UC Berkeley sophomore Derek Topper announced Friday his independent candidacy for ASUC Senate in the spring 2017 elections.
Topper, who is an intended major in statistics and intended minor in computer science, is running on platforms based on increasing transparency and accessibility to education opportunities and academic programs. He also wants to increase education programs on campus to raise awareness on the difference between free speech and hate speech.
Topper mentioned that if elected, he wants to address the issue of limited academic opportunities for students that result from rising GPA caps and lower admissions standards for certain majors and programs. He cited the 3.3 GPA cap for the computer science major and Haas Business School’s decrease in admission rates as examples and said these limitations disproportionately affect underprivileged students, such as those who have jobs outside of school.
Topper said he hopes to work closely with the Academic Senate to establish a committee in the ASUC that will create additional minors and certificate programs, as well as research programs more aligned with students’ desired study and future career plans.
“With heavily impacted majors on this campus, many students are turned away,” Topper said. “I’d like to allow these students opportunities within the field in alternative programs such as minor or certificate programs, or by increasing majors in specific fields.”
Topper, who wants to study data science along with a minor in business, said those options are currently not available on campus, among other programs still not offered by UC Berkeley.
After he experienced difficulties founding his own club, Sports Analytic Group — a business organization of 80 members that analyzes various sports data — Topper said he wanted to increase resources and improve accessibility for student organizations on campus.
In addition to creating Sports Analytic Group, Topper has also been involved on campus through various other organizations. He has been a distribution analyst at The Daily Californian, a sports committee chair in Business Careers in Entertainment Club, a business analytics consultant in Optimir Consulting and the sophomore representative at Bowles Hall.
On his platform regarding free speech, Topper said he would like to see more restorative justice circles and other methods of collaboration implemented between groups that run into conflict on campus.
“Students should not be kicking down signs,” Topper said. “I’d like to see the Berkeley College Republicans and groups against them sit in a room together. Everyone should be able to express ideas they have on this campus.”
Topper’s former roommate and campus sophomore Rohan Narayan was randomly assigned to Topper in Foothill their freshman year, but they still see each other about three times a week, Narayan said. Narayan said Topper is a leader in their friend group because he has a way of bringing people together in creative ways, often with his love for sports.
“He cares about his friends a lot, so he’s really dedicated to them and our whole suite,” Narayan said. “For example, he set up an intramural dodgeball team for us in Foothill just so we kept in touch.”
Topper said his decision to run independently came from his opposition to the idea of having political parties at the college level.
“My voice is better heard through me than for me to advocate for 12 other people,” Topper said. “I do not know if I support the ideas of others running in my party. I’m running independently because I want to support my own ideals rather than the ideals of others.”