Student Action candidate dropped from Senate slate following controversial statements

Freshman Andrew Kooker criticized the Occupy protests and liberal arts majors in Facebook posts

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Student Action announced that UC Berkeley freshman Andrew Kooker will no longer be running for ASUC Senate on the party’s slate in a statement released Saturday.

Kooker posted a note on his Facebook page Thursday apologizing for controversial statements he made on the site last semester criticizing the Occupy movement and certain campus majors. He said in the post that he was “deeply sorry” and that his comments were “incredibly offensive” and “completely ignorant.”

In the press release, Student Action said that, while the decision to withdraw Kooker’s candidacy was mutual, “Student Action does not in any way condone or agree with the statements made earlier in the year by Andrew Kooker” and that “these comments do not reflect our core values.”

Kooker is still considering his plans for the semester and will send out a public statement later this week, he said in an email.

According to the press release, Student Action was “surprised and shocked” by the revelation of Kooker’s earlier statements but “remain impressed” with Kooker and “hope that he will continue to try and serve the interests of the larger student body.”

“We encourage everyone to read Andrew’s apology on his Facebook page, as he has learned a lot from this experience, and feels that he has come a long way personally from the viewpoints he held four months ago,” the press release reads.

Kooker came under fire for Facebook posts made in November which said, among other things, that “taking the easy way out and doing an easy degree” allows students to “have time to protest something.”

“The American Dream is to be in the 1%; to be ultimately successful in society,” he said in a post, a screenshot of which has been viewed over 2,000 times. “Granted, you and your liberal arts degree surely won’t yield any results like that.”

Andrew Albright, the ASUC presidential candidate for CalSERVE – which has historically been Student Action’s primary rival student political party – said it was “shameful” for Student Action to include Kooker on their senate slate.

“When (Student Action) says ‘every student, every year,’ who are we talking about?” Albright said, referencing the party’s slogan. “Student Action’s main base are engineers and Greeks — Mr. Kooker’s comments reflect that.”

Albright, a member of the Greek system, said he felt that Kooker’s comments reflect that Student Action does not represent all students.

As of Sunday, Kooker’s Facebook apology has garnered more than 35 likes and a few comments, whose authors’ responses have ranged from expressing hope for Kooker’s future plans to continuing to take issue with his statements.

Honest Chung, ASUC presidential candidate with the Students for a Democratic University – a party composed of Occupy Cal demonstrators and other students – said that he believes Kooker’s comments are “unfortunate.”

“As a party that says they represent the student body, it seems a bit contradictory to have an individual running on their platform blatantly dividing the student population by telling certain folks that they are utterly wasting their time studying whatever they’re studying at school,” Chung said in a Facebook message.

In his apology, Kooker said that he “did believe engineering was the most difficult major as well as the most lucrative” when he first came to UC Berkeley. However, Kooker said he no longer supports this view, characterizing his posts as “a terrible lapse in judgment” and “not representative” of who he is.

“I do not view myself as ‘elitist,’ nor do I view students of other majors as inferior,” Kooker said in the note. “I understand if this event has distorted your image of me, but I am hopeful that you take my future goals and aspirations for Cal into consideration before you judge me and my campaign.”