Ahuja announces student advocate candidacy in 2014 ASUC election

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UC Berkeley junior Rishi Ahuja announced Wednesday his independent candidacy for student advocate in this year’s ASUC elections.

The student advocate’s main responsibilities include representing and advising students and student groups in disputes with the university and educating students of their rights on campus. The office oversees casework regarding matters of grade disputes, financial aid and grievance processes among others.

Ahuja has worked in the student advocate’s office since the fall of his freshman year in 2011 and currently serves as chief of staff for current Student Advocate Timofey Semenov. Historically, the student advocate’s chief of staff is elected for the position the following year.

“I’ve had three years to get a sense of what kind of work this is, and I think the people (working in the student advocate’s office) are amazing,” Ahuja said. “Some of the policies on this campus can be really confusing, and helping students navigate them is something I take a lot of enjoyment and pride from.”

Ahuja is running on a platform of providing casework services, improving policies and maintaining the nonpartisanship and independence of the office and improving policies.

If elected, Ahuja said he will work to ensure caseworkers in the student advocate’s office have the support they need to provide students with the best advice and representation regarding campus policies and processes.

“Providing confidential, free casework for students who have problems with the university is my number-one priority,” Ahuja said. “I want to make sure every student who has a problem can come to our office and find help no matter what their issue is and what their background is.”

Additionally, in response to the new sexual harassment and sexual violence policy released by the university, Ahuja said he plans to collaborate with campus departments and student leaders to ensure the policies are fair and equitable to both students filing reports and those responding to them.

“I want to make sure that we’re constantly thinking of what is best for students and what’s most simple,” Ahuja said. “If you’re a survivor of a really traumatic incident, what you don’t need is a complex bureaucracy — you need something that will be really simple and will guide you through it.”

Ahuja said he also hopes to work with Cal Student Central and other campus bodies to provide students with more comprehensive resources to graduate from UC Berkeley with financial stability.

Ahuja expressed that his current work for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation as an intern in the Department of Consumer Protection has given him a good knowledge base to discuss issues in financial literacy for students and will allow him to provide a valuable outside perspective into the office.

“I’m most proud of the individual casework I’ve done,” Ahuja said. “I think large policy projects are important, but I think sometimes it’s more about what I can do one-on-one to make students’ lives a little better here at Cal.”

The 2014-15 ASUC elections will take place April 8, 9 and 10.

Jane Nho is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @JaneNho.