After winning a seat on the ASUC senate, many idealistic UC Berkeley undergraduates enter their new roles with lofty plans and grandiose ideals, eager to make lasting change at the UC system’s flagship campus. It often does not take long, however, for these senators to discover that bringing their platforms to fruition is far from easy.
Julia Joung, academic affairs vice president in 2011-12, noted that it is unusual for senators to complete their platforms the way they first imagined when running for office.
“At most, senators have internship experience in the ASUC and don’t know enough of the institutional history and context to roll out a platform that is feasible from start to end,” Joung said in an email. “The spirit or intent of the platform can definitely survive and come to fruition but it probably took steps and collaborations that senators didn’t anticipate.”
For some, success is seen in tangible reforms, while others are never able to overcome early obstacles. This year’s executive candidates have somewhat different rates of success when it comes to whether they were able to achieve campaign promises when running for senate in prior years.
Some of the executive candidates, notably CalSERVE Senator Nolan Pack and former Student Action senator Safeena Mecklai, were undeniably successful in achieving campaign promises. Others struggled to fully meet campaign goals.
Pack, who is CalSERVE’s candidate for executive vice president, had his biggest success with the creation of the Student Environmental Resource Center — a space in which students interested in environmental activism can receive advising with event planning and activities as well as other resources for campus life. Pack authored over 35 bills during his time as senator.
“I would say that my success in advancing my 2012 senate platforms has to be driven by a true passion for environmental and social justice and guided by many years of experience in a community organizing and student government,” Pack said.
Mecklai, who is currently running for external affairs vice president with Student Action, was also largely successful in addressing her platforms when she was a senator in the 2011-12 academic year.
She addressed her second platform, increasing student involvement in the city of Berkeley, by establishing the Local Affairs Working Group (LAWG) with past EAVP Joey Freeman.
”By establishing the LAWG, I was able to create a space for students to get involved with the city through action and discussion,” Mecklai said in an email.
Mecklai’s Student Action colleague Chen-Chen Huo, current senator and candidate for executive vice president, found it more difficult to realize the full capacity of his platforms. While Huo succeeded in implementing most of his stated senatorial platforms, he was unable to increase the impact of university career-guidance programs, one of the goals he presented when campaigning for senate.
Last year, Huo ran on platforms to increase the impact of university career-guidance programs, uniting professional fraternities on campus and promoting campus spirit and unity through music.
Huo united fraternities on campus through his creation of the Professional Fraternity Council, a coalition of professional fraternities on campus.
Huo’s platform to increase the impact of university career-guidance programs said that Huo planned to “formalize an ASUC liaison to the Career Center.” However, this platform shifted after he was elected due to the Career Center undergoing changes during the summer such as its move to a new and more visible Bancroft Way location.
“My work this year was mostly around visibility and promoting the new Career Center, as opposed to actually changing the programs that they offer,” Huo said in an email. “The platform didn’t really fall through as much as it was already realized by campus, and I was less of an initiator and more of a supporter.”
CalSERVE’s presidential candidate Deejay Pepito successfully addressed all of her senatorial platforms — especially campus safety.
Pepito helped to organize the 6000 In Solidarity anti-sexual assault campaign and co-authored SB 130 — a vote of no confidence in the campus’ sexual assault policies that also provides set of recommendations on how to make sexual-assault policies more navigable.
As a visible member of the Jewish and Greek communities, current Senator and SQUELCH! presidential candidate Jason Bellet, has similar senatorial platforms as Student Action senator and presidential candidate Rafi Lurie, who is also Jewish and is a member of Delta Chi.
Bellet cited his role in organizing “Voice for Change: My Favorite Enemy” — a concert aimed at promoting peace between campus communities related to conflict in the Middle East — as one way he reached out to his community, and Lurie cited his contribution to starting traditional religious services for Shabbat every Friday night.
CalSERVE Senator Daley Vertiz has worked with both Senators Lurie and Bellet and has mixed feelings on their productivity in office.
In an email, Vertiz said that he feels Rafi has not accomplished enough with his term as a senator to merit being elected president, while he feels that Bellet sometimes trivializes the ways to address bridging perspectives of opposing communities
“In the fall, (Lurie) abstained from a significant amount of bills simply because he felt not all students would agree with a certain stance,” Vertiz said in an email. “If Lurie as President plans to take action only when all students agree with a particular stance, than his administration will have zero to little impact on students.”
Student Action Senator Rosemary Hua, however, disagreed.
“He has some big ideas and when he gets passionate about something, he truly gets fired up,” Hua said in an email.
As for Bellet, Vertiz said he felt that the SQUELCH! candidate sometimes lacked understanding of certain communities.
“However, he has always been open to discussing the issues of communities with which he doesn’t identify and does a good job in attempting to foster a productive conversation even when there are polarizing ideas on both sides of an issue,” Vertiz said in an email.
Ultimately, though, it is clear that even with big plans and good intentions, it is more difficult to put these ideas into action, no matter how honorable they may be.
“There’s a lot of work required from you as a senator that isn’t directly related to your platform,” Huo said. “Before I ran for senate, I had long conversations, and I prepared myself to take on platforms that I could take on tangibly. I think I really did that with one and two, and I didn’t really do that as much with the third.”
Contact Ally Rondoni and Sara Grossman and [email protected].