Here are the 20 ASUC Senate candidates you should vote for this year – Daily Californian

here-are-the-20-asuc-senate-candidates-you-should-vote-for-this-year-–-daily-californian

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The events of this past year have no doubt been unprecedented. So, too, is the nature of the task that lies ahead for UC Berkeley, as campus begins to prepare for a return to in-person instruction following a year of pandemic-induced online classes.

The incoming ASUC Senate class will juggle rather unique responsibilities. Not only will these senators be welcoming half of the student body to campus for the first time, but they also must meet and address the needs and concerns of students in ways the ASUC never has before. Beyond the pandemic, UC Berkeley will continue to struggle with a range of issues, from diversity, equity and inclusion on campus to affordable housing to accessibility of resources and basic needs. Next year, the student body will need ASUC senators who are experienced, dedicated and willing to advocate boldly on behalf of all UC Berkeley students.

The Daily Californian Editorial Board interviewed the 28 candidates running for ASUC Senate, apart from Dil Sen, who did not respond to inquiries. The board conducted independent research on Sen’s platforms. We have considered each candidate’s platforms and relevant experience, as well as interview responses, to determine who can best represent the student body. The following 20 ranked candidates are those whom we think are right for the difficult job ahead.

1) Varsha Madapoosi (Independent, she/her)Photo of Varsha Madapoosi

Madapoosi’s passion for environmental justice and wealth of experience working in campus environmental spaces make her well-positioned to serve as the next eco-senator. 

If elected, Madapoosi hopes to institutionalize environmental justice, expand intersectionality in environmentalism and strengthen the eco-community network. While these goals will not be easy to meet, Madapoosi has already begun working with the Student Environmental Resource Center and plans to collaborate with communities, such as students with disabilities, that are underrepresented in environmental work. Madapoosi’s clear priorities and experience with campus organizations and the campus Office of Sustainability will help her hit the ground running.

2) Amanda Hill (Independent, they/them)Photo of Amanda HIll

Hill has made it a priority to bridge the gap between campus administration and community leaders. They recognize that including communities in ASUC conversations and decisions is far more powerful than simply advocating on their behalf. This is the type of leadership the student body needs.

Hill’s experience as former chief of staff and current Director of Equity and Inclusion in ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu’s office will help them navigate the ASUC and push for policy in a way that is equitable and inclusive. Additionally, their commitment to demystifying systems of power on campus, like the Academic Senate, is laudable.

3) Sammy Raucher (Independent, she/her)Photo of Sammy Raucher

Raucher, a sophomore, is a queer and transgender community-endorsed candidate, and with her plans to uplift LGBTQ+ students on campus, we believe she would make an invaluable addition to the senate. 

Her platform includes improving access to basic needs for LGBTQ+ students by broadening resources in conjunction with the Basic Needs Center, expanding STEM ethics courses and getting students involved in queer advocacy. As a staff member in ASUC Senator Naomi Garcia’s office, Raucher has gained experience advocating for the campus LGBTQ+ community and is prepared to enact meaningful change as a senator. 

4) Mehnaz Grewal (Independent, she/her)Photo of Mehnaz Grewal

Grewal — the Middle Eastern Muslim Sikh and South Asian Coalition, or MEMSSA-endorsed, candidate — stands as another essential pick for ASUC senate. A sophomore, Grewal has made the most of her time on campus, particularly within the ASUC, with prior work in two senate offices.

Grewal’s platforms include expansive campus COVID-19 relief, increasing graduate student resources and MEMSSA advocacy and empowerment. Grewal’s MEMSSA initiatives are rooted in personal identity and familiarity with the organizations that make up the coalition. We are excited to see Grewal represent her communities and make actionable change.

5) Muz Ahmad (Student Action, he/him)Photo of Muz Ahmad

As a student senator at American River College, Ahmad worked to create scholarships for undocumented students and students with loans — a student-centric ethos and important prior experience that he’ll bring into his ASUC office. 

Ahmad plans to support incoming transfers as they adjust to their newly in-person Berkeley experience, hold town halls to increase ASUC transparency, combat competitiveness within the pre-health and STEM communities and work with other senators to combat tuition hikes. These are actionable goals that would benefit the campus community, and Ahmad showcased the passion and focus necessary to achieve them.

