Of the five executive positions, the race for ASUC president is the most hotly contested. Student Action’s Pavan Upadhyayula stands out among the field of candidates for his broad, unifying appeal across diverse student communities and his platforms’ obvious benefits to students.
Upadhyayula offers a host of well-considered platforms that will help initiate important change if he is elected. His multipronged plan to keep the decision-making process within the ASUC transparent is something that students can immediately benefit from. And his goal of opening late-night study spaces on all sides of campus is a practical step that can significantly improve student safety by limiting the distance that students have to walk at night.
Upadhyayula’s determination to lead Student Action in a new direction, by listening to the “pulse of the student body,” will make him a capable ambassador for the UC Berkeley community. In his interview with this board and in his statements at The Daily Californian’s Candidates Forum on Friday, it was evident that Upadhyayula has taken the initiative to engage students outside of what usually constitutes Student Action’s base of support.
CalSERVE candidate Naweed Mohabbat should be applauded for making mental health policy reform a central issue in the election, and Upadhyayula needs to give it serious priority if he’s elected. While mental health is one of the campus’s most pressing issues, Mohabbat’s other goals were less specific than Upadhyayula’s, even if the problems Mohabbat was able to identify in crafting his platforms were more pressing. This board was slightly more convinced of Upadhyayula’s ability to achieve his platform goals than Mohabbat’s.
Further, the relationship with UC President Janet Napolitano that Upadhyayula will establish is preferred to what Mohabbat envisions and suggests that Upadhyayula will be the more uniting figure for the student body. Mohabbat’s support of the tactics of the current ASUC president, DeeJay Pepito of CalSERVE, in dealing with Napolitano will not create the best outcome for students but will only make it more difficult for students to hold her accountable or voice their concerns to her directly. Of all the candidates for president, Upadhyayula best balances students’ trepidation and justifiable distrust of Napolitano with the need to build a positive working relationship with her.
BearFeed.org candidate and former Daily Cal staffer Pierre Bourbonnais has delivered a number of interesting ideas — such as holding a winter formal and a large spring concert — with refreshing candor throughout his campaign. He has contributed positively to raising the undergraduate experience as an election issue. But Bourbonnais sent too many mixed messages about how seriously he took some of the issues that other candidates and many students consider to be very important.
Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate David Douglass, who is running for ASUC president for the second year in a row, is simply too polarizing to be a legitimate contender. His passion and dedication to issues of justice for disadvantaged groups is admirable, but he would be much more befitting of a seat in the ASUC Senate than at the association’s helm.
Independent candidate Raman Veerappan did not participate enough to be considered for an endorsement.
Compared to the other candidates running for ASUC president, Upadhyayula demonstrates the best ability to balance competing concerns while implementing practical changes that will improve the student experience. He is the strongest candidate in this race.
Vote Pavan Upadhyayula for ASUC president.
CalSERVE’s Justin Kong is voters’ best choice for executive vice president this year. Because whoever holds the ASUC’s second-highest post must be adept at navigating its bylaws and be knowledgeable of ASUC Senate protocols, prior experience as a senator is necessary for an EVP candidate. During his time on the senate’s finance committee, Kong demonstrated a knowledge of the rules and regulations of the senate chamber necessary to making sure it functions smoothly next year.
Kong’s leadership style also represents a fair tradeoff between two recent interpretations of the role of the EVP. While EVPs from Student Action, such as Justin Sayarath, have approached the position primarily as a facilitator of senate deliberation, current CalSERVE EVP Nolan Pack has been much more partisan and outspoken. Based on some of his campaign statements, Kong apparently plans to take the middle road between these two approaches. His emphasis on allowing senators to take the lead in discussions while also enforcing boundaries strikes the right balance.
While he seems a capable manager of the senate, Kong was not wholly convincing of how he would achieve his greater vision for the office, especially in his plan to maximize the potential of the Lower Sproul redevelopment project.
Kong’s platforms remain imperfect, but he is much better-suited for the position than his only opponent, Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate Jasmine Guillen. She offers no applicable experience and is primarily motivated to use the position to reinvigorate a student movement and bring about radical change. EVP is simply not the proper position from which to seek such goals, whether or not they are meritorious.
Kong’s prior experience in the senate and his well-balanced approach to the EVP’s role in leading it make him the best candidate for this position.
Vote Justin Kong for executive vice president.
Caitlin Quinn was born for this job.
As a CalSERVE senator and former staffer in two external affairs vice presidents’ offices, Quinn has the most experience working on the specific issues that next year’s EAVP will need to tackle. And while her argumentation — which was on full display at The Daily Californian’s Candidates Forum — is quick and impressive, her achievements speak for themselves. With the ASUC, Quinn has already helped register thousands of students for the 2012 election, rallied them in support of Proposition 30 and been involved with lobbying efforts through the advocacy coalition Take Back UC. The EAVP is constitutionally tasked with such responsibilities: leading the ASUC’s organizing and advocacy efforts and publicly presenting its position on matters concerning other campuses, schools and students. If she wins, Quinn’s transition into office will be seamless.
