Choosing between six candidates in the presidential race may seem daunting at first. But after sorting through platforms, weighing candidate experience and considering how the candidates would fare in the role, the choice is clear: CalSERVE candidate Yordanos Dejen is best suited to be president.
SQUELCH! presidential candidate Jake “The First” Fineman, running on a platform of feudalism, stressed in an interview with the Senior Editorial Board that SQUELCH!’s role is to point out inefficiencies in the ASUC and encourage voters to make educated choices throughout the election process — while adding a little levity to the high-stress election season in the process.
UC Berkeley freshman Pranay Kumar Chaurasia, who formed his own BASED. party to promote positivity, does not have a sufficient understanding of how the ASUC operates. In his interview with the Senior Editorial Board, he spoke about how the elections can focus on “fringe” issues irrelevant to students, failing to consider the reasons our student community focuses on them. At the Daily Cal election forum, when addressing whether UC Berkeley had a campus climate problem, Chaurasia mainly talked about problems freshmen face and said one solution was a winter formal dance. His viewpoint represents a lack of experience and misses the mark when it comes to addressing pressing student needs.
Michael Cortez-Mejia, running for both president and senator with the Defend Affirmative Action Party, is much better suited for the ASUC Senate than for executive office. As DAAP candidates do every year, he raised real concerns about underrepresented students on campus and the role private funds play in financing the university. But when, during his interview with the Senior Editorial Board, we asked him to explain his platforms for the presidency, Cortez-Mejia simply read off a list of the platforms his party pushes for.
Nicolas Jaber, an independent candidate running again for executive office, said he would slash the ASUC’s budget in half. While stringent financial prudence is lacking in the ASUC, Jaber’s plan is unrealistic and improperly cuts from important areas of the ASUC’s budget, such as attorney fees, an unavoidable expense.
Student Action candidate Milad Razavi is the next-best choice after Dejen. Although he is the only Student Action candidate for executive office who has not served in the senate, his ideas and leadership experience in other organizations make him a worthy contender. But we were concerned when, in an interview with the Senior Editorial Board, Razavi did not adequately answer a question about his on-campus accomplishments. Instead of talking about specifics, Razavi talked about empowering those around him — which, while a worthy goal, does not demonstrate how he would be effective in a presidential capacity.
Dejen, in contrast, has a proven track record of advocating on behalf of the black student community. Her platforms are not perfect — for instance, it shouldn’t be the president’s job to work on a concert series. But the vast majority of her ideas — reforming financial aid to meet the actual cost of living in Berkeley and implementing a faculty-diversity initiative — would lift our community and transform it for the better.
Vote Yordanos Dejen for president.
The key role of the EVP is to oversee the ASUC Senate. Historically, we have seen the EVP act as either an unbiased moderator or as a partisan figure engaged in senate discussions.
In speaking with the two nonsatirical candidates for executive vice president, we found CalSERVE candidate Lavanya Jawaharlal to be the most capable of effectively running the senate floor and facilitating the transition of the ASUC and other student organizations to Lower Sproul Plaza when it opens this fall. We also appreciated Jawaharlal’s focus on senate training in her platforms and her idea to include community representatives in senate meetings. In an interview with the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board, Jawaharlal proved she had the institutional knowledge to hit the ground running when it comes to moving student groups phase by phase into Lower Sproul. Because this is such a crucial project, the student body cannot risk putting someone in office who will take more time to get adjusted to the demands expected of him or her.
We felt that Student Action candidate Paul Lee — though a strong representative of his Korean, Christian and dance communities while in the senate — was a weaker choice for an executive position. During his interview with the Senior Editorial Board, he focused on his plan to expand Wi-Fi to other areas of student housing, all of which already have adequate Wi-Fi capabilities and services. He also spoke about a plan to allow students to test new software packages but did not have specifics to back it up.
Lee did, however, stress a need for the EVP to act as an unbiased moderator, providing fair criticism of how the senate floor has operated in the past. We hope Jawaharlal adopts a similar role and does not turn the EVP into a partisan figurehead who will create an unproductive senate dynamic. The third candidate, Tom “Silent Majority” Yang running with SQUELCH!, did not run as a serious candidate and did not interview with the Senior Editorial Board.
When considering the qualities and platforms of the two nonsatirical candidates, we see that Jawaharlal has what it takes to be an effective and constructive EVP.
Vote Lavanya Jawaharlal for executive vice president.
Two extremely qualified candidates are vying this year for the seat of EAVP, the person who represents the ASUC in the city, at UC Student Association meetings and to legislators across the state.
While Student Action candidate Vinay Ramesh has prioritized student safety, CalSERVE candidate Marium Navid has shown she would be an effective advocate for students at every level of government. The third candidate, Sam “Actual Hermit Crab” Heinz of SQUELCH!, is not seriously running to become EAVP.
