The roots of the Vietnamese Student Union were sewn well before its establishment in 1977. After the Fall of Saigon on April 30th, 1975, harsh living conditions and political persecutions prompted the mass exodus of over a million refugees. Political refugees who immigrated to America fled from these difficulties only to face new ones. Many struggled with having to assimilate to American culture and surviving in a new homeland.
After these initial years, more Vietnamese students began enrolling at UCLA. In 1977, Vietnamese students at UCLA formed the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA). The collaborators emphasized the preservation of the Vietnamese culture and heritage. It was through their efforts, such as annual Vietnamese culture nights, that the organization retains its cultural identity. In 1978, VSA established the Refugee Aid Project to ease the transition of political refugees from life in Vietnam to one in America. This project then broke off as an independent organization called the Vietnamese Refugee Aid Committee (VRAC). After many years as independent organizations, VSA and VRAC eventually reconciled that the self-empowerment of Vietnamese students at UCLA was key and decided to rejoin forces. Thus, to reflect this reunification, the two organizations came together to form an organization called the Vietnamese Student Union (VSU).
Thirty-seven years later, VSU continues to seek the preservation of the Vietnamese culture and heritage. This is done through cultural events such as Cà Phê Ấm and Vietnamese Culture Night, two events that allow students to showcase their talents through dance, art, and music. The Vietnamese Student Union also expands its services to cater to the educational, social, and political welfare of the Vietnamese community on campus and off campus. For example, VSU’s Black April Commemoration allows students the opportunity to learn about the Fall of Saigon, each other’s stories, and the political implications of the war.
VSU has two major projects that target the educational needs of the Vietnamese and Southeast Asian community. The Higher Opportunity Program for Education (HOPE) serves at-risk students in Westminster High School in Orange County and San Gabriel High School in Los Angeles. Through the Southeast Asian Campus Learning Education and Retention project (SEA CLEAR), VSU offers academic support services, holistic development, and wellness workshops. SEA CLEAR not only prioritizes academics and retention but also addresses issues and struggles relevant to the children of the refugees of war. Together, these projects find ways to use campus resources to respond and contribute to the community’s educational needs.
VSU provides an environment conducive to producing networks for social support among Vietnamese students. With this and various events it puts on, students are provided the opportunity to develop one another as student leaders and potential activists. We hope that these relationships and experiences enrich college life for these students and extend beyond graduation. In all, the organization serves as the official voice of all Vietnamese students on the UCLA campus. It is our ultimate objective to allow this voice to resonate across the entire campus and communities beyond.
Complete History of VSU
Black April, or the Fall of Saigon in 1975, marks the beginning of a mass exodus of over a million refugees in search for freedom and democracy, as well as the formation of Vietnamese communities worldwide.
The roots of the Vietnamese Student Union were sewn well before its establishment in 1977 The Vietnam
War had devastating consequences on both Vietnamese and American society. Few were unaffected by the decades
of perpetual conflict. Harsh living conditions and political persecutions prompted a mass exodus of over a million refugees since the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. That infamous day is remembered as Black April, the beginning of an uncertain chapter in the lives of Vietnamese all over the world. That uncertainty particularly followed those who immigrated to America as political refugees. Many struggled, facing great difficulties assimilating into a new culture and surviving in a new homeland. Few Vietnamese students enjoyed adequate financial stability to enter college in America. Those who did, however, experienced problems of their own. With a lack of Vietnamese student support groups sympathetic to their plight, they often endured hardships alone. The situation at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) was no different.
VSA: VIETNAMESE STUDENT ASSOCIATION
- 1977: The Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) is established at UCLA as a social and cultural organization, and joins the Asian Coalition.
- During the next few years, more Vietnamese entered UCLA, establishing a small community amidst a sea of different cultures. In 1977, students at UCLA formed the Vietnamese Student Association (VSA) as a support group. The collaborators emphasized the preservation of the Vietnamese culture and heritage. It is through their efforts that the organization retains its cultural identity, while producing annual Vietnamese culture shows to this day. VSA also joined the Asian Coalition, predecessor of the Asian Pacific Coalition.
- 1978: VSA establishes its community service program, the Vietnamese Refugee Aid Committee (VRAC) to provide services to refugees.
- As waves of refugees continued to flee political persecution into the United States, particularly into the Westwood area, the Vietnamese Student Association initiated community outreach programs. In 1978, VSA established the Refugee Aid Project to ease their difficult life transition, a familiar and recent experience for the Vietnamese students.
- 1980: VSA and VRAC split up.
