Revolt against UC Santa Cruz student body president builds

An Instagram post from UCSC Student Union Assembly President Alfredo Gama Salmeron
An Instagram post from UCSC Student Union Assembly President Alfredo Gama Salmeron calling on students to attend the SUA meeting Tuesday evening in the Oakes Learning Center.
(UCSC Student Union Assembly via Instagram)

In a chaotic Student Union Assembly meeting held late into Tuesday evening, SUA officers pushed forward a no-confidence vote against recently elected president Alfredo Gama Salmeron. The accusations: delays in student organization funding, “harmful language,” “massive retaliation” and more. Gama Salmeron apologized — and pledged to stay on the job.

This is a developing story.

Students at UC Santa Cruz spoke loudly and passionately Tuesday evening calling for the removal of recently elected Student Union Assembly President Alfredo Gama Salmeron.

During the 3½-hour session held on campus by the SUA, many students said they either experienced personal harm because of his actions and/or accused him of poorly managing the role — leading to “extremely low staff morale,” the delay of funds to student organizations and the improper removal of an officer.

In a chaotic atmosphere, which was livestreamed until an abrupt end about 11 p.m., students called for Gama Salmeron’s removal. At that point, everyone left the meeting, with no vote taken and the matter still much in contention. Without a conclusion, Gama Salmeron continues to be president.

Students opposing Gama Salmeron had arrived at the session with a petition calling for his removal from office. And they spoke to their concerns.

The petition cited portions of a request for his removal signed by SUA officers. The SUA officers’ letter, reproduced in its entirety at the bottom of this story, laid out its case at its beginning:

“Four of the six Student Union Assembly Undergraduate Vice President Officers are now formally advising the Student Union Assembly that we have NO CONFIDENCE that Alfredo Gama Salmeron has the capacity to provide the undergraduate student body with the quality leadership and oversight that is essential to the agency’s health, and functioning. We submit that Alfredo Gama Salmeron’s insensitivity and unwillingness to fully accept the ramifications of their actions contradicts a public persona to have a sincere desire to advocate for all students and never seeks meaningful changes in the administrative practices. Furthermore, the negative impact of the hostile work environment that currently exists with the general student public has violated UCSC Community Principles.”

To that letter and related criticism, Gama Salmeron responded, My comments were not productive, I acknowledged them and I apologize. I’m going to continue attending the meeting as it is my lawful duty as the student body president — elected by 1,800 people. I have to respect the will of our students that elected me to serve.”

New UCSC student body president Alfredo Gama on campus.
UCSC student body president Alfredo Gama Salmeron during a September interview with Lookout.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Dora Rasch, vice president of academic affairs and one of the SUA officers who signed the letter asking for his removal, spoke during the meeting. Rasch said the SUA has not been able to approve its budget and activate the Student Organization Funding Advisory Committee — the body that distributes the funds to student organizations and students. Rasch said several groups have approached SUA officers asking about the funding.

“I’ve had to turn them all the way because our president has refused to assemble the space,” said Rasch. “His refusal to fulfill his duties has hurt students immensely at this campus.”

Joe Thompson, second-year student and Starbucks union organizer, told the group that although Gama Salmeron had issued an apology during the meeting, that step was insufficient given the harm he had caused.

“So Alfredo I ask you, to truly heal this organization, I demand your resignation,” they said. “Not because I don’t like you as a person, but because the office of the presidency itself needs to be held accountable whenever hate comes into any space.”

Thompson was one of several students who expressed anger that the SUA had not yet held a meeting or passed a budget this fall. Without a budget, they said, student groups and organizers can’t do the important advocacy work that Thompson and other students do.

Other students talked about Gama Salmeron’s behavior.

One spoke of the apparent removal of Amanda Pepe, the parliamentarian.

“Why the f--- did you fire Amanda as parliamentarian?” the student asked. “She worked all summer long and she didn’t get paid for her work. Is that equity? That’s not equity.”

Another student spoke of Gama Salmeron posting on the UCSC Instagram account on Indigenous People’s Day.

That comment, which appears to have been deleted, caused several student organizations — including the Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance, Bayanihan, Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano/a de Aztlán and Student Alliance of North American Indians — to issue a joint statement in response.

“With the attack on the AIRC (American Indian Resource Center) and its interns, with the blatant racism and constant invalidation of students’ experiences and livelihood that has impacted our communities recently, we must stand in solidarity, together on a unified front against these actions,” they wrote.

Gama Salmeron has his defenders, and they included Hector Marin, a UCSC graduate now running for the new 4th District Santa Cruz City Council seat.

With the meeting concluded, the next steps concerning Gama Salmeron’s tenure are unclear.

Gama Salmeron said he also goes by the name Tlatoani Quetzalcoatl Xochipatl. At 26, and a third-year transfer student majoring in legal studies, he is originally from Iguala de la Independencia, a city in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, he moved to the United States at the age of 7 and was raised in Los Angeles. He and his four other siblings grew up with his mother.

New student body president Alfredo Gama Salmeron is feeling the excitement of the new year among UC Santa Cruz students...

In a recent interview with Lookout, he spoke of his platform being “care over profits.” He took an unusual stance for an elected leader, saying, “When I got elected, I told students, I’m not running to represent you, I can’t do that. If you run for something, anyone, like you, can’t possibly present more people than yourself. But I told students, when I call for a meeting, you have to show up.”

The Student Union Assembly directs student government at UC Santa Cruz, representing the campus’ 17,864 undergraduate students. Entirely student-led and -funded, SUA represents a broad range of student concerns, including “student fees, campus labor issues, and matters of academic integrity,” Within its purview: “hosting student events, holding political rallies, establishing/maintaining coalitions with other campus entities and the university administration.”

SUA manages a $623,000 budget, directed to clubs, events and initiatives.

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