Student advocate candidates discuss office’s role on campus

Jevon Cochran,  Rachel Horning, Victor Martinez and Stacy Suh are running for ASUC student advocate this year.
Jevon Cochran, Rachel Horning, Victor Martinez and Stacy Suh are running for ASUC student advocate this year.

Related Posts

Two candidates running for student advocate in the 2012 ASUC general election said the office could work to reach more students, while another candidate said he would change the responsibilities of the office dramatically if elected.

Students will decide between independent candidate Stacy Suh, Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate Victor Martinez, Students for a Democratic University candidate Jevon Cochran and SQUELCH! candidate Rachel Horning when voting April 10, 11 and 12.

The student advocate’s main responsibilities are to offer representation and advice to any student or student group involved in a dispute with the campus and to educate students about campus rights. The office’s duties include assistance regarding conduct violations, grade disputes, financial aid problems and discrimination, among others.

Traditionally, a nonpartisan candidate has filled the student advocate position.

Suh, who is now chief of staff to current Student Advocate Samar Shah, said that having a nonpartisan student advocate allows students to feel comfortable seeking advice and supports different campus communities. Suh has received endorsements from both Student Action and CalSERVE.

Suh said she would continue Shah’s efforts to raise visibility of the office, and improve student services that the office provides. She said she would also address problematic relationships between students and the financial aid and billing offices and protest management with UCPD and the campus administration.

Martinez, who served in student government at Merced College before coming to UC Berkeley, said he would support the federal DREAM Act — which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals who receive a college degree or serve in the military — and advocate against tuition increases.

Martinez said his perspective as a student who has not been involved in the office in the past will allow new questions and ideas to come into the office.

“(The problems) don’t really change from university to university,” Martinez said, “I don’t have to be in the (office) to know the issues facing students.”

Both Suh and Martinez viewed the Campus Code of Student Conduct as a document to be revised and improved upon to benefit students overall.

In contrast, Cochran said he felt the code has been used “as a tool to silence free speech and protest” and wants to revise it and the office dramatically.

Cochran said he was outraged by the criminal charges and stay-away orders placed against protesters involved in the Nov. 9 Occupy Cal demonstrations.

Although Chancellor Robert Birgeneau gave amnesty to some protesters from student conduct charges, Cochran said he would still want to hold the administration accountable for the criminal charges issued by the district attorney’s office.

“As student advocate, I would be raising a lot of hell about Birgeneau to our university,” Cochran said.

Cochran said he would also move beyond advocating for students on an individual basis but rather work to address larger campus issues like accessibility for students of color and increased affordability.

“The most important thing for (the party) is that we put ourselves in the best position to start a student movement,” Cochran said. “The ASUC is hindering that.”

Horning did not respond to requests for comment. She was originally the SQUELCH! presidential candidate before moving to the student advocate position.

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.