- That same year, however, tensions arose between the mother organization, VSA, and its committee, the Refugee Aid Project, which was later renamed to the Vietnamese Refugee Aid Committee (VRAC). The nature of the two organizations was different; VSA presented a more localized focus, while VRAC focused beyond UCLA in reaching out to the community. In 1980, the two officially broke off. VSA continued to stay semi-political and worked to improve social and cultural aspects. Café Am was brought about in 1987 for this reason.
VRAC: VIETNAMESE REFUGEE AID COMMITTEE
- 1980s: VRAC initiates a variety of community service projects, including English/Vietnamese Tutorials, High School Peer Counseling, Refugee Awareness, Follow Up Program, High School Conference, and Summer Camp for Refugee Children, and UCLA Medical Center translation services to aid refugees.
- Early on, VRAC provided interpretation and translation services for newly arrived refugees and their hosts. VRAC Tutorials was established in the summer of 1980. The High School Peer Counseling project, predecessor to the High School Counseling project and HOPE, was established in 1983. This counseling program informed and recruited high school students to higher education. High schools targeted included Hawthorne High, North Torrance High, Pasadena High, Leuzinger High, Glendale High, and Blair High. The Vietnamese Refugee Aid Committee’s focus and vision to help refugees lasted for nearly two decades. Other VRAC projects were initiated in the mid-1980s. The high school conference was brought about in 1985 to allow students to see the need for higher education. The Refugee Awareness Project, which raised $10,000 annually in fund-raising efforts, allowed summer volunteers to assist at refugee camps. Donations of old clothing, medicine, and food helped to alleviate some of the poor conditions there. Through its Follow-up Program, VRAC provided newly arrived families guidance and communication with their American sponsors. They assisted in finding jobs, going to the hospital for check ups, taking a bus, going to the supermarket, etc. Vietnamese/English tutorial workshops promoted cultural awareness and enhanced English proficiency for the younger generation who grew up in American society, hence providing the new young Vietnamese-Americans with a positive sense of cultural identity. Subjects included English, Vietnamese Reading and Writing, Vietnamese History, and folk stories. These workshops were held every Saturday at the Vietnamese Buddhist Temple in Los Angeles.
- VRAC also coordinated the Summer Camp for the Refugee Children, an 8-week summer project designed to prepare children, ages 5 to 14, for the coming academic year. Besides English and mathematics, the children also enjoyed various cultural activities such as Vietnamese history, folk songs, and children’s games. These summer camps were run at the Betsy Ross Elementary School in Culver City and All Culture Friendship Center in Hawthorne.
- As well, VRAC provided translation services at the UCLA Medical Center and conducted field trips for children. Sites included museums, libraries, and zoos.
- Furthermore, during the annual “Week of Remembering,” VRAC presented posters along Bruin Walk, the Kerckhoff Art Gallery, and Ackerman Grand Ballroom to spread awareness of refugee issues. However, changes in immigration legislation led to a decrease in the number of Vietnamese refugees who were granted political asylum in America. By the early 1990s, the purpose and role of VRAC, primarily a refugee supports organization, had changed.
VRAC REDEFINED: VIETNAMESE REACHING OUT TO AID THE COMMUNITY
- 1994: VRAC extends its focus to the broader minority community, and also establishes the Community Health project.
- In 1994, only two projects remained: VRAC Tutorials and High School Counseling. The leadership realized that VRAC had to adapt to new ideas and demographic changes in the Vietnamese community to stay active.
- By 1995, the Vietnamese Refugee Aid Committee evolved into a broader community service organization to aid not only Vietnamese, but other communities as well, such as African Americans and Chicano/Latinos. To reflect this change in focus, VRAC symbolically changed its name to the Vietnamese Reaching out to Aid the Community, as it incorporated other communities of color into its programs.
- While broadening its community service focus to include other minorities, VRAC also strengthened its ties to the Vietnamese community by initiating the Community Health Development project in 1995. Volunteers researched health issues in the Vietnamese community and found a need to educate and raise awareness of various illnesses and diseases. Efforts of the Health Coordinator, Uyen Truong, allowed the organization to reach out to the Vietnamese Physician Association, doctors, dentists, the Asian Bone Marrow, while assembling literature, training volunteers,and securing funding for medical equipment. Community Health volunteers worked with doctors, medical students, and the Red Cross to literally “Reach Out” to the community. VRAC handled the administrative work, while doctors offered free flu shots to the general public. In addition, translated Vietnamese health brochures and pamphlets were distributed at Asian Bone Marrow drives and at the Tet Festival booth in Orange County. The Community Health Development project had revitalized VRAC. This project eventually became the Vietnamese Community Health Project (VCH) under VRAC, which is now its own entity at UCLA today.
