Student Action candidate Milad Razavi runs for ASUC president, aims to empower student body

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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Last year, Milad Razavi was dropped off in the middle of Europe, tasked with traveling thousands of kilometers with little more than 24 cans of Red Bull.

Razavi and two other UC Berkeley students began in Vienna. They landed in Berlin seven days later, completing Red Bull’s annual Can You Make It? challenge.

Razavi, now running for ASUC president with Student Action, said it was in Europe that he discovered his talent of persuasion, as he wandered through the country persuading strangers to feed, shelter and transport his team. Many of the people he relied on for help did not even speak the same language, Razavi said, but he credited his ability to tell a compelling story with securing bystanders’ assistance.

As he enters the race for president, Razavi faces a similar dilemma — having never held an official ASUC position, he lacks a major aspect of the typical preparation for the position he seeks. But he has been described as possessing an array of other tools, ranging from money management to what some see as a distinctive ability to inspire others.

Razavi cited his work with current ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula as an example of the initiative he’s taken in pursuing the office. While shadowing Upadhyayula in the president’s office, Razavi continuously asked him questions regarding how the ASUC works to compensate for the lack of experience he has within the organization.

He said he has also reached out to ASUC presidents who have served in the past 15 years, including Teddy Liaw, a former ASUC president who was elected in 2000 with little ASUC experience.

Much like when he sought food from strangers in Europe, he said he isn’t afraid of pestering people for help.

“I don’t care if I annoy Pavan,” Razavi said. “He’s the one student on campus who knows what’s it like to be a president.”

Other experiences that Razavi said have prepared him to handle budgeting crises include his work with CalSol, a campus club that enters solar car competitions. As last year’s business analyst team leader, he worked closely with the financial officers, managing a biyearly budget of $300,000 and figuring out the amount of supplies they could obtain within that budget.

According to Alyssa Scheske, the club’s operations director, he also “brought the team to a higher level” by earning sponsorships from large companies such as Volkswagen.

In terms of campus finances, Razavi proposes streamlining the UC system’s patent-licensing process so that lost revenue can go back to UC students.

Despite the research and work he’s done in preparation to potentially become president, Razavi has received criticism for not having already been elected to an ASUC position — his opponent, Yordanos Dejen, has pointed out that she is the only one of the six candidates running for president who has served as a senator.

Ryan Kang, a Student Action party chair, noted that Razavi’s lack of ASUC experience could be seen as an asset: Without having spent a year struggling with the limitations of the ASUC administrative system, Kang said, Razavi could come into the position with a mindset of “pure passion.”

In some ways, Razavi’s enthusiasm for running stems from a place of disillusionment.

When Razavi was first admitted, he said, he was “super excited” and felt that the work he put into his application to UC Berkeley would finally come to fruition. But upon entering the school, Razavi was overwhelmed both academically and socially.

“I remember how I came in wanting to be a lawyer (or) a doctor,” Razavi said. “But Berkeley gave me a reality check.”

This disappointment propelled Razavi to run as a presidential candidate. As ASUC president, he said, he would work to rescue students from falling into the same discouragement. His platforms include a “Calls to Action” program, with which Razavi said he seeks to empower student groups by providing them with the chance to apply for a presidential stamp. This stamp would allow them access to mentorships.

And as he did in Europe, Razavi often seeks help from current and would-be supporters, particularly Dayna Tran, his campaign manager.

“I’ve been helping him out a lot — I drive him everywhere, help him get his hair tips refrosted and get his iPhone fixed for him,” Tran said. “He’s someone I truly believe in, and I’ve never been so proud of someone before.”

So far in the spring election season, Razavi said he has lost 15 pounds from prioritizing his campaigning before eating and sleeping.

“Next Thursday, when elections are over,” Razavi said, “hopefully I may get some sleep.”

Contact Jennifer Kang at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jennikang.