As spring break sadly ends, election season for the ASUC commences. The ASUC’s budget, which includes funds distributed to clubs, reaches almost $2 million. The ASUC president is undergraduates’ most important representative to campus administration and despite extensive experience as an ASUC official, André Luu is the wrong choice.
On the surface, it is exciting to see two queer people of color vying for our student government’s top job, but their records reveal a deep contrast. While Zaynab AbdulQadir (CalSERVE) has stood by marginalized students in tough negotiations, André Luu (Student Action) severely neglected some of the most marginalized communities on campus and has proven to be an inaccessible leader.
When he ran for senator as a freshman, Luu’s platform included a push for the Educational Opportunity Program office to be potentially moved to Hearst Field Annex. EOP supports low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students. But Carolyn Nguyen, then-coordinator of REACH!, the Asian Pacific Islander Recruitment and Retention Center, recalls that EOP was never consulted about this proposal. When Nguyen approached Luu during campaign season about this lack of consultation, he allegedly retorted, “Well you don’t seem like a supporter, so have a good day.”
As someone who currently describes himself as “accessible,” Luu showed early on he doesn’t want to hear negative criticism.
In her second interaction with Luu, Nguyen and other members of REACH! asked the ASUC Senate Finance Committee for $100 annual stipends. Nguyen, who was at the time the executive director of REACH!, and her colleagues were all EOP students volunteering to help underserved Asian/Pacific Islander students, but they all had “to work more than one job in addition to REACH! to get by,” which made their work all the more difficult.
Nguyen said to their shock, then-senator Luu abstained from the vote for stipends without making comments for or against the proposal. It was heartbreaking to see Luu, who claimed to be an EOP student and who campaigned on advocating for low-income students, abandon them. His actions showed a disregard for the needs of marginalized students.
Luu’s indifference continued this year when he failed to recruit leaders from the queer, trans and students of color communities from attending the Students of Color Conference. One of his most important duties was to advertise and recruit a delegation to attend the conference, which teaches attendees how to organize and establish networks to leverage for future campaigns.
In mid-October, when the application period closed, Jerry Javier, board director of the Queer Alliance Resource Center, realized there had been no outreach to LGBTQ+ organizations, bridges or the Recruitment and Retention Centers, or RRCs. Luu and his office did not adequately notify them about the application and deadline, resulting in a huge drop in attendees from their communities.
At a packed queer/trans students of color potluck in the Multicultural Community Center, “André was the only person in a full room that was going (to the conference),” Javier laments. Despite campaigning to be a voice for marginalized queer students of color, Luu systematically excluded them from attending this vital conference.
When Javier confronted Luu and his office, they allegedly denied any wrongdoing. It wasn’t until Javier reached out to the conference directly did it expand UC Berkeley’s capacity. Javier said he noticed many of UC Berkeley’s attendees were queer and/or students of color involved in the ASUC, not from organizations doing the bulk of the work to retain and support marginalized students.
Javier argues this is neglectful and damaging because “it is working to establish a system where information does not reach our communities.” Luu not only forgot about underrepresented students, but he also refused to accept his mistake, a far cry from an attentive leader.
Nguyen, now the executive director of bridges, said bridges and the RRCs only had two attendees because of Luu’s gross negligence. She said that at the conference, she and her colleague were left to address attendees’ concerns with the conference in a meeting Luu didn’t even attend. She said Luu then attempted to set up another meeting despite knowing a Black trans woman was set to speak at the same time, disregarding the important voice these attendees had come to hear.
Months after the conference, members asked in their group chat if they would ever address the issues, including anti-Blackness, that occurred at the conference. Luu coldly replied, “Please feel free to direct (concerns) toward [email protected] or my email [email protected]”
Again, Luu pivoted away from negative criticism. Nguyen is frustrated with Luu because although “he claims to be serving people of color, Asian Americans, Southeast Asians,” she has only seen empty promises. Similarly, against Luu’s bid for president, Javier believes he “has a history of directly disregarding our community and communities of color and will continue to do so.”
This is sharp contrast to his opponent, who has proven to be a forceful advocate for marginalized students. AbdulQadir played an important role in securing the physical space for the new Fannie Lou Hamer Black Resource Center, providing “institutional knowledge, history and support” in the words of campus Black Student Union’s Internal Vice President Tayler Hughes. In the recent Fight4Spaces campaign to get QARC, bridges and RRCs out of Eshelman Hall’s basement, AbdulQadir was one of two cosponsors for the senate bill. She supported demands by affected communities to reallocate the Student Store and fifth floor of Eshleman Hall, while Luu personally told me he was against even the less legally tricky fifth-floor reallocation.
In our current resource-tight environment, we need an ASUC president who will advocate for the needs of students even when it isn’t convenient. We need leadership that can engage with criticism and remain accessible. While Luu consistently clamors to marginalized communities for votes, he has failed to stand by them in some of their most difficult times. For these reasons, André Luu is clearly the wrong choice for ASUC president.
Amir Amerian is a campus junior and is president of Out for Business at Berkeley and co-vice president of equity at Berkeley Investment Group.