- VRAC also expanded its Tutorials project, which, since 1989, had served the Indochinese Youth Center (IYC) in Gardena. However, in 1996, the project moved to Hawthorne, symbolizing a shift in focus. Until this move, VRAC had exclusively tutored Vietnamese children. Since then, African-American and Latino/a Chicano/a children were also included, as well as many other different ethnicities. Thus, the “Reaching Out” mentality was complete. To reflect this change in philosophy, VRAC renamed itself to “Vietnamese Reaching Out to Aid the Community.”
- In 1994, tutors from VRAC established the Vietnamese Language and Culture (VNLC), which was founded as an on-campus group to teach Vietnamese students about their culture and heritage. VSA, VRAC, and VNLC were established with shared histories and Vietnamese culture.
VIETNAMESE STUDENT UNION: REUNIFICATION
- 1996: VSA and VRAC reunite to form VSU to more effectively advocate for Vietnamese students as a united voice.
- Although VRAC and VSA attracted different constituencies, their similarities became more evident throughout the 1995-1996 school year. The differences that existed for nearly twenty years between the two organizations were only superficial, as members of both organizations worked together on many projects. Throughout the year, it was evident that each of their staffs were mirror images of each other. A proposal was made to reunify VSA and VRAC.
- One motivating factor of reunification was the importance of self-empowerment to represent Vietnamese students at UCLA. At this time, Propositions 187 and 209 sparked controversy among many progressive student groups, which grew stronger and more visible. Vietnamese student leaders realized the importance of dispelling the Vietnamese apathy stereotype. To the contrary, the Vietnamese community has been active in political issues, such as advocating for human rights and democracy in communist Vietnam.
- Meanwhile, plans of unifying VRAC and VSA continued, despite some opposition from younger staff and interns, who were aware of past frictions between the two organizations. It is with the assistance of the older staff members that the reunification succeeded. The Vietnamese Student Association was renamed the Vietnamese Student Union to reflect the reunification with VRAC.
STUDENT ADVOCACY GROUP (SAG)
- 1996: VSU is recognized as the official voice for Vietnamese students and gains Student Advocacy Group (SAG) status from the Undergraduate Students Association Council (USAC).
- Before the establishment of VSU, VSA had traditionally focused on the cultural and social needs of the Vietnamese students at UCLA, while VRAC focused mainly on the needs of the broader community. VSA’s lack of community-based advocacy prevented the membership from campaigning for causes on and off campus, while VRAC’s focus on refugees and the community prevented it from obtaining the membership, knowledge, and network for effectively lobbying for its causes. The result led to a virtual and perpetual silence by the Vietnamese community at UCLA on issues that directly affected them. The presence of two Vietnamese organizations on campus had split the Vietnamese student population and as a result, issues such as Affirmative Action, immigrants’ rights, student fee increases, and discrimination lacked a strong voice from the Vietnamese community.
- In January 1996, the death of former UCLA VSA President, Thien Minh Ly, mobilized the Vietnamese community at UCLA to recognize the importance of student advocacy in order to address issues that affect Vietnamese and minorities, namely discrimination and hate crimes. This need was further underscored in February of that year, when UCLA ROTC expelled cadet Huong Nguyen because she was bisexual.
- To effectively address these issues, VSU needed USAC sponsorship and recognition as a Student Advocacy Group (SAG). This quest was not easy. VSU was not invited to the USAC summer retreat in 1996, despite its diverse programs, long history, and large membership. Nevertheless, Dan Su attended it without an invitation through VSU, but through the Asian Pacific Coalition (APC). He managed to inform the council members of VSU’s history, inclusiveness, activism, and service to the community. With the assistance of USAC and other communities of color on campus, VSU became recognized and sponsored as a SAG late that summer.
VSU: THE UNION’S EARLY YEARS
- 1996-1997: VSU establishes its presence in USAC.
- The first VSU staff was merged equally, with the concern of preserving all projects and balancing both previous staffs. Dan Su and Bao Huynh were the Co-Chairs during this difficult transition year, as most of the supporters of the reunification had already graduated. Hence, conflicts arose due to lack of staff chemistry. Most of the staff members were new, and had to learn and adapt to a new structure of government. Their inexperience was magnified in this crucial first year. Thus, the staff was unable to draft and adopt a new Constitution.
