ASUC executive candidates speak at election forum hosted by the Daily Californian

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Daniel Kim/Staff

Candidates running for ASUC executive positions had a chance to speak directly to the campus community about their different platforms in an ASUC elections forum held by The Daily Californian on Thursday night.

At the forum, candidates touched upon a variety of issues including housing, student representation, free speech and community engagement. ASUC student advocate candidates also spoke at the forum.

CalSERVE presidential candidate Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris said she believes there must be collaboration between different groups on campus to make student voices heard. Qadir said she wants to partner with graduate students so the ASUC can go into meetings as “one voice for the entire student body.”

Qadir’s opponent, Student Action presidential candidate André Luu, said he wants to work directly with the graduate assembly to integrate graduate students who are equally affected by problems affecting campus community.

Both Qadir and Luu talked about the importance of making campus more inclusive for marginalized communities. Luu said he will continue trying to connect with people on campus to understand their backgrounds.

“I am here today because I know how it feels like to be alone and unheard. … (I) came here to Cal and knew that I could make a difference,” Luu said.

Speaking on the topic of housing, Luu said he believes the campus fails to follow through on controversial housing projects. He said there has to be a sustainable means of dialogue between students and campus administration in order to fulfill students’ housing needs.

DAAP presidential candidate Richard Alvarado said he is running in order to take a stance against Donald Trump, who he said he believes is the biggest threat to students on campus. Alvarado added that he wants to build defense networks to protect undocumented students against ICE raids.

When asked about prior experience relative to the external affairs vice president role, EAVP candidate and current senator Rigel Robinson said he has extensive experience working with public officials and lobbyists, which has allowed him to forge deep relationships with them. He added that he believes the ASUC needs an EAVP who knows the “office forward and backward” which makes him the best candidate for the job.

In contrast, Student Action EAVP candidate Raj Bhargava has worked in the Student Advocate’s office for three years, most recently as former external chief of staff, but has never held an elected position in the ASUC before. Bhargava went on to talk about the importance of finding short term fixes to the housing crisis in addition to long term solutions. Robinson, on the other hand, advocated for fostering continuous cooperation with city council to work on housing projects.

Raj said even though he has not held an elected position in the past, he has the ability to understand people and change it into policy.

“Me representing students means something different,” Raj said at the forum.

DAAP EAVP candidate Gabriela Takahashi spoke about her anti-Trump platform and focus on protests as a way to pass reform. Takahashi cited the anti-Milo Yiannopoulos protest in February as examples of mobilizing people.

“If you vote for DAAP, we can take back this nation and put it in the hands of the people,” Takahashi said at the forum.

Student Action is also running unopposed candidates for the positions of academic affairs vice president and executive vice president. Ian Bullitt, the candidate for academic affairs vice president and an engineering major, said he believes the difficulty of academics on campus is “destroying the mental health of (students.)” Bullit said he wants to prioritize keeping students on campus by expanding mental health, sexual violence and food safety resources.

Also running unopposed is executive vice presidential candidate Helen Yuan, who said that, if elected, she will remain neutral in her position and work to respect all students’ experiences. Yuan believes it is important to reconcile the needs of the community with the limitations potentially faced by the ASUC.

Independent student advocate candidate Jillian Free said sexual assault prevention has to become a priority in response to a question about recently mishandled sexual misconduct cases. According to Free, campus faculty must be held at a higher standard to prevent sexual misconduct, and she said that if elected, she will make sure not only that student voices are heard but also that cases are handled appropriately.

In response to the same question, DAAP student advocate candidate Asahi Hardy wants to put pressure on the administration to handle cases of sexual violence.

Hardy also said he believes the campus has “tiptoed” around declaring UC Berkeley a sanctuary campus in the past and that if elected, he will pressure the administration to protect undocumented students on campus. Free, on the other hand, said she will adopt a “dual approach” to work with students personally and then bring their concerns to the administration.

SQUELCH! party presidential candidate Ghost was also present at the forum, but did not have much to say.

The forum also included brief descriptions of four propositions that will be on the ballot.

The Community and Career Connections Initiative will expand the career and public service centers to enhance access of services for students, with an emphasis on underrepresented students.

The Housing Security Referendum will supplement funds for the UC Berkeley Financial Aid Office to provide loans and financial aid to housing insecure students.

The Big “C,” or the Big Community referendum, will expand services provided by the Center for Educational Justice and Community Engagement and Multicultural Student Development, among others.

The Life at UC Berkeley EXpansion Referendum, or the L.U.X. referendum, will help finance and support student organizations that engage in activities that increase student engagement at UC Berkeley.

The 2017-18 ASUC elections will take place April 10, 11 and 12.

Contact Azwar Shakeel at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.

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