Student Action candidate Pavan Upadhyayula hopes to increase transparency and unity on campus

Michael Drummond/Senior Staff

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Editor’s note: This is one installment in a five-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.

Pavan Upadhyayula always has a few tricks up his sleeve — literally.

A junior who is running for ASUC president with Student Action, Upadhyayula, an ASUC senator, is also a well-versed magician who specializes in card tricks.

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Although it may appear paradoxical for a person who enjoys relying on the art of illusion to run for president, especially when one of his platforms is to increase transparency on campus, Upadhyayula does not share this sentiment.

“The reason why I love magic is because you are not really tricking people in the common sense,” said Upadhyayula, a pre-med student from San Jose studying molecular and cell biology. “You are making people believe in something that may not be possible, which is one of my hopes in the ASUC.”

Upadhyayula — who joined the ASUC his first semester at UC Berkeley — is someone who values transparency and, ultimately, unity on campus and beyond. As the co-facilitator of the magic DeCal, Upadhyayula has broken the traditional magician’s code by exposing the secrets of magic to the public.

“Teaching the DeCal is about being willing to give away some of the secrets (of magic) to create a type of community,” Upadhyayula said.

With about 36,000 undergraduate and graduate students at UC Berkeley, Upadhyayula noted that it is often hard for people to feel like they are a part of a shared experience on campus, which he hopes to remedy.

As an ASUC senator, Upadhyayula said he has tried to encourage UC Berkeley students to realize that instead of “standing on an intellectual ivory tower,” they should engage with the community around them. During his term, Upadhyayula said he authored seven bills and co-authored two, focusing on connecting the overlapping issues that affect different groups on campus.

“There are so many narratives and students from all walks of life at Berkeley,” Upadhyayula said. “But with (about) 1,500 student groups on campus, there is very little that brings all of them together as a united identity. I want to help foster that Berkeley identity.”

Last semester, he drafted a bill calling to establish a pilot of Pay It Forward, a program that would allow students to attend school for free in exchange for giving portions of their postgraduate incomes back to the school for a limited amount of time. The bill was passed, but the program has not yet been created.

Currently, Upadhyayula is working with an MIT student to create a website that would allow students to check on the progress of ASUC elected officials and to submit ideas. The goal of this platform is to make the student government more integrative with student life on campus, according to Upadhyayula.

If elected, Upadhyayula hopes to bring monthly catered meals to Memorial Glade to create a social environment that encourages members of the campus community to not only meet new people but also learn from others’ experiences.

Upadhyayula’s intrepid manner in tackling major student issues is echoed in his campaigning strategies. Although many UC Berkeley students devise new ways to repel eager campaigners throughout the few weeks leading up to ASUC elections, Upadhyayula approaches the students by zigzagging through Sproul without hesitation.

With his campaign, Upadhyayula has managed to gather the full attention of his party, with the slogan “We Stand with Pavan” almost eclipsing the iconic Student Action slogan, “Every Student, Every Year” online.

In fact, for the first time since its creation in 1995, Student Action announced only one candidate on its executive slate. This is an opportunity that will change what it means to be a part of the ASUC and for the ASUC to become a more inclusive student body that listens and engages its community, Upadhyayula said.

Although Upadhyayula is running with Student Action — which represents the Greek and engineering communities on campus, among others — he has also gained the endorsements of SQUELCH! senator Grant Fineman and SQUELCH! senatorial candidate Dree Kavoussi.

“Pavan is very pragmatic and cares about finding the best possible solution for all parties, rather than his ideas being the winning ones,” Fineman said. “He compromises effectively and efficiently to figure out how to best serve the students, because his agenda is the students’ agenda.”

Executive Vice President Nolan Pack, of CalSERVE, however, said he is skeptical about Upadhyayula’s ability to cooperate with others when he could not even gather members of his own party to run with him as executives. In addition, Pack believes Student Action nominating only one executive candidate exemplifies the party’s current state of disarray.

“Student Action had lots of senators who could have run,” Pack said. “But the fact that they couldn’t get a full slate of people to run with Pavan shows weakness in the party.”

Rather than recognizing this as an indication of the party’s disorganization, Raffi Margossian, one of Upadhyayula’s campaign managers, believes appointing only Upadhyayula to act as the head of the party demonstrates Upadhyayula’s and the party’s willingness to work with all voices of the ASUC.

From his past work to his current platforms, Upadhyayula is “thinking of new ways to really bring everyone together,” said former academic affairs vice president Natalie Gavello, for whom Upadhyayula interned his sophomore year.

“Pavan is someone who can work among all parties,” Gavello said. “He is magical, and there is a lot of momentum of UC Berkeley in him.”

Contact Ivy Kim at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @ivykim224.