External Affairs VP candidates explain higher education goals

EAVP candidates from left to right: Shahryar Abbasi (Student Action), Sydney Fang (CalSERVE), Alisha Johnson (Defend Affirmative Action Party), and Isabel Sausjord (Students for a Democratic University)

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Candidates for ASUC external affairs vice president this year intend to advocate for students’ voice at the state and local levels of government, but the candidates differ in where they intend to focus and how they plan to achieve their goals.

The external affairs vice president focuses on matters outside of the UC Berkeley campus, specifically in the city of Berkeley and the state. The external affairs vice president is the ASUC representative to the UC Student Association and oversees the ASUC’s lobbying efforts.

With a general consensus that students are against an increase in the cost of education, many candidates advocate for the affordability of higher education for students in their platforms.

Below are the major platforms publicized by four of the five candidates running for the position. SQUELCH! candidate Graham Riley, who is running satirically, could not be reached for comment.

Shahryar Abbasi (Student Action)

  • Increase lobbying efforts and advocate for ballot initiatives that support higher education
  • Create direct student City Council representation
  • Increase business activity on Telegraph Avenue

Sydney Fang (CalSERVE)

  • Bring students together from across the state to create a stronger voice in advocating for higher education
  • Keep the city of Berkeley accountable through more student city appointments and affordable housing
  • Engage students in the 2012 U.S. presidential election

Alisha Johnson (Defend Affirmative Action Party)

  • Support overturning Proposition 209
  • Integrate more campus diversity
  • Help local communities in Oakland and Richmond

Isabel Sausjord (Students for a Democratic University)

  • Advocate for more direct student participation in the ASUC with a focus on progressive activism
  • Increase affordability of higher education through mass action by students
  • Create partnerships extending outside of the campus to other local cities

In recent years, the position of external affairs vice president has been approached in different ways. Former CalSERVE EAVP Ricardo Gomez participated frequently in campus activism, while current Student Action EAVP Joey Freeman shifted the office’s focus back to lobbying at the local and state level.

This year, third-party candidates Sausjord and Johnson overlap in ideas of participation in outside communities, such as schools in Oakland. Johnson has advocated against the closure of schools in Oakland, while Sausjord has worked with high school students in Richmond and Oakland.

Both Fang and Abassi — candidates from the two student political parties with the most senate seats — have platforms to increase student participation at the city and state level. Both repeat ideas of former candidates from their parties.

Fang’s campaign for engaging students in the 2012 election echoes former CalSERVE EAVP Dionne Jirachaikitti, who worked to increase student voter registration in 2008. Abbasi’s goal to get a student on the City Council is a continuation of Freeman’s yearlong campaign to alter city redistricting lines to allow for direct student participation on the council.

The election will be held April 10, 11 and 12.

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.