In light of The Daily Californian’s refusal to endorse any candidate for ASUC student advocate, we, as your 20 elected ASUC senators, unanimously stand in support of Rishi Ahuja for student advocate. Ahuja has provided extensive student representation and support for all our communities and the greater UC Berkeley campus. Furthermore, we stand in support of a nonpartisan candidate for the position and acknowledge the profound importance of the institutional knowledge that Ahuja brings to the position as the current chief of staff in the office.
In regard to sexual assault policy and procedure, the Daily Cal claimed that “Ahuja was part of an office that could have done a better job responding to an administration that survivors of sexual assault have compellingly argued failed to deal properly with sexual assault cases.” We unanimously disagree with this statement, due to the fact that Ahuja has played a crucial role within the student advocate’s office, taking multiple steps to respond to the administration regarding sexual harassment and violence at UC Berkeley and UC-wide.
First, the student advocate’s office played a big role in helping create a survivor support website that provides support to students who have been harmed by sexual assault and violence (http://survivorsupport.berkeley.edu/). Secondly, the office has been working tirelessly with survivors and other members of the ASUC to revise the sexual assault policy of the UC Office of the President. Lastly, the office has recently secured funding for a counselor position at the Tang Center who provides support for survivors. Ahuja was a key contributor to this work. The office, in partnership with survivors and the rest of the ASUC, has made substantial progress in creating a more fair and efficacious campus response to sexual violence and assault.
This year, many of us have had constituents who have faced severe issues. When our community members approach us with these situations, the first person we go to is Ahuja and the student advocate’s office. The professional manner and efficiency in which Ahuja and the office conduct their work make students feel comfortable expressing their personal and academic concerns. Ahuja has always been open to suggestions of the senate, responsive to our concerns and willing to take on issues that have not traditionally been part of the student advocate’s office’s portfolio, demonstrating his commitment to serving students in new and crucial ways.
Furthermore, Ahuja and the rest of the student advocate’s office have provided caseworker services to more than 120 students over the past semester, dealing with issues such as financial aid appeals, grade disputes and various other issues with the university. The role of the office is broader than the Daily Cal’s Senior Editorial Board recognized, and it failed to take into account the prior experience necessary to provide services in the many sectors the office handles.
Lastly, we would like to emphasize the importance of Ahuja’s nonpartisanship and experience in the student advocate’s office. In regard to nonpartisanship, it is crucial that the student advocate have no partisan affiliation, in order to ensure all students are helped fairly. Ahuja’s extensive experience in the student advocate’s office, especially as chief of staff, is crucial to the office’s future success and retention of institutional knowledge. Furthermore, many cases the office receives has to do with very sensitive issues to the student, thus requiring caseworkers with experience in handling these difficult situations.
In conclusion, Ahuja is far from a “complacent” candidate. Ahuja treats the student advocate’s office as his full-time job and is constantly working tirelessly to ensure that students have an office they can trust and rely on when facing issues with university policies. Despite our various party affiliations and ideological beliefs, we unanimously and firmly believe that as student advocate, Ahuja will continue to advance student interests if elected.
Briana Mullen, Courtney Chow, Caitlin Quinn, Destiny Iwuoma, Emily Truax, Eric Wu, Grant Fineman, Justin Kong, Katherine Chung, Karen Lee, Lauren Week, Liza Raffi, Naweed Mohabbat, Pavan Upadhyayula, Quinn Shen, Solomon Nwoche, Sahil Pandya, Sevly Snguon, Sean Tan and Wendy Pacheco are ASUC senators.