Majority of ASUC, graduate assembly executive members endorse Ben Gould

Ben Gould/Courtesy

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Ben Gould — a graduate student running for Berkeley City Council’s District 4 seat — announced Monday that he has secured the endorsement of every executive member of UC Berkeley’s ASUC and graduate assembly, excluding that of Selina Lao, who holds the nonpartisan position of ASUC student advocate.

These executive members include President Will Morrow, Executive Vice President Alicia Lau, Academic Affairs Vice President Frances McGinley and External Affairs Vice President André Luu of the ASUC, as well as President Kena Hazelwood-Carter, External Affairs Vice President Jonathan Morris, Campus Affairs Vice President Dax Vivid, Internal Vice President Aaron Smyth and Vice President of Finance Andrew Schwartz of the Graduate Assembly.

According to Hazelwood-Carter, she chose to back Gould because he has supported the GA’s goals to address basic needs insecurity and sustainability both when he was serving on the assembly and now that he’s running for office.

“They know that I actually know what it’s like … to be a student in today’s economic and housing situation,” Gould said.

Gould noted that he’s currently experiencing problems associated with the city’s student housing shortage himself — he lives in a building that’s “falling apart” and, despite living in a rent-controlled unit, has still been confronted with rising rents, though to a limited degree.

While both Gould and his opponent Kate Harrison have said they want to focus on addressing affordable housing, Gould said his plan more directly addresses the needs of students. Berkeley Municipal Code requires that developers of certain residential housing projects designate 20 percent of the units to be affordable and occupied by low, lower or very low-income residents. Gould said he wants to work toward revising part of the code that stipulates that dependents cannot live in these affordable housing units and thus makes most UC Berkeley students ineligible.

Kate Harrison’s campus coordinator Soli Alpert, however, noted that Harrison’s general support for affordable housing units, even if those units may not be specifically allocated for students, would result in lower rents throughout the entire city.

“As a former ASUC Senator myself, I know what it’s like to be a student at Cal,” Harrison said in an email. “The situation students face have become increasingly dire. With tuition and housing prices as high as they are, many students who would like to stay in Berkeley after graduation are priced out. We urgently need to take steps to increase the affordable housing stock in Berkeley.”

Alpert added that Harrison appeals to the “Bernie Sanders Wing of the Democratic Party,” which he believes resonates with many campus students. Harrison has been endorsed by the Progressive Student Alliance, a campus organization formerly called UC Berkeley for Bernie Sanders, as well as ASUC Senators Rigel Robinson, Marandah Field-Elliot, Chris Yamas and Anthony Carrasco, among others.

Those who endorsed Gould, however, say they are ready to see the a student serving on the council for the first time in more than two decades.

“He has demonstrated time and time again a commitment to serving and advocating for students,” Luu said in an email. “It’s time for us to elect our first student City Councilmember in a long time.”

Jessica Lynn is the city news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @jessicailynn.