6) Ashley Rehal (Student Action, she/her)Photo of Ashley Rehal

Running on an ambitious platform of supporting the Southeast Asian and dance communities and improving collective student wellness, Rehal is determined to make the most of her potential time in office.

Rehal has worked as a legislative director and a chief of staff in three ASUC Senate offices. Alongside this institutional knowledge, Rehal is deeply involved in the communities she hopes to represent. The first Punjabi-Sikh to receive the South Asian community endorsement, Rehal has the confidence and desire to create enduring, concrete change for students. 

7) Osirus Polachart (Independent, he/him)Photo of Osirus Polachart

Polachart’s experience with grassroots organizing will help his office — and the ASUC — better serve Berkeley communities. His goals of amplifying voices outside the ASUC and supporting the work done by organizations on and around campus are fresh and admirable.

Recognizing the need for increased diversity on campus, Polachart also hopes to reform campus admissions to help UC Berkeley better serve underrepresented freshmen and transfer students. His experience in the ASUC Office of the President and commitment to bold advocacy will help Polachart effectively push for changes important to the student body.

8) Gabrielle Sharp (Independent, she/her)Photo of Sharp

Sharp’s goal of connecting ASUC offices with other organizations on and off campus to tackle important issues is exactly what we want to see senators doing. Sharp acknowledged that many resources for students exist, but it is often difficult to find them. Her plan to make those resources more accessible just makes sense. 

While Sharp has not previously worked in the ASUC, she is endorsed by the queer community, and her work in community organizing is impressive. Sharp can bring a breath of fresh air to the incoming senate class.  

9) Elif Sensurucu (Student Action, she/her)

As president of the International Students Association at Berkeley and an active member of the campus technology and entrepreneurial community, Sensurucu has the leadership and lived experience necessary to deliver on her platforms.

Some of her goals, such as the creation of a work-study program equivalent for international students, are ambitious. And her proposals for achieving gender equity in tech and entrepreneurial spaces must go beyond promoting resources. But Sensurucu seems to be approaching these plans pragmatically. This pragmatism, coupled with her willingness to work with other senators on important issues not necessarily part of her platform, is promising.

10) Griselda Vega Martinez (Independent, she/her)Photo of Griselda Vega Martinez

Vega Martinez is running with a strong commitment to improving student retention, particularly for underrepresented students. This kind of work is greatly needed on our campus where increased diversity in admissions does not always mean minority students receive the necessary support. 

We would like to see more specificity in some of her goals, such as how she will mobilize the power of her office. However, her clear readiness to listen to the diverse needs of the Latinx community and her passion for immigrant rights makes her a worthy candidate. 

11) Sophie Morris (Student Action, she/her)Photo Sophie Morris

Morris will use her two years of experience in the ASUC External Affairs Vice President’s office to represent the Jewish community and Greek life.

Her platforms focus on working with local elected officials to increase the accessibility of housing information, expanding cultural education programs for Jewish students, bolstering anti-bias training in sorority recruitment and easing barriers to entry for Greek life. We’re confident she can achieve these goals. Having experienced imposter syndrome herself, Morris can empathize with students experiencing similar insecurities about joining campus activities and exploring their identities.

12) Stephanie Wong (Elevate Cal, she/her)Photo of Stepahnie Wong

Wong has taken the time to get to know the needs of the Asian American, Pacific Islander and Hawaiian students she seeks to serve, while also demonstrating a level of awareness regarding her place within the community.

With experience in ASUC Senator Chaka Tellem’s office, Wong will be able to collaborate effectively with other senators and organizations to create solidarity between different communities on campus. Wong also has meaningful platforms related to supporting survivors of sexual violence and sexual harassment, including the provision of accommodations through the Disabled Students Program and expansion of prevention and reporting programs in student organizations.

13) Amy Chen (Student Action, she/her)Photo of Amy Chen

With ample experience working within the ASUC and as president of the Career Development Department at Berkeley Chinese Students and Scholars Association, Chen hopes to serve as a representative for the international and East Asian communities on campus. 

