A Conversation With: Raj Raghuwanshi, ASG Vice Presidential Candidate
- Raj Raghuwanshi is a Junior Class Officer, the co-founder of the new Irvington club Viking Consulting, the founder of his own nonprofit Business Youth Initiative, a Varsity DECA chapter mentor, and the Director of Curriculum at JSA.
- Raghuwanshi’s campaign centers around community, which he will implement by encouraging engagement in recreational sports, partnering with ASG Visualizations to create press releases showcasing clubs, and dispersing widespread feedback forms.
- As VP, Raghuwanshi will streamline Minga for freshmen next year by working with Link for efficient distribution and clearly publicize where to find ASG’s budget expenditures for the student body to observe.
- Since 50% of Irvington students will step on campus for the first time next year, Raghuwanshi intends to take advantage of that and foresees record spirit event attendance, as well as use his feedback form responses to create new events that will engage upperclassmen.
- “ASG is for the people, not the other way around. The one thing I can say with full certainty is that ASG is here to make the school a better experience for students.” ~ Raghuwanshi
As part of our coverage of the upcoming ASG elections, the Irvington Voice interviewed Raj Raghuwanshi, one of two candidates running for Vice President. Below is our conversation with him.
Editors’ Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.
What leadership experience do you have?
Leadership experience is obviously a pretty important thing to have when running for the vice president position because I’ll be in charge of making many important decisions for our school.
I’m the co-founder of Viking Consulting, which is a new club at Irvington this year. We work with local businesses within our area, and really help them out through this pandemic and provide them with pro bono (free) consulting services. Starting up your own club involves a lot of first hand work; I was involved in a lot of the presidential duties even though I’m currently the Vice President of External Affairs. My job is to get these external companies on board with us. This involves a lot of personal talking, social skills, and managerial skills. Right now we’re working with Fridays, T4, and Zeta Consulting. Within our first year, we have gotten around 40 members.
I’m the founder of my own nonprofit organization, Business Youth Initiative. We noticed that there’s a lot of STEM organizations because we live in the Bay Area, which is a STEM haven. But there aren’t many youth business services that students can use to develop a foundation for themselves. By noticing this need in the market, my co-founder and I were able to fill this gap. This requires entrepreneurial skills, which would benefit me in the position as the vice president: being able to recognize what the people around you want, what the current situation needs, and change myself to fit these needs.
I’m a Varsity DECA chapter mentor. Through Varsity DECA, we work with the officers very closely, oversee projects, and manage people very closely.
In JSA, I’m the Director of Curriculum. I make detailed plans for the whole year, which is a skill used commonly in my role as the JCO. So through experiences as Director of Curriculum, I know what it takes, how much time is reasonable for these kinds of long scale projects and I know how to evenly divide time over a long period of time, which would be useful as the VP of Irvington.
And most importantly, in relation to this, I’m the Junior Class Officer right now. As the JCO, I’ve made a lot of decisions pertaining to the class of 2022 in regards to class events and transferring all of the physical events onto the virtual platform. In my experience with competitive clubs, I’ve made a lot of important decisions regarding our members and managing large groups of people. I’ve experienced making my goals really come to life. I have a pretty solid track record with accomplishing what I set out to do, as can be seen throughout my JCO campaign.
How have you adjusted to the virtual transition?
This year was very different from normal years, we had to transfer all of our fun physical events onto this virtual platform, which has not been done before at Irvington, let alone pretty much any other high school within the country. The junior dare board was a completely new thing to come up with this year in order to generate funds for our class. It was relatively successful.
For bench, my fellow JCO and I, we came up with this idea of having bench kits made and delivered to people at their own houses, so they assembled props at their own houses, and then brought it back to the centralized location. We broke all previous attendance records with over 60 members of my class attending, which is unheard of for any like previous bench kickoffs.
What kind of campaign are you running on: like what is your main focus going to be out of (Clubs, Clubs, School spirit, School events, Rallies)?
If I had to choose one word to summarize my entire campaign, it would definitely be community. Now, spirit is this umbrella term, which everyone kind of says. But community is kind of a specific topic under this umbrella term. Due to distance learning, there is a huge sense of social connection missing that I feel we really need to bring back next year. So my major campaign goal would definitely be community. I want to increase community through school wide class bondings.
