UC Berkeley freshman Andrew Kooker said in a statement on Friday that he still plans to run for ASUC Senate as an independent candidate, despite being dropped from the Student Action slate last Saturday.
Student Action removed Kooker as one of the party’s senate candidates following controversy that arose over statements he made on Facebook last semester criticizing the Occupy movement and certain campus majors. Kooker said in his statement that he was dropped “despite consistent and ongoing assurance from the party leaders.”
“I have endured hateful comments, personal threats, and the loss of Student Action’s support, but I am fully committed to the betterment of this university and to its students, and I plan to move forward with perseverance and devotion,” Kooker said in the statement.
But ASUC Attorney General Deepti Rajendran said that Kooker will still officially be classified as a Student Action candidate because the election ballot cannot be changed after the March 20 candidates’ meeting.
“On the ballots it will still say that he is running under Student Action,” Rajendran said, adding that Kooker is free to campaign as he wants.
Student Action said in a statement last Saturday that the party “does not condone or agree with the statements made earlier in the year by Andrew Kooker.” However, the party said in the statement that the decision to drop Kooker was mutual and the party hopes “he will continue to serve the interests of the larger student body.”
In a Facebook note posted March 22, Kooker apologized for his previous remarks. A screenshot of one of his posts – that said the holders of liberal arts degrees would never make it into the top 1 percent of society – has been viewed over 3,000 times.
And in his Friday statement, Kooker said he has “made many mistakes,” including the “offensive comments” he “posted in an argument on a private Facebook page” last November. He said he is hopeful that he will be judged for his current goals rather than the controversial statements he has made in the past.
Sydney Fang, a current CalSERVE senator and candidate for external affairs vice president, said the situation “really shows the difference between CalSERVE and Student Action.” CalSERVE – which has historically been Student Action’s primary rival student political party – “is very grounded in its values” and has “full faith” in its senate slate when released, Fang said.
Fang also said that any student who wants to have a voice in the ASUC should be entitled to do so and that running as an independent provides Kooker with that opportunity.
Honest Chung, ASUC presidential candidate with the Students for a Democratic University – a party composed of Occupy Cal demonstrators and other students – also said that ASUC candidacy should be open to anyone.
“Anyone should be able to run but hopefully the people realize that the ASUC should not have people who have potentially divisive views for the student body,” Chung said.
Kooker said in his statement that this setback has made him even more passionate about implementing the goals and initiatives he originally set out to.
“I hope that, although Student Action’s generally understanding and inclusive philosophy was hindered by party politics, the Cal student body can recognize my devotion to our University and move forward with me towards a brighter future,” Kooker said in the statement.