- VSU and the Asian Pacific Coalition initiated the Anti-Nike Campaign, which evolved into a campus-wide antisweatshop campaign. The UCLA administration eventually eliminated its endorsement from Nike, and adopted a University anti-sweatshop policy in 1999. VSU also participated in the Death of Education campaign. In the spring of 1997, An Le, a VSU High School Counseling Coordinator, was elected as USAC Facilities Commissioner.
- 1997-1998: VSU establishes the Southern California VSA Alliance.
- The 1997-1998 year marked the first open and competitive election for VSU. Johnny Nguyen was the first outside staff to be elected as the VSU Chair. Through the first VSU retreat, he brought in new energy. That second year, participation in student government culminated in the election of two VSU USAC council members, in cooperation with the Students First! slate: Tram Linh Ho as Financial Supports Commissioner, and Trinh Huynh as Facilities Commisioner. Through Vietnamese representation, VSU was able to voice its concerns more effectively.
- In the 1997-1998 school year, the Vietnamese Student Union also participated in political activities, such as the Thang Long Water Puppet Show protest. The protesters argued that the show did not represent all of Vietnam: first the content could be slanted, and secondly the representation of idyllic country life was manufactured, and did not represent the oppressive nature of contemporary Vietnam.
- VSU also established the Southern California VSA Alliance as a forum to address issues of the Vietnamese community, as a coalition to raise awareness of the Vietnamese culture, and as a social network to meet other UC and CSU schools.
- 1998-1999: VSU advocates for Southeast Asian retention and awareness of hate crimes. M2K slate forms, CARE Referendum passes.
- VSU originally intended to create a student retention project specifically for Vietnamese students, which was resisted by the CRC because VSU could not prove there was a need, much to do to the fact that UCLA did not track disaggregated admission and graduation data at that time, including the Vietnamese community. This resistance came with the fact that other CRC projects did not want to share funding of their own projects with another group. VSU and CRC eventually came to a compromise to create a retention project for all Southeast Asian students.
- The 1998-1999 school year was an eventful one. In November 1998, the Vietnamese Student Union established the Southeast Asian Campus Learning Education and Retention project (SEA CLEAR). As the first student-initiated and student-run Southeast Asian retention project in the nation, it aims at improving dropout rates and academic performances of Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Laotian, and Hmong students. A dream four years before, Trinh Huynh, Vi Huynh, Johnny Nguyen, Tung Pham, and others completed the paperwork and legitimized their proposal to the Campus Retention Committee (CRC).
- SEA CLEAR recognizes culturally-relevant issues that affect the Southeast Asian community, such as the tremendous amount of pressure parents put on students to achieve success; the model minority myth, propagated by the mainstream media through its false portrayal of Asian Americans; financial difficulties; and the lack of culturally sensitive institutionalized support, which lead to poor grades and dismissal from school.
- In January 1999, Tram Linh Ho helped to initiate the USAC “Week of Remembrance” campaign to raise awareness and prevention of hate crimes, such as the one that killed Thien Minh Ly. A candle-light vigil was held in his memory, and in commemoration of all victims of discrimination.
- Later that year, Truong Van Tran’s display of the communist flag and picture of Ho Chi Minh caused a controversy in Little Saigon and united the Vietnamese community nationwide. The Vietnamese Student Union stated that Tran was within his first-amendment rights to display them, and that the protestors were within their first amendment rights to peacefully protest. A group of VSU members joined the other student organizations in the protest, and promoted a peaceful demonstration by handing out fliers to advocate for human rights, freedom, and democracy in Vietnam.
- In the spring of 1999, the Asian Pacific Coalition broke off from the Praxis-led USAC student government. A group of seven students formed the Mobilize 2000 (M2K) slate, which included two VSU members. Tuyet Nguyen was elected as Financial Supports Commissioner.
- VSU helped to pass the Community and Retention Empowerment (CARE) Referendum, which raised student fees $5 per quarter to support student-initiated, student-run community service, retention, and outreach projects. This referendum passed by an 80% vote.
VSU: HOPE, BLACK APRIL COMMEMORATION, AND COALITION-BUILDING
- VSU raises awareness of the Vietnamese American experience through the Black April Commemoration; SPARC Referendum passes.
- In the summer of 1999, VSU joined the Affirmative Action Coalition (AAC), and began to explore the possibility of forming a Community Education and Resource Center (CERC).