An additional thing I would say is to encourage students to join recreational clubs and sports. At Irvington, we have a large focus on the future and college. We all forget to live in the moment, I’m guilty of it, we can’t help it. It’s a product of our environment. In order to reduce the stress level in Irvington, to rebuild the sense of community, I want to encourage people to join the recreational clubs and recreational sports for fun, not for college apps, just for fun. I will create these press releases working with the visualizations and media commission. I also want to work with the media commission to create these press releases for clubs that are holding events and activities. This way students will know about these clubs and activities.
If you were vice president right now, what is the most urgent change you would like to implement? In other words, what is the number one problem in ASG that you want to fix?
I really want to increase student engagement. In general, this year has been a very different year because in the past we’ve had lots of data to rely upon based on previous year events. But this year, everything’s kind of different with it being virtual. Another major thing I also really want to accomplish is to increase opinions outside the class councils.
Are you familiar with the SIA/ICC processes and do you think you’ll change it?
As someone involved with clubs on campus, I have a dual understanding of what’s happening on both sides. I’ve seen both sides of the coin. I cannot comment on the SIA process, but I did work closely with the SIA commission head and I do know SIA is very dedicated, well coordinated, well communicated.
ICC this year did a pretty phenomenal job dealing with the new influx of new clubs. It’s remarkable to see all of these new clubs shoot up. But, ICC can’t just approve all of these clubs because once we return to campus, some of these clubs won’t be able to weather this storm. The platform ICC implemented this year, trial clubs, and voting on these clubs, I think it’s a platform that works very, very well. My only real concern wouldn’t be how ICC is handling these changes, but rather how individual clubs are handling it, especially with so many similar clubs popping up. Those older clubs might use their influence to kind of shut down these clubs, but that’s not ICC’s fault. I would not say anything’s wrong with the ICC system but maybe a few rules could be implemented to make it a little more fair to the smaller clubs so they can have a say and we don’t have these giant clubs dominating the conversation. But I feel like ICC overall has an excellent job with implementing these new systems.
And the master calendar system is a great idea. Even during these digital times, master calendars are still very, very important because ICC needs to know what events are happening for each club. Especially when we go back to campus, master calendars are needed to book these large places, Valhalla or Norse Hall.
Irvington is one of the only schools that use master calendars, and some service clubs have raised complaints about it. How will you address those concerns?
Irvington ASG has been regarded by CASL (California Associated Student Leaders) as one of the best student governments within all of California because we’re one of the most organized. Our events are consistently cited within their guidebook for schools. Master calendars are unique to Irvington; it’s another way of making sure that things don’t go wrong, there’s no conflicts. It’s very, very efficient. In ASG, if we want to check whether a club is using Valhalla on this day, we just like look at the master calendar.
But if someone did bring up a concern with SIA clubs to me, as the Vice President, I would immediately go speak with the commission head and ask, these are concerns being brought up, what can we do to resolve this issue? The most important thing to do is make sure people feel like their voices are being heard. ASG is for the people, not the other way around. Some of these things are my official jurisdictions as vice president, but part of being a student leader is stepping out of your own boxes, stepping out of your own jurisdictions, and not carrying by the label on your name. You can be the president or you can just be a normal member of ASG, but at the end, when it comes down to it, it’s up to us if you want to really make a difference or not.
Many students aren’t clear on where ASG’s powers lie. How do you plan on solving this, with regards to transparency?
I’m all about the finances. I’d like to handle the financial side because a lot of people ask questions: ASG has a lot of access to all the money, so what do we do with this money? ASG is very, very cautious. We don’t want to spend a lot of money through ASG because most of the money we spend is through contracts for dances and big events; that’s really the major two ways ASG spends money and we don’t really spend a lot for the class itself or for our own purposes.
Secondly a lot of people don’t know this, which I’ll focus on explaining more next year, but all of the money ASG does spend is available for everyone to see on the Club’s document. So I will focus on spreading this a lot more as the vice president and showing people that ASG is very transparent as to what we do. Our Constitution is online, you can find it on our on the website. Our bylaws are on there as well all the documents ASG uses. But a lot of people just don’t know what’s out there. I’d focus a lot more on making this information more clear. As for what happens in the jurisdiction, with an issue like this year, we actually went over the powers each committee member has, what things they can do. The same with the Executive Council; this is what the president, vice president can do.
As Vice President, how will you reach out to students more and how will you gauge the opinion of students that are harder to reach?
One thing that I noticed in my experience as a class officer is that there’s no real way to give feedback to the class council and the class officers. In-person it was easier, but distance learning has definitely made it much harder to do. So what I’ve done as the JCO is we’ve implemented an online feedback system as part of this new Transparency Initiative that we’re taking on, which is coming out near the end of the semester.
