With midterm elections less than one month away, UC Irvine students, faculty, staff and alumni decided Tuesday, Oct. 5, was a great day to hold a “Candidate Write-in” and send a message to office seekers: Support higher education as an investment in California’s future.

UCI’s associated students, alumni association and Office of Community & Government Relations hosted the second annual “Candidate Write-In” at Phineas Banning Alumni House. Chancellor Michael Drake expressed strong support for advocacy efforts, saying last winter’s “Budget Write-In,” which yielded more than 300 letters hand-delivered to Sacramento, encouraged legislators to increase allocations to higher education in the 2010-11 state budget.

“When I visited Sacramento in the spring, I met legislators who received those letters that we wrote last December and thanked us for them. They knew our issues and were strong advocates during the budget process,” Drake said, as he penned letters to legislators. “We fully expect this year’s budget to be better for the University of California.”

With stronger support for the university budget and the anticipation that the state will fund enrollment growth, campus leadership lifted a hiring freeze in September and plans are in place to recruit up to 70 new faculty members. The goal: to improve the quality of education at UCI by strengthening the faculty and making more classes available to students.

Students like Charlyn Z. Arrellano and Vikram Nayudu of the ASUCI Legislative Council, arrived early and sat down to write. They and their constituents  have faced larger class sizes, reductions in class offerings, and higher fees as a result of decreased funding from the state. They wore lapel pins that said “We’re UC and We Vote,” and the campaign-style buttons echoed their sentiments: “We are a student population of 28,000,” they said in a written statement. “This same 28,000 will graduate and become 28,000 adults hopefully armed with a sense of civic duty. We will become 28,000 voters with a voice.”

Carrie Carmody, past president of the Associated Graduate Students also stressed the importance of student participation in the democratic process. “It gives us the opportunity to shape the future we are going to inherit,” she said.

Former Sens. Dick Ackerman and Joe Dunn attended the candidate write-in event and shared insight about the importance of constituent participation in the political process.

“As a former state legislator, I can attest to the impact that constituents can have on legislators and the legislative process,” Ackerman said. “The importance of effective communication is key. UCI’s write-in program blends academic background and real life experience to maximize the influence of our future citizens and leaders.”

Added Dunn: “It is critically important that we educate candidates and elected officials to the fact that our UC system is the single largest creator of new knowledge in California. The future of our entire state is dependent upon a successful UC system. It is as simple as that.”