationships and connections to administrators on campus.”

Jang also spoke with the New University about his various identities and how they have affected his experience at UCI.

“That’s a reason why I got into Asian American studies,” Jang said of his Korean background. “I don’t really see Korean Americans reflected much [outside of entertainment] … There’s a whole host of things that people should know about Korea and Korean Americans.”

Jang said that he plans to pursue a master’s degree in Asian American studies at UCI once he graduates.

Jang also identifies as a first-generation and low-income student, which has affected his experience at UCI — including his work in student government. 

“[I have] been low-income all of my life, and so there are a lot of things that come up in life when you’re low-income … Being low-income isn’t an ideal situation, so that guides a lot of the work that I do,” Jang said.

Like Cohen, Jang brought up UCI’s emergency housing program, which both described as inadequate.

“We only have three emergency housing units on campus,” Jang said. “Realistically, when hundreds of students don’t have a home, three units isn’t nearly enough.”

For his fun fact, Jang shared that he loves boba — a love shared by his fellow candidate Jonpaul.

Members of the UCI community who are interested in learning more can watch the presidential debate here and read the recap here.

Voting will end at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 21. Students can cast their votes on the UCI Elections website.


Rustin Roudi is a Campus News Intern for the spring 2023 quarter. He can be reached at rroudi@uci.edu.