As the VP next year I plan taking this feedback form and making it across all of the classes, and having a centralized one for each class. Using this form, the class officer will be able to receive feedback as to what regular members of the class are thinking.
How do you plan on finding out about people’s concerns without waiting for commission heads to bring it up to you?
That’s where the feedback forms come in. I’ve thought about how as a vice president, since it’s technically not my job, how would I find out this information? One, word of mouth spreads pretty fast. And to these feedback forms, we have spaces for people to talk about how events are going, and how clubs are going to give a feedback. As Vice President, I can guarantee I will look over every single response and really take that into consideration and speak with ASG about any repeated concerns or major issues.
A hot topic among clubs is Minga. ASG needs to be able to track that people are actually going to meetings. But at the same time clubs don’t really like the process. Can you speak on clubs’ concerns that you’ve heard and how you might even want to change things?
The importance of Minga, specifically this year, is that ICC needed a way track the clubs and make sure this minimum number of people attending each club is being met. I can’t speak for every club, but as a person who is in charge of a few clubs, I definitely see that Minga has been a little challenging to set up for for incoming freshmen, especially because they don’t really know what Minga is. Normally, we would push Minga at Maze Day, but this year a lot of freshmen weren’t able to download Minga on Maze Day, which resulted in about half of the freshman not having it installed. When we come back to school, I really want to push everyone to use this platform.
Now, while there might be some complaints that rise up, Minga from an ASG perspective has been a huge help in seeing how clubs are really functioning and how clubs are meeting this minimum requirement. In clubs you need to meet a minimum number of active members in order to stay as a club, which is more important this year than ever; when we come back to school next year, we don’t want half the clubs to magically disappear like Thanos snapped them out of existence, right? I know some people do have concerns about Minga, which is why I want to focus on feedback next year, so we can improve all internal systems. The one thing I can say with full certainty is that ASG is here to make the school a better experience for students. So we definitely do want to hear all concerns.
You mentioned getting freshman their Minga accounts was a bit challenging. How will you fix this problem?
The problem this year is a lot of freshman this year didn’t know how Maze Day was going to work out. They came on different times, they got the information late, and the code ended up changing so they didn’t get access to the new information in time. As a vice president, one thing I could do is at work with Link and have them download the Minga during the very first day for the orientation, and then we have them set it up when getting their registration. The code is valid for a set period of time so if everyone is on the exact same day, there should be no problems with Minga.
How do you plan on organizing the different units within ASG to address large schoolwide problems?
The most important part of organizing large groups of people is communication. Communication is an essential part in keeping a club running efficiently; without proper communication, the system just falls apart. As VP, I will work with the president to make sure the Executive Council is entirely on board with the current decisions, and then we’ll have wide meeting during one of our class sessions to discuss the next steps. The worst thing we can do is give out misinformation to the public. You really want to make sure you give the best the most concise explanation to these people, that this applies to ASG numbers as well; people misunderstand things all the time. We really want to make sure communication is essential, because by communicating through our ASG members as a vice president, and by communicating to the Executive Council who then communicates to their, we can really make sure that the entire school knows what’s happening if everyone spreads the correct information.
A lot of people feel like spirit is underrepresented and needs more effort. How would you address that?
I want to avoid the general term of spirit, because a lot of people just mention it briefly: terms like exprience, transparency, accountability in their campaigns. That’s why I avoid saying spirit and instead talk about community.
But, I see huge, huge, huge potential for dramatic increases in spirit next year; 50% of the people who step on campus will step on campus for the very first time. Those numbers are probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for us in Irvington ASG to really take advantage of. A lot of people don’t have any biases towards or against school events. These are completely new people to work with, and foster this sense of community and school spirit. They’re a lot more willing to attend these events because they’ve never been. I foresee dramatic increases in school events next year. And I predict huge increases in turnout rates.
Specifically, the reason I want to focus on community right now is because by fostering our love and affection for one another as Irvington students, as Vikings, the first step is to being happy when we see one another and be more likely to attend these events. Additionally we can accumulate feedback through the surveys and we can definitely create fun new events in Irvington that hadn’t been done before. Obviously, this would take a lot of planning. But by creating these new events, we also create hype in these older classes. I plan on focusing heavily on this next year, and if I’m elected to be the vice president.
This post has been updated on 12/05/2020
The original posting listed 140 participants in the JCO bench kit event. It has been corrected to 60. The junior dare board double digits statistic has also been removed.