- In the winter of 2000, the prevalence of hate crimes at UCLA led to VSU’s involvement in the United Front Coalition. VSU expanded the High School Counseling project to form the Higher Opportunity Program for Education (HOPE). An early outreach project funded by the Student-Initiated Outreach Committee (SIOC), HOPE encourages high school students to enter college by offering academic counseling, peer mentoring, workshops, and quarterly High School Conferences at UCLA. The effects of Proposition 209, SP-1, and SP-2 legislation underscore the need for community-based student outreach. HOPE seeks to promote awareness of higher education among high school and transfer students. Every Friday afternoon, volunteer counselors and tutors assist students from Westminster High School. HOPE attempts to make a conscious effort to encourage students to reach their potential through higher education.
- To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, VSU established the Black April Commemoration. This event educated the UCLA community and Vietnamese youth about the ramifications of Black April on the lives of Vietnamese in America, and raised awareness of the Vietnamese American experience and struggles that we still face.
- In Spring 2000, VSU helped to pass the SPARC Referendum to raise student fees to renovate the Men’s Gym, which houses projects of the Student Retention Center, SIOC, and Community Programs Office.
2000s – The Expanding Growth
- 2000-2001: VSU establishes Vietnamese Alumni Group and Alumni Scholarship Fund; Repeal of UC Board
- 2001-2002: VSU joins UVSA as part of alignment of ICC within UVSA, creation of SEAC
- 2002-2003: Internship program officially established
- 2003-2004: HOPE Benefit Social, End of Tet Festival relationship with VNLC, UNLOC
- 2004: VRAC splits from VSU
- The Vietnamese Community Health and Impact Tutorials Project under VRAC had always been essential parts of the organization, but when VRAC and VSU joined together in 1996, it became increasingly harder to maintain management over the projects due to the organizations’ size.
- In 2002, there was a board meeting to discuss a potential split between VRAC staff and VSU staff due to the fact that HOPE, SEACLEAR, and VCH felt they were not receiving enough support from VSU, in addition to having to fulfill their responsibilities for VSU.
- VRAC unofficially split from VSU in 2004, taking its VCH and Tutorial projects with it, and leaving VSU with its own programs, including separate projects HOPE and SEACLEAR. Due to lack of resources and being understaffed, VCH and Impact Tutorials eventually died out by the end of the 2003-2004 school year.
- 2004-2005: Katrina Relief (Dodgeball Tournament & 2 of Clubs Poker w/ VNLC), Save Language Classes Concert, PULSE
- 2005-2006: Vietnamese Graduation established
- Vietnamese Graduation was not established without resistance; VSU originally took part in an Asian Pacific Islander Graduation (APIG) hosted by APIG, which did not want VSU to split from their own graduation. Having different interests and needs, VSU established its first VGrad, helped by Vietnamese professor Thầy Quyên Di and Vietnamese community members from other universities.
- 2005-2006: Vietnamese Community Health (VCH) is established by VSU as a separate entity from VSU
- In 2006, VSU President Phong Ly created a new charter for the project and labelled it Vietnamese Community Health (VCH), establishing itself as a separate entity from VSU in order to manage a greater number of Vietnamese students interested in health but maintaining many of its same missions as the original project had under VRAC. It is no coincidence that VCH’s original logo was a phoenix, which is the mascot of the Vietnamese Student Union.
- 2006-2007: Renaming of Vietnamese Alumni Group to VSU Alumni Association, 30th year celebration, Vietnamese Community Assessment Class (Asian Am 191C)
- 2008 -2009: Southeast Admit Weekend was established. And PLEDGE Referendum passed!
- VSU President and 2013 Phoenix Award recipient, Thuy Huynh, brought a huge emphasis on SEA identity to the organization. The first ever Southeast Admit Weekend was created under her leadership along with her staff to increase SEA admission numbers at UCLA.
- VSU helped passed the PLEDGE Referendum at UCLA, which would provide funding to student groups for various different programs and services.
- Working with Student Firsts! slate, VSU ran the first ever Cambodian candidate, Layhannara Tep, as USAC Academic Affairs Commissioner. Layhannara helped set the discussion for the Diversity Requirement to be put on table with both UCLA administration and faculty as AAC.
- 2009-2010: VSU protested the tuition hikes!
- The organization participated in various different protests throughout the year! The pending tuition increase threats of 33% made various student organization come together to protest against the hikes.
- VSU ran Suza Khy for USAC Academic Affairs Commissioner, second Cambodian candidate to run for USAC. Under her leadership as AAC, she carried out the foundation that Layhannara set as AAC and help set the stage for the Diversity Requirement to be voted by faculty.
