CalSERVE partners with Cooperative Movement Party, gaining new political ground

Austin Pritzkat
CalSERVE/Courtesy
Austin Pritzkat

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CalSERVE, the progressive student political party that presents itself as an advocate for underrepresented groups, is gradually expanding its base.

While it has typically drawn support from groups such as the Chicano-Latino and progressive Asian Pacific Islander communities, CalSERVE has, in recent years, run candidates who represent transfer and re-entry students and student parents, among others.

This year, the party is running an independent senator for president and senate candidates who draw support from the progressive Greek and engineering communities. Additionally, there’s one candidate who is running with two parties.

That candidate, Austin Pritzkat, is running for senate with both CalSERVE and the Cooperative Movement Party in this year’s ASUC election, which will take place April 8, 9 and 10.

Pritzkat’s candidacy marks the beginning of a formal partnership between CalSERVE and the Cooperative Movement Party, which represents members of the Berkeley Student Cooperative. Pritzkat, a UC Berkeley junior, is chief of staff to ASUC President DeeJay Pepito, who ran with CalSERVE last year. He also is a current resident at Fenwick Weavers’ Village, an apartment complex within the BSC, where he previously served as a council member.

“I thought it was it was a good way for me to continue to represent CalSERVE values while also running to represent the cooperatives on campus,” Pritzkat said.

Pritzkat is the only candidate running with the Cooperative Movement Party, which has elected three senators since it was founded in 2008. Elliot Goldstein was elected to the senate twice: in 2010 and 2011.

Although CalSERVE has been an ally of the Cooperative Movement Party since the latter’s inception, this is the first time the parties have run a candidate together. CalSERVE, which was founded in 1984, was the main party representing the co-ops before 2008, according to Denim Ohmit, CalSERVE elections coordinator.

Pritzkat said he was approached last fall about running for senate by leaders in the Berkeley Student Cooperative and current Cooperative Movement Party chair Evan Bell, who ran an unsuccessful campaign last year as the only candidate on her party’s ticket. He was then approached by CalSERVE about running on its ticket.

James Chang, BSC’s vice president of external affairs, said the Cooperative Movement Party is “proud” to join CalSERVE’s coalition. He said the two parties have similar values, citing work CalSERVE has done this year, particularly on issues such as sustainability, diversity and mental health.

“The reality is that all the political parties besides CalSERVE have proven that they do not stand with co-opers when cooperative issues are presented,” he said.

In the past, other student groups have formed alliances within the ASUC, such as Student Action’s partnership with UNITE Greek and APPLE Engineering. While Student Action was formed in 1995, by 2004 it had a formal relationship with the two other parties and is now well-known for representing members of the Greek and engineering communities.

This year, CalSERVE is also running candidates with ties to the Greek and engineering communities.

“We’re glad to see CalSERVE is realizing that it’s important to represent many campus communities rather than a select few,” said Student Action party chair Antonia Acquistapace in an email. “But they have been antagonistic to many of these communities and have made decisions in the past to prioritize issues that divide the campus rather than provide constructive dialogues.”

CalSERVE, however, believes its values can appeal to multiple student communities, even if they have different backgrounds, Ohmit said.

“CalSERVE has always been a cross-community coalition,” Ohmit said in an email. “With a larger and broader coalition comes greater potential to make the change our communities want to see.”

Savannah Luschei covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @savluschei.