Quinn also demonstrates an impressive knowledge of city issues that no other candidate for the position could match, and she advocates sensible solutions to some of most contentious and important ones. One such issue is the establishment of a student district that could allow for the successful election of a student to Berkeley City Council. Quinn correctly identified the lack of community input in the drawing of the initial student district map’s boundaries as the major cause of the ongoing four-year saga and will pragmatically throw her support behind students’ most practical option, even if it is imperfect.
Independent candidate Nicolas Jaber, though, made some important contributions to the EAVP race. At the forum, Jaber warned against some executive officials’ tendency to represent only specific, narrow communities. But he did not sufficiently elucidate exactly how he would go about representing students generally any more than the other candidates did.
The final candidate in the EAVP race, Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate Gabriela Padilla, ran on her ambitious intention to revive the popular student movement in support of students’ and immigrants’ rights. But her lack of a coherent plan to achieve her platforms would make their realization seem unlikely to even the least skeptical voter.
Although she has proven herself a fierce partisan fighter oftentimes in the past, Quinn has demonstrated a reassuring flexibility in her political stances that is likely to broaden her appeal. Despite her personal opposition to UC President Janet Napolitano’s presidency, Quinn has expressed a willingness to work with her constructively on behalf of students, yet she remains determined to continue holding her accountable. Coupled with her strong, capable character, Quinn’s commitment to representing all students will make her a strong and successful EAVP.
Vote Caitlin Quinn for external affairs vice president.
Students have an easy choice in deciding which candidate to vote for in the race for academic affairs vice president, because CalSERVE candidate Jeanette Corona is the only one with the relevant experience or sufficient knowledge about the requirements of the office to carry it out effectively.
Although she’ll be a newcomer to the ASUC if she’s elected, the institutional knowledge necessary for other executive positions such as executive vice president is not as crucial for AAVP. Instead, Corona’s involvement in peer-counseling programs and her experience assisting students in navigating financial aid equips her with an understanding of some of the most common problems student faces and shows a demonstrated ability to solve them. Because her background is relevant to what the AAVP does, the transition into office shouldn’t be too hard for her.
Corona is right in pointing to mental health issues as one of the biggest obstacles to academic success at UC Berkeley, and she correctly identifies holistic mental health advising services as essential to students’ academic performance. But while her platforms identify the problems hindering students’ academic success, the solutions they propose do not seem fully thought out.
The other candidate for AAVP, Alison McDonald, lacks a sufficient understanding of what the position entails. She seems much more focused on broader, more radical and difficult to achieve goals, such as the removal of UC President Janet Napolitano and corporate sponsors of campus research such as BP, that aren’t befitting of the position she chose to run for. She also is unaware of crucial responsibilities of the AAVP position beyond what is acceptable, even for a candidate running as an ASUC outsider. At both the forum and in her interview with this board, McDonald seemed ignorant of the function of the Academic Senate and of the AAVP’s role in developing the ASUC’s relationship with it — a constitutionally mandated function of the position.
Corona has the appropriate vision and experience to be a competent academic affairs vice president. She will continue to ensure students have access to the resources they need to weather another academic year as smoothly as possible.
Vote Jeanette Corona for academic affairs vice president.
Neither candidate for Student Advocate in this election cycle has convinced us of his or her ability to satisfactorily carry out the duties of what is arguably the ASUC’s most important office, especially with regard to sexual assault, which might very well be the most difficult challenge facing UC Berkeley.
Independent candidate Rishi Ahuja is extremely qualified for certain aspects of the position. He has three years of experience in the student advocate’s office, including serving as chief of staff to current Student Advocate Timofey Semenov, and has demonstrated an important capacity for impartiality. Some of Ahuja’s platforms are well considered, especially his plan to reform the campus’s emergency response protocols in light of students’ dissatisfaction with the administration's handling of the Sept. 30 explosion.
But Ahuja was part of an office that could have done a better job responding to an administration that survivors of sexual assault have compellingly argued failed to deal properly with sexual assault cases. Other than his effort to reform emergency response protocols, Ahuja’s platforms indicate that he is too complacent with the status quo to be an effective and proactively responsive student advocate. At The Daily Californian’s ASUC Candidates Forum on Friday and during his interview with this board, Ahuja was not properly convincing that he would take the initiative to protect our most vulnerable students in as radical a way as necessary.
Impartiality is one of the most important characteristics of a student advocate, which is the reason neither major campus party tends to slate a candidate for the position. Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate Sayedah Mosavi presented a powerful and invigorating vision of active advocacy for the office, especially in dealing with sexual assault, but her harsh rhetoric sowed doubt that she could impartially carry out a major responsibility of the office — representing students accused of conduct violations. Mosavi showed intense passion for justice in the candidates forum, and that is important in any student advocate. But her responses prompted concern within the board that she would not fairly support all students, especially those accused of sexual assault, regardless of the charges against them. Furthermore, she seems to lack the detailed knowledge about the operation of the student advocate’s office, which is a prerequisite to doing the job effectively.
Historically, the winning candidate for student advocate has been selected from within the office and is often the outgoing advocate’s chief of staff. Consequently, candidates for the position do not have to campaign as hard as candidates for other executive positions, which contributes to a degree of complacency. In this race, the board was simply too divided between the candidates to endorse either one. In the future, a more competitive race would more likely produce a candidate who is right for the position.