By creating an international student commission, Chen hopes to increase access to campus resources, advocate for the needs of the international community and ensure a smooth transition back to in-person instruction. Chen also hopes to improve campus safety and combat xenophobia with the creation of a campus East Asian cultural week. Her dedication to promoting a safer campus environment for all students makes her a solid candidate. 

14) Issabella Romo (Elevate Cal, she/her)Photo of Issabella Romo

Issabella Romo is a dedicated, driven candidate with extensive experience in two ASUC offices. Aiming to make the ASUC more accessible to students, her platforms are directly based on student feedback. 

Romo has several substantive solutions to campus-wide issues, including increasing Counseling and Psychological Services counselor diversity, accessibility to mental health resources and subsidizing the CALM app for all students. Romo is running on one of the most developed menstrual equity platforms and is dedicated to consistently keeping this issue on the ASUC agenda.

15) Kelvin Ervais (Student Action, he/him)Photo of Kelvin Ervais

With experience in prevention of sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, Ervais is a strong candidate to both represent Greek life and bolster the health and safety of the campus population. 

After working in Senator Julia Castro’s SVSH task force, Ervais is well-positioned to work with administrators and the Interfraternity Council to improve SVSH prevention and accountability.

Ervais’ novel ideas about sustainability within Greek life, strengthening SVSH education campuswide, getting rape kits to the Tang Center and focusing mental health resources on the transition back to campus demonstrate his focus and drive to fulfill his platform’s goals.

16) Jason Dones (Elevate Cal, he/him)Photo of Jason Dones

As a community engagement associate in ASUC Senator Chaka Tellem’s office, Dones has experience working with administration to advocate for students. After campus enacted mandatory self-sequestering, he went directly to University Health Services and Residential Life to communicate students’ health concerns.

Dones is running to increase representation for all students but is mainly focused on those not traditionally represented in the ASUC. He’s particularly interested in increasing access to research opportunities for STEM students, which have been limited during the pandemic. Though his plans could be further developed, we’re confident Dones will push for them through every possible channel.

17) Jerry Xu (Student Action, he/him)Photo of Jerry Xu

Amid rising anti-Asian racism and violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, campus needs a strong representative from the East Asian community in the ASUC. Xu is that person.

As someone who has worked to understand the needs of East Asian students, Xu is focusing on important and tangible goals. He plans to make reporting incidents of xenophobia and information about California natural disaster safety more accessible. He also hopes to ensure that fellow international students, especially those not returning to campus in the fall, will receive necessary accommodations, including recorded lectures.

18) Ricky Seo (Student Action, he/him)Photo of Ricky Seo

Seo demonstrates a clear passion for the community he hopes to support as a senator. His plans to establish a monthly town hall for the campus Korean community and introduce sexual violence and sexual harassment safety officers in registered student organizations are promising and could set the stage for more fundamental change. 

While he has experience in the ASUC, Seo’s knowledge of how to effectively approach his platforms does not yet seem on par with his enthusiasm. His current proposals for his most pressing platform — supporting international students amid the pandemic — need to be more comprehensive. We hope he will channel his enthusiasm into a robust plan to address the critical needs of international students.

19) Adrianna Ngo (Student Action, she/her)

With a well-developed pre-law platform and extensive experience advocating for that community within the ASUC, Ngo is a promising pre-law candidate.

Although her other platforms do not appear as fleshed out, Ngo’s goals of institutionalizing pre-law resources to improve access and entry into the community for students unfamiliar with the track is admirable. Her focus on policy reform to make the ASUC more transparent and funding increases for student safety are also important, but would benefit from greater specificity to better support the larger campus community.

20) Carlos Pareja (Independent, he/him)Photo of Carlos Pareja

Although Pareja is a freshman with little experience in the ASUC and on campus, he has the unique ability to represent a swath of students who have only navigated campus in a virtual setting. 

Part of Pareja’s platform is securing COVID-19 economic relief for students by working with the financial aid office. Though these plans are lacking the specificity we’d like to see, Pareja demonstrated an earnest desire to forge ties with underrepresented communities that will make him a solid advocate for student needs. We hope Pareja will prove us right and take bold, community-based action as senator. 

Editorial Board member Alexandra Shahinfar recused herself from discussions on Stephanie Wong due to Alexandra’s social relationship with her. 

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