Leah Romm announces student advocate candidacy in 2015 ASUC elections

Rachael Garner/Staff

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UC Berkeley junior Leah Romm announced Tuesday that she will run for student advocate in this year’s ASUC elections.

The student advocate is charged with representing and advising students in disputes with the campus as well as educating students of their rights. The office oversees casework regarding grade disputes, financial aid and grievance processes, among others.

Romm’s platforms include sexual assault prevention and an equitable adjudication process, updated caseworker training, support in the financial aid process and increased education about student rights.

Since joining the student advocate’s office in the spring of her freshman year in 2013, Romm has taken on more responsibility, from caseworker to chief of staff, her current position.

“I think (nonpartisanship is) one of the most critical features of our office,” Romm said, adding that she believes party affiliation can alienate students who come into the office with concerns.

Although there is nothing in the bylaws that requires the position be nonpartisan, every student advocate since 2004 has been independent.

Independent Student Advocate Rishi Ahuja said that in addition to her disaffiliation from a party, Romm’s time in the office has given her the knowledge necessary to serve as student advocate.

“The primary thing we look for is prior experience,” Ahuja said. “Our office is all about understanding university policies and being able to answer questions, so experience is key for success.”

The chief of staff, an appointed position, is typically selected with the intention of preparing the individual to be the student advocate the following year, according to Ahuja.

As student advocate, Romm said she hopes to address the issue of sexual assault by ensuring that the university’s new sexual assault policy is equitable and “as trauma-informed as possible” as well as educating the campus community about the new policies and continuing to guide students through the process.

Romm also plans to increase students’ awareness of their rights by continuing to post infographics online, creating booklets to hand out at CalSO and educational programming. This information would pertain to rights surrounding protesting, conduct hearings and housing, among others.

“I think that students might have an idea of what their rights are, but there’s no one really telling them ‘you have the right to this, you don’t have the right to that,’” Romm said. “This would really allow students to reclaim their rights as students on this campus.”

Continuing and improving relations with the campus Financial Aid and Scholarships Office and Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence, Romm said, will help her improve and streamline students’ access and referral services through the student advocate’s office to these departments.

“I am so excited and honored to be running for this position because it’s truly been my home at Cal and I’m excited to just take it to a whole new level,” Romm said.

The 2015-16 ASUC general elections will take place April 7, 8 and 9.

Staff writer Heyun Jeong contributed to this report.

Sonja Hutson covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @SonjaHutson.