Selina Lao announces student advocate candidacy for 2016 ASUC elections

Ariel Hayat/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley junior Selina Lao announced Sunday her candidacy for student advocate in this year’s ASUC elections.

The student advocate is charged with representing students in campus-related grievances and disputes — such as conduct disputes, financial aid problems and harassment — as well as protecting students’ rights through case work and initiatives.

Lao’s platforms include securing basic student needs and addressing and providing better sexual violence-prevention education. Lao, who currently serves as chief of staff to independent Student Advocate Leah Romm, would also aim to preserve the campus experience for students in light of the campus gaining an additional 750 students this coming fall semester.

Acknowledging that different student communities on campus have different ways of coping with trauma, Lao wants to create peer-education resource hubs for student groups in order to empower students within their own communities.

“The reporting process has repeatedly failed survivors,” Lao said, referring to the campus’s sexual assault reporting system. “There (are) still so much more improvements that can be made.”

Lao also plans to create a platform for survivors to discuss potential improvements to the campus’s current reporting process.

In partnership with student groups, the UC Berkeley student co-ops and the Interfraternity Council, Lao hopes to establish a winter housing program that would support international and low-income students. In addition, she plans to increasingly publicize campus services, such as the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, that ensure basic student needs are met.

“(The) title of student advocate (is) a huge responsibility,” Lao said. “Hopefully, I’m going to meet more people during my campaign and get more of an idea of what the campus wants.”

Since 2004, every student advocate has been an independent candidate.

According to Romm, Lao’s experience and professionalism in the office has given her the necessary experience for the position.

“Selina has shown that she is … someone who fundamentally believes in the rights of students,” Romm said. “She has done so many different projects in so many different areas.”

Since joining the Student Advocate’s Office her freshman year in 2013, Lao has been a caseworker for two years, overseeing more than 200 student cases about academic disputes, discrimination and housing issues, among others.

In particular, Lao has submitted two successful proposals to the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees. The first one, submitted in Lao’s freshman year, continued the employment of a University Health Services licensed clinical social worker who provided specialized services for male survivors of sexual violence and perpetrators of sexual violence.

Her second successful proposal decreased the financial cost bore by students who are sexual assault survivors when they seek treatment at the Tang Center. According to Lao, both proposals were funded for the full amount requested.

The 2016-17 ASUC general elections will take place April 4, 5 and 6.

Jessie Qian covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessieq96.