- 2010-2011: Advocating for Undocumented Students
- VSU’s Culture Night took a bold step in telling a true story about Tam Tran, and capturing the work she has done for undocumented students, and showing the impact she had for her community.
- SEA CLEAR was able to establish a Wellness Component.
- The Video, Asians in the Library, became viral, and VSU participated with APC in a meeting with Chancellor Gene Block to discuss campus climate and pushed for a Diversity Summit to engage the campus on topics of Diversity. This began the discussion of the Chancellors Principle of Community Initiatives.
- VSU ran Layhearn Tep for Academic Affairs Commissioner, third Cambodian candidate to run for USAC. However, VSU was unable to win the council seat this year.
- Suza Khy, was able to passed C.U.E, which shows to administration and the campus that students wanted the Diversity Requirement to pass.
- 2011-2012: Southeast Asian Transfer Enrichment Day was established.
- 2011-2012: Southeast Admin Transfer Enrichment Day (SEATED) was created. HOPE internship was established. VSU left the Student Firsts! slate and the MO coalition for the remaining of the year along with APC, AISA, and PISA.
- 2012-2014: Fight Against Hate
- Vandalism took place on the VSU Office Door in 2012. Hate Mail was sent to the Asian American Center in 2013. VSU organized with APC. Held town halls and rallies to show these acts are not tolerable on a campus such as UCLA. Chancellor Block responded and publicly announced his intent to push for the Diversity Requirement in the Academic Senate.
- VSU and a coalition of students ran the Bruin Diversity Initiative in 2013. Failed to pass nearly by 1%.
- The Let’s Act slate was formed in 2013. VSU left the slate in 2014, and formed a new slate called Fired Up! in response to other organizations.
2014-2015: Diversity Requirement passes and the continual struggle against the delegitimization of VSU
- Under the leadership of VSU President Evelyn Tran, VSU took initiative in spearheading the movement to pass the Diversity Requirement, which would require every single student at UCLA to take a class related to diversity in order to graduate.
- VSU, APC, AISA, and PISA advocated for and passed the 2014 Bruin Diversity Referendum (BDR) in the Fall Special Elections with a 58.2% in favor, but falls short of the 20% voter turn-out threshold to enact the referendum.
- October 31, UCLA faculty passed the Diversity Requirement with 332:303:24 votes. After a petition by few faculty oppositions, the Diversity Requirement was put to a second vote and passed again on April 10, 2015 with 916-487 votes.
- The MO coalition tried to get back together and start healing after the fight that broke out in the SAC basement following 2014 USAC elections. Coalition stopped meeting after the Fall special elections. In the Spring, a folder called “Let’s Act Exposed” was made public with details about a plan for a “CPO Takeover” and calling VSU, APC, AISA, PISA the “pawn bloc”, written by ASU Alumni.
- VSU commemorates 40 years since the Fall of Saigon with its 35th annual Vietnamese Culture Night “Fight to Keep – Những Ngày Tháng Khó Quên.”
2015-2016: The Social Justice Referendum passes with a majority vote
- Before the Social Justice Referendum (SJR), retention and outreach projects at UCLA like SEACLEAR and HOPE staff were understaffed, and staff often worked over-hours for as little as $6-7 per hour, affecting the productivity of the VSU projects.
- VSU joined the leadership of the Joint Administrative Committee (CRC & SIOC Chair) and the student leadership from the Community Programs Office (CPO) to pass the Social Justice Referendum that would save the projects for years to come by making sure that students get paid to go community work. Student staff under “success and social justice programs,” including the Community Programs Office Student Association (CPOSA), the USAC Community Services Commision (CSC), the Campus Retention Committee (CRC), the Student Initiated Outreach Committee (SIOC), and other service organizations, would be required to be paid minimum wage and be given increased funding for their projects.
- Students from VSU, SEACLEAR, HOPE, and other MOs would flyer every single day, change profile pictures, create event pages, sell shirts, and write articles to advocate for its passing.
- However, the Social Justice Referendum faced intense criticism from other organizations and student groups on campus, especially Daily Bruin and USAC Election Board, intensifying more when USAC Election Board sanctioned SJR advocacy groups for overspending their cap and when Daily Bruin mistakenly reported false information about the sanctions.
- On May 7th, 2019, in a 5603-4614 student majority of 54.8%, the Social Justice Referendum passes as the first major bundled referendum since 2009. Since 2016, SEACLEAR, HOPE, and VSU programs have been strongly funded due to the success of this advocacy.