Editor’s note: This is one installment in a five-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.
As other ASUC candidates plaster students with flyers and wave large signs, SQUELCH! presidential candidate Kira can be found barking at squirrels and stalking pigeons.
Kira, a canine from Texas, is about 3 years old with a black and white coat and mismatched eyes.
She ran away from her southern home, journeyed hundreds of miles and ended up at an animal shelter in San Francisco, where she was adopted by campus senior Nicola Evans.
Besides not being an enrolled student or a member of any campus organizations, lacking ASUC experience and having four legs, Kira differs from the other candidates with respect to her unique lease on life. Kira doesn’t get bogged down in campaign pettiness, according to Andrea Rose, Kira’s human proxy and SQUELCH! creative director.
A typical day for Kira is “nap, sleep, eat, repeat,” Evans said. “Kind of like a college student, I guess.”
Kira’s friend and campus senior Manu Vaish said a perfect day for the husky would begin with waking up to a bowl of salami, followed by a long walk. After spending some time with her favorite toy and running around for a couple hours, her day would end with a snooze in Evans’ bed.
Although somewhat self-entitled, Evans said, Kira is also smart. If elected, Kira plans to implement platforms centered on three primary areas: improving mental health, boosting affordable housing in Berkeley and eradicating pigeons.
She aims to introduce additional mental health services, specifically five free “Who’s a Good Dog?” sessions at the Tang Center, during which students would receive a few scratches behind the ear, as well as some verbal positive reinforcement, Rose said.
Rose said Kira believes that pigeons do not have significant ecological benefits and their removal is imperative. Kira plans to create a committee within the ASUC, consisting of only herself, through which she would exterminate them in a “reasonably humane” way.
She also hopes to boost affordable housing in Berkeley, specifically improving access for nonhumans on campus.
Campus political party SQUELCH! has traditionally slated satirical candidates partly to inject comic relief and levity into otherwise overly serious campaigns, according to one of SQUELCH!’s party chairs and campus senior Jake Fineman.
Additionally, Kira’s platforms — such as her aim to spearhead mental health issues on campus — are intended to draw attention to possibly well-meaning but overly simplistic party platforms candidates tend to adopt, Fineman said. Such platforms, he added, are often redundant with respect to issues that are already focuses of the campus and the ASUC.
Kira intends to give a voice to more specific communities — particularly the pet populations on campus — but also wants to maintain wide appeal, in line with SQUELCH!’s goal to bridge party lines.
“She’s been meeting with cat people and speaking about how her platforms can benefit cats as well,” Rose said.
Although Kira is equipped with paws, Rose said Kira’s leadership style is very hands-on.
Kira comes as the second consecutive animal run by SQUELCH! for an executive seat, after the party’s unsuccessful running of a hermit crab for external affairs vice president last year.
Fineman noted that the crab was a nocturnal creature that didn’t often emerge from its shell during Sproul Plaza campaigning.
SQUELCH! Senator Zoe Brouns said the hermit crab’s language barrier crippled the party’s campaign.
“It couldn’t make any sounds at all,” Brouns said. “That was really difficult.”
Rose will help Kira communicate her ideas to students.
“It was really sweet and uplifting to see such a positive pup,” said Rose, who met Kira about January. “We formed a connection really quickly. It’s hard not to with Kira. She’s just so affable.”
With an unconventional candidate such as Kira on the ballot, Fineman said, students who would otherwise be disinterested in ASUC elections might be more likely to vote. Drawn in by satirical candidates — who Fineman said are unlikely to gain significant traction in elections — students would be encouraged to consider the rest of the candidates, because the ballot allows voters to rank other running candidates.
In the 1990s, SQUELCH! arose as a satirical party, connected to the publication the Heuristic Squelch, according to Fineman. The party split from the publication later on because the publication was ASUC-sponsored and was therefore prohibited from running candidates.
After several years of running solely satirical candidates, Fineman said, the party began running one serious candidate in addition to its satirical slate in the 2000s.
This year, SQUELCH! is running three nonsatirical senators. Last year, SQUELCH! ran an executive slate of four satirical candidates for the first time since 2012. But this year, the party opted to focus its attention and resources on a single satirical executive candidate.
Brouns noted that Kira has many characteristics of an ideal ASUC president.
“She’s personable, she’s bubbly, confident, outgoing, friendly, she’s really active,” Brouns said. “She plays frisbee on the weekends.”