Overall, Navid’s goals align more with the pressing needs of students than do Ramesh’s. At the Daily Cal’s election forum, Navid clearly articulated the ways she would respond to the tuition hike as EAVP and explained how she would work with community organizations to collectively take action on a local level. Ramesh, meanwhile, has worked for Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and held a position on the city’s Human Welfare and Community Action Commission. But while Ramesh may understand city politics quite well and have the connections to back him up, we believe that Navid would be able to effectively work both with and against politicians to best represent the student body.
Several of Ramesh’s platforms are smart and creative — we found Ramesh to be by far the strongest Student Action candidate — and we hope Navid will take them on should she be elected. Specifically, the student-faculty lobbying commission would vastly increase students’ political influence when it comes to pressuring administrators against increasing tuition. Additionally, Ramesh’s plan to focus on earthquake safety shouldn’t be overlooked.
For some students, Navid could be a polarizing figure. She actively worked against Bill Maher’s commencement invitation, an issue that divided the campus community. She also publicly criticized student regent-designate Avi Oved on his connection with a pro-Israel foundation.
We believe, however, that Navid has the ambition and strength it takes to fight on behalf of students. Caitlin Quinn, the current external affairs vice president from CalSERVE, has been extremely dedicated in her lobbying efforts in Sacramento and in rallying students around contentious issues as they arise. We believe that Navid would follow closely in Quinn’s footsteps.
Vote Marium Navid for external affairs vice president.
Between a satirical candidate and one who left us with serious doubts, we cannot endorse a candidate in this year’s race for the AAVP position. The nonsatirical candidate, Melissa Hsu — running with CalSERVE — brings enthusiasm and energy to the role but places too great a focus on issues that we feel do not align with student concerns.
While Hsu’s focus on wellness is admirable, when she is chosen as AAVP, she will need to work on a range of issues, from grants to academic advising — two areas in which she has few concrete plans. During her interview with the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board, Hsu said she wants to develop a “mind spa,” which would help students relax on campus, and create a long-term laptop-rental program — two expensive services the AAVP office should not prioritize. Such services would likely benefit few students for the amount of money required to fund them.
Fall semester saw a turbulent time for the AAVP office. After Jeanette Corona resigned, the position was vacant for more than six weeks before Mon-Shane Chou was confirmed by the ASUC Senate for the position. We wanted someone strong to take the helm and demonstrate what an effective AAVP can accomplish, but we have major doubts that Hsu will be that person.
That said, Hsu’s platform to insert herself and other students more conspicuously into the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Education Initiative is a worthwhile goal. We hope she follows through with focus groups and town halls to include more students in the process.
It is unfortunate that Hsu faced essentially no competition: Her only opponent, SQUELCH! candidate Yevgeniya “BobbyRPartyR” Sosnovskaya, would not actually accept the role if she won. The platforms of candidates running unopposed are not as challenged and tested as those of candidates who face stiff competition. Strong ideas are essential for the work of laying out an agenda for the office, a task we felt Hsu did not adequately address during her interview or at the Daily Cal’s election forum.
Although independent candidate Jay Walker officially filed to run for AAVP and his name appears on the ballot, he is not campaigning and did not participate in an interview with the Senior Editorial Board.
Managing Editor Megan Messerly and Development Editor Sonalika Mehra recused themselves from the discussion of this endorsement because they both previously worked with Melissa Hsu at an on-campus job.
Leah Romm is unequivocally the most qualified candidate for student advocate. Romm, who is not affiliated with a party, has worked in the office since her freshman year, mainly in the grievance division, and is serving as the chief of staff for current Student Advocate Rishi Ahuja.
In the office of the student advocate, Romm worked to completely revamp the campus’s grievance procedures, although she said the university has not yet finalized them. During the Daily Cal’s election forum and in her interview with the Senior Editorial Board, Romm made it clear she knows what needs to be done to combat sexual violence and harassment on campus, such as making the conduct process more trauma-informed and ensuring that the grievance and conduct sides remain separate during the adjudication process. We were encouraged by the proactive role the Student Advocate’s Office took during the Black Lives Matter protests in December, staying on the sidelines during protests but providing support to students when the need arose. Put simply, Romm has the institutional knowledge and experience to carry out the role.
Bianca Huntley-Ortega, with the Defend Affirmative Action Party, does not appear to understand the intricacies of the office as well as Romm. We are concerned because in an interview with the Senior Editorial Board, Huntley-Ortega said she would remove current staff members from the office after investigating their “past actions.” And while Huntley-Ortega said she would retain due process for investigations, she wants to turn the office into a direct-action center where sexual assault survivors can publicly fight for change.
While we acknowledge the importance of organizing against injustice, the SAO needs to be a place where students filing complaints and those accused of misconduct are all treated fairly. We are concerned Huntley-Ortega would advocate a one-sided system and completely redesign the office to fit her party’s platforms while leaving important casework behind.
In recent years, independent candidates who worked as the SAO chief of staff their junior year and ran without opposition from CalSERVE and Student Action have won the position. But because the student advocate is an elected position, Romm needs to work during her term to educate voters on the internal selection and vetting processes for the chief of staff position. Nevertheless, we have the utmost confidence in Romm to carry out the duties of student advocate while educating on and advocating students’ rights.
Vote Leah Romm for student advocate.