Editor’s note: This is one installment in a four-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.
Growing up, André Luu was on a track to become a Buddhist monk.
Although Luu is ethnically Vietnamese, his family practices Tibetan Buddhism. Starting at the age of four, Buddhist monks would live with his family for weeks, and he would spend his summers at a monastery in Arizona. Luu is no longer pursuing this path, but his unique upbringing has heavily influenced many of his values — he’s a lifelong vegetarian, was taught to dream big and learned to love and respect everyone regardless of their background, which is why he is running for ASUC president.
“As an executive, it’s so important to represent the greater campus community, and I’ve given my attention to any and all communities,” Luu said. “I know that in the role of president, I am the person that will be there for students.”
Luu — who is running on the Student Action executive slate — was born in California but lived in Maryland for 12 years and returned to California before high school. His family is low-income and his parents worked irregular hours — his mom traveled as a translator for Buddhist monks and his father worked long hours — leaving him and his brother alone often.
Having grown up in a low-income family, he said he understands the struggles that students face on campus related to food and housing insecurity. If elected, he would place an emphasis on increasing students’ access to basic needs resources such as food and housing. He would aim to create a Food Security Fund that would guarantee five complimentary campus meals per month to students who receive Pell Grant funds.
“For me, the Food Security Fund will offer students another temporary solution that is so critical,” Luu said. “While we’re making headway toward a permanent solution, it’s so critical to also recognize that we need temporary solutions as well.”
Luu identifies as queer, having come out as bisexual this year. He said in middle school he was often bullied for not being masculine enough. He said having experienced bullying and the isolation it caused has inspired him to support students on campus, saying he knows what it feels like to feel unwelcome at school.
Although Luu identifies as queer and is running in part to represent this community — he would be the first openly queer ASUC president in the campus’s history — some critics have said he has not properly represented the community during his tenure as the current ASUC external affairs vice president and as a senator during the 2015-16 academic year.
In an op-ed published in The Daily Californian, Amir Amerian alleged that Luu didn’t recruit students in queer, trans and students of color communities for the Students of Color Conference. According to Amerian, Jerry Javier, board director of the Queer Alliance Resource Center, alleged Luu had organized no outreach regarding the application process to his or other LGBTQ campus groups.
Luu denied the allegations and said the campaign process can be dehumanizing.
“Oftentimes I think my reputation precedes … my right to be understood and heard as a human being,” Luu said. “I know that there are people out there who will never be satisfied with anything I say or do and will always conjure up rumors about me.”
During his first semester as EAVP, his work was heavily focused on getting students registered to vote, gearing up for the 2016 presidential elections. His office registered over 7,700 students before the 2016 election.
Luu wants to continue to engage the campus in national politics, and if elected, would work with the EAVP to advocate to make California a sanctuary state and work to create a refugee center to promote academic, mental and physical well-being of refugees. He said that as president, he would not tolerate President Donald Trump’s “bigoted rhetoric.”
“Our university is a unique situation because we are the flagship public university across the nation,” Luu said. “We as a university, as a student body, whatever statements we make, whatever actions we take, they ring so loudly across the entire nation and we set the precedent for other universities to follow.”
ASUC President Will Morrow endorsed Luu, calling him a “dedicated public servant.” He said he is consistently impressed by how Luu conducted himself as a representative of the student body during meetings with other student leaders, campus administrators and city officials.
“Most students will never have the chance to see that, but having seen it with my own eyes, he definitely has the patience and persistence needed for role of ASUC president,” Morrow said.