ASUC executives reflect on their offices’ goals

Student Action/Courtesy
From left, President Vishalli Loomba, EAVP Joey Freeman, AAVP Julia Joung and EVP Chris Alabastro, all members of Student Action.

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As the academic year comes to a close, a new set of ASUC executives is preparing to enter office and work on their campaign platforms. The five outgoing executive officers have achieved some of the goals they campaigned on, but others remain incomplete.

Although each came into office with his or her own goals and ideas for the year, none imagined the campus climate they would face. From controversies surrounding the Berkeley College Republicans’ satirically racist bake sale to the contentious Occupy Cal protest last fall, each of the executive officers had unexpected issues to deal with.

“We had no idea what we were going into,” said ASUC President Vishalli Loomba regarding Occupy Cal.

However, the executives’ individual platforms and projects — some of which remained as intended and some of which changed — were still a major focus during their terms.

All four of the executives ran with the Student Action party, and the same is true for next year’s executives. The student advocate position is traditionally held by an independent.

One of Loomba’s platforms was to submit a formal budget report to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, intended to highlight what students think should be a priority in terms of the overall campus budget. Though it has yet to be submitted, Loomba said it will be turned in next week.

Loomba said one of the things she could have improved upon would have been to better articulate to students what her role as president was.

“The president really is representing students in all these different arenas and has day-to-day interactions in all these places, but I don’t think that’s really conveyed to students and even to people in the ASUC,” she said.

Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein — who is completing his second term as a senator and unsuccessfully ran for executive vice president last year — criticized a lack of transparency and communication from the executives on specific issues such as the contentious transition of the ASUC Auxiliary to the purview of the Division of Student Affairs.

“I would say Vishalli did very well in getting things accomplished with administrators, and making sure the ASUC was working with administration well,” said CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright in an email. “My biggest critique, and this is a critique I have of Student Action offices in the past, is a lack of transparency.”

Loomba said a goal she focused on in conjunction with External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman was representing student voice to the government at both the state and federal levels.

Freeman’s platforms when running for office included increasing the student voice in Berkeley, which he said he worked on by advocating for redistricting within the city to allow for the election of a student representative to Berkeley City Council.

Academic Affairs Vice President Julia Joung’s campaign platforms included increasing outdoor study spaces, but she said she had to change her focus once she realized that adding outdoor outlets was more complicated than she originally thought.

Instead, Joung turned to looking for ways to have a 24-hour study space during Reading, Review and Recitation Week and during finals. She said she was able to get funding through the campus administration to keep the Student Learning Center open 24 hours during those weeks.

In addition, Joung said she implemented an audit team to keep track of money being distributed for grants through her office, among other efforts. But both Goldstein and Albright said Joung’s office could have done a better job making grants accessible to students.

Student Advocate Samar Shah’s campaign platforms included continuing work on the Campus Code of Student Conduct. Shah was a member of the task force that reviewed the code, and he said that once the revised code was put in place this semester, he helped make sure it was successfully implemented.

Executive Vice President Chris Alabastro said his goals included securing space for student groups moving out of Eshleman Hall — which is scheduled to be demolished next spring — and increasing senate efficiency.

Alabastro said he worked with the campus to secure space for groups, mostly in Hearst Gymnasium. He also said he implemented a rule prohibiting senators from using their laptops during important parts of senate meetings. He said this created a more respectful atmosphere in senate meetings.

“In all the 25 elected officials, they definitely poured their hearts into this organization more than I’ve seen in other years in the ASUC,” Alabastro said. “That was moving to me.”

Staff writer Chloe Hunt contributed to this report.

Courtney Moulds covers student government.