John Bosshard, Alaa Aissi running as independent ASUC Senate candidates

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Two campus sophomores, John Bosshard and Alaa Aissi, recently announced their intent to run as independent ASUC Senate candidates in the spring 2016 elections.

In the past decade, there have been only three years in which more than one independent candidate has won a seat in the senate — most recently last year, when students elected two independent senators. Bosshard and Aissi run on distinct platforms but converge on their aims to improve mental health and alleviate the high costs of living for UC Berkeley students.

Bosshard announced his candidacy Friday and runs on a three-pronged platform of improved ASUC transparency, increased physical safety and additional mental health resources. While he has limited ASUC experience, Bosshard believes that information gleaned from the ASUC DeCal and his inclination to seek out diverse student perspectives qualify him for a senate seat.

As part of his aim to increase transparency of student government, Bosshard aims to establish minute marks on protracted recordings of senate meetings, noting that their length may deter non-ASUC students from watching them.

“A lot of students don’t care to stay informed on the ASUC, but for the students who do, it shouldn’t be a burden,” Bosshard said.

Additionally, he advocates further promotion of ASUC resources that could facilitate the collaboration of students and UCPD in a way that helps alleviate public safety concerns, such as through the development of crime alert applications. As senator, Bosshard said he would also prioritize students’ various mental health needs, such as more free Tang Center counseling sessions, and work with the campus and city to provide students with substantial affordable housing.  

Aissi, who announced her candidacy Sunday, is endorsed by the campus’s Middle Eastern Muslim Sikh and South Asian Coalition, or MEMSSA. Her platforms address issues of food security, textbook affordability and advocacy for the campus’s Southwest Asian, South Asian and North African, or SSWANA, communities.

Aissi currently serves as the MEMSSA-backed independent Senator Sumayyah Din’s chief of staff. Din said in an email that Aissi is “dedicated and loyal, not only as my chief of staff, but as a friend, a sister, and community member,” adding that Aissi has consistently exhibited the traits of an ideal senator, underrepresented minority and woman.

Building on the work of previous MEMSSA senators involved with the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, Aissi hopes to streamline the process of food donation and distribution. She also aims to provide resources such as lower-cost course readers online.

Noting many students’ concerns over the prevalence of Islamophobia and racism on campus, Aissi said she seeks to establish a resource center geared toward the academic and mental health needs of the community and aims to hire a campus guidance counselor from a SSWANA background.

“It definitely limits our comfort and our growth on campus when our voices aren’t heard on an administrative or on a senate level,” she said.

Cuahuctemoc Salinas, the other current independent ASUC senator, said that while he has not yet endorsed either candidate, he was happy to see two independents running for a seat.

“Independent candidates have to have a really strong voice,” he said. “Never lose yourself to office politics. … You have to be like, ‘I’m voting this way because it benefits students.’ ”

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

Contact Andrea Platten and Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected].