A semester down: How ASUC officials stack up

Kelly Baird/Staff

The semester is rolling to a close, and that means ASUC officials are scrambling to lay solid groundwork for projects before the mass exodus that is winter break.

Spring is often consumed by election fervor, and maybe that’s why last spring, the previous ASUC Senate class failed to appoint chairs for several commissions, including sexual violence and mental health: applications for these positions were open until Nov. 13. These two commissions have critical missions for a campus under fire for mishandling cases of sexual violence and in recent months overrun by bigoted trolls such as Milo Yiannopoulos. On this front, the ASUC dropped the ball, letting these commissions sit nonfunctional for months.

So it’s all the more crucial that senators and executives remain committed to their work through the break and the rest of their terms and not let their campaign promises and responsibilities fall to the wayside again come spring.

Across the board, ASUC elected officials, but especially executives, were forced into reactionary roles by “Free Speech Week.” Many projects had to be temporarily sidelined, but some managed to bounce back, with some officials making headway on concrete proposals.

The Daily Californian Editorial Board looked into each elected official’s progress compared to their respective campaign promises and found that many, but not all, have had productive semesters.

As the spring semester starts, it would behoove elected officials to not forget the constituents who voted them in and responsibly use the student fee funds that keep their operations running. Collectively, we’re all paying thousands for their stipends, projects and building.

One parting note: Currently, periodic reports in the ASUC Google Drive serve as the quickest and simplest method by which the public can view and understand the work of elected ASUC officials. Some have been lax about providing complete and regular updates.

The Editorial Board had to dig to decipher the progress made (or not made) and was often met with unresponsiveness from officials, even when requests for comment were made. The ASUC should take care to remember that it is as much a public official’s responsibility to be transparent and communicative about their work as it is to complete the work itself.

ASUC Executives

ASUC president: ‘My role is mostly reactionary’

ASUC president Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris has, thus far, spent most of her time plugging into the problems at UC Berkeley.zaynab

Scrambling to address issues created by “Free Speech Week” and delving into the budget deficit has meant AbdulQadir-Morris’ made scant progress on enacting her original campaign goals. In particular, AbdulQadir-Morris’ platform to create more physical spaces for students to destress has fallen by the wayside, and she said she hasn’t been able to dedicate enough energy toward efforts to improve basic needs security. She seems overwhelmed by her lack of institutional knowledge or just confused by her role.

“Frustratingly I’ve discovered my role is mostly reactionary,” she said. She has, however, been able to secure students voices on a new campus free speech task force, and is working on establishing a more permanent student presence on campus committees that oversee protest response decisions and approve policies like the new events policy spurred by “Free Speech Week.”

And beyond doing damage control for “Free Speech Week,” she’s made a point to seek out opportunities that could come out of it. For example, she advocated for funding for the campus climate speaker series.

For AbdulQadir-Morris, gaining the institutional knowledge necessary to do her job has been a struggle, and to her credit, she’s working to ensure that future ASUC presidents don’t have to deal with that same struggle. In her final months, she hopes to compile a body of information for her successor to make sense of the campus budget and offer actually productive feedback.

These are important goals, and we hope she’ll make sure to continue the advocacy work that voters elected her to do.

helenExecutive Vice President’s tenure marked by slow success

Executive Vice President Helen Yuan’s focus this semester as EVP seems to have been on promoting partnerships between the ASUC and organizations, and she has found success. She has been working diligently with Independent Senator Harshil Bansal on developing an ASUC housing database that will make it easier for students to find housing. According to their respective reports, the site should go live Dec. 3.

Just prior to “Free Speech Week,” she met with Dean Joseph Greenwell to plan the logistics of how the week would impact student life. But if her office was able to find new spaces for students to meet for clubs and studying during that tumultuous week, it certainly could have marketed the information better.

In addition, Yuan has also reworked a nine-point priority list for the University Partnership Program with ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris — a guide for how the campus will forge deals with big companies such as Under Armour and Peet’s Coffee. But so far, nothing’s come of it.

Space allocation is one of the EVP’s primary tasks, and she has shown sufficient energy toward that. We wish she would be more publicly vocal about the potential impacts that the new event policy might have on student groups.

To her credit, Yuan has put significant effort and thought into making fee and fund allocation much smoother. Her office has helped make a comprehensive funding guide for Registered Student Organizations.

rigelAs policy stakes rise, External Affairs Vice President steps up to plate

External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson had lofty goals when he was elected, and he’s been busy.

He’s spearheaded a “Basic Needs” town hall and hosted a workshop helping students apply to be on city commissions. He’s been working hard at the UC Student Association to implement the upcoming regents report card and to call for the resignation of UC Regent Norman Pattiz in light of sexual harassment allegations.

These efforts will bring long-needed accountability to a largely unaccountable board of regents. The EAVP office has routinely organized lobbying movements, and it’s been no different under his tenure. Robinson consistently ensures that legislators at every level are interacting with students.

But like so many others in leadership on campus, he’s been hampered by “Free Speech Week” and internal politics.

The UCSA undergraduate graduate split took up a lot of time early in the semester, only to be followed by the absurdity of “Free Speech Week.” In an effort to increase students’ access to legislation and legislators, Robinson’s office created an interactive Google Doc to solicit ideas and allow his office to know which students need to connect to lawmakers. This was completed internally early in the semester, but was simply forgotten in the hullabaloo of Milo and his trolls.

Robinson recognized it was an oversight, and the program will be launched after Thanksgiving. And other than that, his advocacy work, when not bogged down by internal politics, has consistently put students in a better position to affect policy on the UC level, in the city, statewide and on a national level.

ianbullittAcademic Affairs Vice President’s meetings alone won’t solve problems

Though Academic Affairs Vice President Iyan Bullitt ran on a platform meant to expand the mission and goals of the AAVP office, much of his day-to-day work seems to have be dedicated to executing the office’s core managerial responsibilities and the “Free Speech Week” commotion.

As he is mandated to do, he has worked to place students to administrative roles and fee oversight committees, and solicit applications for the office’s grants and scholarships totalling $57,000. In addition, he has established the Undergraduate Academic Representation Committee as an ad hoc committee in the ASUC for students across campus colleges to discuss academic policies and situations.

Many of his weekly reports focus on running or expanding projects that were previously established by former ASUC elected officials, such as an iClicker rental program and campus REST zones. Like most elected officials the Daily Cal talked to, some of his efforts this semester toward campaign goals have resulted largely in meetings with administrators with few tangible results.

For example, while his office has compiled information related to grade deflation at UC Berkeley — a major part of his campaign — and met with Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Paul Alivisatos, little progress seems to have been made toward implementing his proposed optional “Average GPA” note on official transcripts for each major.

In addition, part of his campaign platform was focused on recruitment and retention of underrepresented minorities, but Bullitt said in an email that he hasn’t been able to get in contact with the retention organizations of the bridges Multicultural Resource Center after several attempts.

Of course, these AAVP office’s meetings can be an important first step in getting student voices in rooms where they might not otherwise be heard: in particular, Bullitt’s meetings with officials at the Tang Center and the RSF as the respective campus units continue to expand their health and physical wellness services is reassuring to hear.

As a final note, in an email requesting a phone interview about his progress, Bullitt responded that “the ASUC Senate (is) the only body that I’m mandated to report to as they represent the student body at large.” Given that Bullitt was elected by UC Berkeley students, not the ASUC Senate, it would be favorable for Bullitt to think more broadly about what public accountability means for his office.

jillianStudent advocate’s focus on faculty sex misconduct is crucial

Student Advocate Jillian Free’s office has a clear purpose: to continue providing free, quality casework for students. On top of continuing that mission, Free has been able to push forward and build on the policy work of her predecessors, even when handling the effects of Free Speech Week for a few weeks.

Her office is working on a wide array of projects concurrently. The campus financial aid office is understaffed and overwhelmed, so the student advocate’s office has taken on the responsibility of matching students facing housing insecurity with the right resources, an initiative that began in the campus’s financial aid office.

Free is advocating with AbdulQadir-Morris to secure and institutionalize funding streams for basic needs from the UC Office of the President’s recent $3 million allocation to the campus for emergency housing.

Notably, her office is working to hold faculty more accountable in light of historical trends of sexual misconduct. Free’s office is spearheading the compilation of public documentation of whether faculty members have completed mandatory sexual violence prevention training, which currently is required but not enforced.

But Free is only in the beginning stages of work on this important project, with no articulate vision yet of what the end product will look like yet. She aims to have the faculty compliance project completed by the end of the spring semester, which seems ambitious.

The value of the student advocate’s office is its nonpartisanship: it ensures that Free’s successor will likely come from within the office, and have an understanding of current projects in the pipeline. Free should continue to lay solid foundations and timelines for valuable efforts like these.

ASUC Senators

Adnan Hemani (Student Action)

After campaigning on platforms focused on addressing issues related to STEM education and campus technology, Adnan Hemani has proven to be an efficient senator in accomplishing some of these goals.

His office, with the chief technology officer’s office, will soon acquire Berkeleytime from its graduated founders. In addition, he has applied for a grant through the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees to secure funds for Project Hermione: a webcasting expansion program that, if 100 percent funded, would have enough hardware to drastically increase the number of classes that can be webcast at once — a particularly important issue given rising class sizes amid limited campus spaces and recording technology.

But in making swift progress on some of his campaign goals, Hemani’s attention was diverted from others. After several administrative meetings were pushed back, Hemani was unable to apply for the necessary grants needed to reopen the Late Night Wheeler program this semester to increase late night study spaces.

In addition, Hemani expressed frustration that meetings with UC Berkeley’s Student Information Services, which manages CalCentral, were not particularly fruitful, saying that officials “aren’t very responsive to changes” and adding that “you could tell there was a level of fakeness involved.” Hopefully, the CalCentral survey he and Student Action Senator Madison Miller are creating will provide qualitative data to force administrators’ hand.

Next semester, as he works to create a centralized room reservation database, Hemani should continue focusing on finishing these feasible projects that can be completed without becoming wrapped up in administrative red tape.

Hemani is a member of the INK Oversight Committee.

Alexander Wilfert (Student Action)

Alexander Wilfert ran on a number of very specific campaign promises, including extending Tang Center hours on weekends, enhancing street security on Greek Row, repealing Group Living Accommodations Ordinance-mandated quiet hours and promoting the study of international relations on campus. While his campaign stood out for the specificity of its goals, there hasn’t been much substantive progress on Wilfert’s many promises at this point.

Wilfert worked to establish safe and sober party tents on game days and ordered the chartered bus to Stanford for the Big Game that students could pay for to get to Palo Alto. His office is planning an “international relations week” to provide resources for students interested in the field, although the dates and details of this event are still in the works.

Paying close attention to city issues, Wilfert is meeting with the mayor and city council members and hosting workshops on the GLA ordinance. But his local lobbying efforts have not materialized into actual policy changes.

He has worked closely with ROTC to create a military affairs minor. The feasibility of executing this minor have not extended far beyond reaching out to various interest groups, and it is doubtful that this plan will pan out.

Rather than simply taking many beginning steps on his projects, he should crystallize action items for the spring so that his goals come to fruition.

Connor Hughes (Student Action)

Connor Hughes ran on some platforms that seemed doomed from the start. Getting Berkeley landlords to donate rooms to homeless students was never going to happen, and making UC Berkeley’s Zero Waste goals mandatory across campus is a high reach.

Hughes still says he wants to get all campus departments to enforce Zero Waste initiatives, rather than just opt in if they want to. That’s not realistic in the short time he has left, but at least he’s made some progress toward sustainability. A Bay Area nonprofit will do an audit of the carbon footprint of Pat Brown’s offered products, and this pilot program could lead to more transparent and sustainable Cal Dining markets. His goals for the rest of the semester should be more in line with the amount of progress he’s been able to make so far.

Hughes included an update on the Student Organic Garden Association on his progress report that makes it seem like he spearheaded efforts to stop the campus from developing the land. But he said himself in an interview that it’s not a project he’s spearheaded. And that points to a larger problem with Hughes’ publicity. It seems lacking. Hughes owes his constituents a good bit more effort toward informing them of what he’s up to.

Carmel Gutherz (Independent)

Carmel Gutherz got off to a rocky start in her senatorial term after being disaffiliated from CalSERVE, the campus party she ran with, because of unresolved disagreements that persisted since the April elections. Although the split was sudden, Gutherz has managed to work toward her goals of making transfer students feel more included in the campus community and increasing resources for students with disabilities.

After breaking ground on a unified transfer housing community incorporated into Martinez Commons last semester, Gutherz has been working to advocate for the campus to allocate an entire dormitory building to transfer student housing.

She has a transfer study event planned for dead week, and she has applied for funding to support additional transfer student events.

Gutherz hopes to get her “commuter initiative” off the ground in the spring, which is designed to give Pell Grant students or DREAM-eligible students a subsidy on their parking passes, but the project seems prohibitively expensive and unlikely to come to fruition. She is also working to create a test-proctoring center for Disabled Students’ Program students. These are two big projects still in the pipeline.

Many of Gutherz’s efforts comprise meetings that have been conducted and applications that have been submitted but are still awaiting approval. She must work fast and hard if she wants a chance at turning them into reality. Hopefully, we will see the tangible outcomes of Gutherz self-described “behind-the-scenes work.”

Hani Hussein (CalSERVE)

In the spring, Hani Hussein said she wanted to adjust the financial aid model so that it would more accurately reflect the real, hefty costs of attending UC Berkeley for a year. From Hussein’s public reports, it appears that she has met with the financial aid office, but whether she’s made tangible progress on any of her platforms remains unclear.

She had hoped to remove the obstacle of numerous appeal forms for low-income students to adjust the cost of living determined by the campus (which is usually understated as compared with real Bay Area expenses). Hussein’s others goals included furthering investment in Black education and bolstering campus mental health resources such as Counseling and Psychological Services offered through University Health Services and Student-to-Student peer counseling.

Hussein has made the most progress on improving investments to Black education, holding a number of meetings with campus leaders and working on events such as the AASD Black Students showcase.

She is also working to create a Black Community report and a Students of Color Mental Health Assessment, but her weekly reports do not detail what these reports and assessments will achieve or be used for. When these projects are done, we hope their findings are well publicized and utilized effectively.

Hussain did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

Harshil Bansal (Independent)

Harshil Bansal’s office has focused on two major projects this semester: one to increase transparency in the housing search process for students and the other to try and remove the red tape that prevents international students from getting jobs over the summer.

Working with EVP Helen Yuan’s office, Bansal is set to launch a housing database by Dec. 3. Partnering with CampusCribz, a nonprofit organization, they are working to integrate the housing database to create an AirBnB-style portal on asuc.org/housing. Finding housing is hard, and any effort to alleviate that difficulty is worth some time.

But Bansal has a good number of campaign proposals that aren’t addressed in his sporadic, incomplete weekly reports. For example, he promised voters he’d work with city officials to try to institute security deposit caps, and he promised to help provide funds through the ASUC for students who need help moving or storing furniture. It’s unclear what progress has been made on these projects.

He has continued to serve the international student community by trying to push for zero-unit courses for international students to take over the summer, similar to the zero-unit courses offered at the Haas School of Business. A petition for the proposal Bansal launched received more than 500 signatures, of which 400 are international students. The large show of support is an impressive display of solidarity and, at the very least, a positive step forward.

In his final months, Bansal needs to make sure that his weekly reports are accurate and timely and that he stays focused on the projects that voters elected him to complete.

Hung Tan Huynh (Student Action)

All of Hung Tan Huynh’s efforts are focused singularly on improving the experience of low-income, first-generation students, and he’s made strides toward this, even though he quickly found that some of his initial goals were not feasible.

He worked over the summer to launch two pilot programs: the first to give students access to free course readers and the second to establish grants for use of electronic library-licensed textbooks. These programs target students for whom textbooks would otherwise be a huge financial burden.

These two successes mark Huynh’s efficient carry-over of projects initiated by former academic affairs vice president Frances McGinley. It is laudable and heartening when ASUC officials build solid pipelines for project completion.

When Huynh encountered roadblocks to his original platform of translating meal card points into general purchasing points (after conversations with Cal Dining, he found it unfeasible), he switched gears. Instead, his office looked toward basic needs: he represents students on a UC-wide budget committee in which he advocates for basic needs allocations, and his office worked to establish a partnership between Imperfect Produce and the campus food pantry.

His office is now laying the groundwork for a food voucher program by which low-income students could apply to receive a monthly stipend to shop for fresh produce at local businesses. This model has been successfully implemented at community colleges and is a realistic goal in the long term, but it is next to impossible for Huynh to accomplish during his term, which he acknowledges.

Huynh has his work cut out for him. He will have to do the initial heavy lifting and then hand off the project (with adequate support) for someone in the next class of ASUC officials to complete.

Jenica Bautista (Student Action)

A central part of Jenica Bautista’s campaign was representing Cal’s Christian community, and that certainly seemed to comprise the majority of her workload thus far.

She’s worked on hosting a large number of events with different organizations within Cal’s Christian community, including Unity in Christ, Asian American Christian Fellowship, Berkeley Prayer Night and See You at the Pole.

Bautista also helped to host “Freedom Fast” with International Justice Mission, an event to raise money for fighting sexual violence and sex trafficking.

Recently, Bautista has further branched out into other issues, hosting a recent résumé workshop with the Career Center.

From Bautista’s reports, it appears slow progress has been made, however, on the second facet of her campaign platform: improving campus nutrition and wellness. While she has started talks with officials at RSF about starting a gym buddies program, little efforts seems to have been made to reduce costs for P.E. course material fees and membership fees for club teams, though she campaigned on those platforms.

In addition, Bautista’s first campaign promise was on increasing the Open Computing Facility’s funding and expanding the program’s visibility. But beyond the résumé workshop held at the OCF, the most tangible progress made on this front has been the creation of a new logo for the office — time that perhaps could have been spent more effectively by her office.

Bautista did not respond to request for comment as of press time.

Joshua Martin Wilson (Student Action)

Joshua Martin Wilson echoed the tired sentiment that he was burdened with more reactionary work than expected, particularly as a result of “Free Speech Week.” But he seems to have risen gracefully to the challenge and effectively represented the performing arts community.

After several major dance groups had their events canceled when hit with the new events policy, Wilson went to work, helping to draft new language for the policy to mitigate consequences for performance groups.

Wilson also ran on a promise to reduce financial barriers for performance groups, particularly with respect to high costs to secure venues for showcases. After casually bringing up the high costs for student organizations to Cal Performances, it inexplicably lowered its rental prices. Wilson seems to have made good on this promise through mere luck and knows he will have to work to secure these discounts institutionally for students in the long term.

Last year, Wilson secured about $100,000 in funding through the Wellness Fee, but he has experienced some significant setbacks in his efforts to improve practice and performance spaces in Eshleman Hall, in light of unanticipated hurdles in securing a contract for renovation. He will have to double down in the spring to sidestep these roadblocks, but overall, he seems to be taking clear steps to renovate and maintain access to practice spaces.

Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff (CalSERVE)

For Juniperangelica Cordova-Goff, “Free Speech Week” was both a blessing and curse. Though  harmful to the trans and queer communities she serves and a drain on her time and attention, it opened up conversations that created momentum for symbolic bills calling for limits to police presence.

But in the end, Cordova says she’s hit a wall: The most she can do is continue to explain her grievances over and over again. And it’s been very clear that she and the chancellor and campus police chief are at odds on conversations of safety and the necessity of heavy police presence when controversial speakers come to campus.

She wants to turn instead to expanding the student presence on the campus police review board, which currently has space for two students, one graduate and one undergraduate. She should shift her focus quickly: The spring semester is fast approaching and short — perhaps too short to institute changes to the board. But her work can easily start the conversation and ensure that someone in the next senate class carries it forward.

Her office further plans to launch a depression and addiction educational campaign but seems behind in terms of solidifying locations and dates and marketing materials. Additionally, a campaign she launched last week to raise $10,000 for summer housing scholarships for marginalized groups is ambitious and has good intentions, but even if successful, it doesn’t institutionalize a continued funding stream.

Katerina Yamamoto (Student Action)

Katerina Yamamoto has focused her time in office on a few projects and made huge improvements. An effort to improve access to research opportunities for STEM students has, so far, culminated with the ASUC acquiring Beehive, a student-made online platform that helps people find research (the “Craigslist of research,” as she calls it).

She’s also formed a relationship with the Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, and she hopes to be able to solidify that relationship with the ASUC, so that it continues after her term ends. Her commitment to sustainable projects is certainly heartening, given that among undergraduate student leadership, so much can get lost in transition.

And yet, if she’s really trying to make more students aware of the opportunities she’s creating, she’s going to need a much more specific marketing plan. When asked how she would get the word out about Beehive, she didn’t have much more to offer than “outreach.”

It’s still early, and marketing for the platform shouldn’t take off until early spring. Hopefully, she’ll have more specific plans in place by then. Otherwise, her term has seen a focus on specific, impactful projects, not fanfare, and that focus seems as though it has been and will be productive for students.

Lynn Shiung (Student Action)

Lynn Shiung has made good on her campaign promises to enrich the experience of UC Berkeley’s international student community and increase cultural events on campus. But she’s faced barriers to progress on her goal to install mobile device charging stations across campus.  

Shiung’s office chose to work with University Partnership Program and the ASUC Student Union, which will help keep costs down for the project. This decision, however, comes with more hoops to jump through: The installation efforts have been delayed because of more required communication with the campus and the company hired for the project. She’ll have to double down on this project in order to push it through by the end of her term.

Her support of the international students is especially important in an environment increasingly hostile to international communities post-Trump’s election. This semester, she put together an H1B visa workshop, providing important information to help international students navigate complicated forms and requirements.

Shiung is also working with ASUC Senators Harshil Bansal and Taehan Lee to make it easier for international students with F1 visas to work in the United States by establishing a zero-unit class in College of Letters and Sciences. If Shiung’s efforts are realized, students will be able to fulfill the requirement that they be enrolled in school to work without having to complete extraneous and unnecessary coursework.

Madison Miller (Student Action)

Madison Miller campaigned largely on changes in the Greek community, pre-law programming and improvements to CalCentral enrollment tools. Miller has addressed each of these areas in her work as senator so far, which vary degrees of success in each area.

Miller’s main work in the Greek community has been advocacy work, attending meetings with groups such as [email protected], Greeks Against Sexual Assault and the Panhellenic Council to discuss mitigation of safety issues. Miller also helped to plan sober and safety tents at gamedays. Much of this work, however, appears to lack quantifiable results.

Miller’s office also hosted an “Ignite Her Future” résumé workshop, which was hosted in the Alpha Phi sorority house, which Miller is president of. While the workshop was open to the public, this aligns with her focus on the Greek community but not necessarily relate to the wider audience that falls under her pre-law goals. It seems too convenient to focus her efforts on the sorority she is already obligated to contribute to as president.

In pre-law work, Miller’s office is working to establish a law school auditing program for undergraduates, but she has come up against bureaucratic red tape.

Regarding CalCentral, this area of focus has also been largely conceptual up to this point — mainly around meetings on how to approach improvement. Student Action Senator Adnan Hemani’s office has largely been spearheading these efforts, and it seems like Miller’s office is secondary to that larger approach. Miller’s office has so far issued a student survey to gain more feedback on CalCentral issues.

While Miller’s office has a number of events coming up — including a graduate student panel, RRR Week healthy study snack event, body positivity and nutrition events and Nov. 28 Breast and Ovarian Health Workshop in conjunction with other female-identifying senators — it seems as though she still has a ways to go before making significant ground toward addressing her campaign promises beyond conceptualization.

Megha Torpunuri (Student Action)

Megha Torpunuri ran on a platform of improving student transportation by improving the way Bear Transit runs and adding new routes, in addition to doing further work on securing travel grants to allow students to finance their own travel.

When it comes to her past semester’s work, she spoke about student safety mostly through the lens of transportation. She talked about a desire for increasing the amount of on-campus lighting and a more user-friendly Bear Walk app, but she seems to have made little headway on making these projects a reality.

A major part of her campaign revolved around increasing student access to tampons and pads as part of a push for improved student health.

As a senator, she has made the most progress on this campaign promise. She hosted a sexual health education program open house through the Tang Center for tampon and pad dispension, and she has worked on putting menstrual products in Rest Zones.

She added that meetings are underway in regard to expanding the use of travel funds, and she has started working on a survey about Bear Transit to learn from students what needs improving.

Nina Jhunjhnuwala (Independent)

After running on a largely environmentally focused campaign, most of Nina Jhunjhnuwala’s work seems in the preliminary planning stages.

For example, her office has begun initial research in a “herbicide-free” campaign to get the campus to eliminate its use of pesticides to manage weeds.

Jhunjhnuwala’s staff has been meeting with stakeholders to determine the viability of establishing a garden in Eshleman Hall or the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, but because of liability issues, she says she may have to abandon that effort in favor of simply supporting other on-campus gardens.

She’s in talks with the Panhellenic Council to implement small-scale, sustainable measures such as “Bring Your Own Cup” to parties. She’s also in contact with Helios, the ASUC solar program, to help liaise with co-ops, sororities and fraternities to secure subsidized solar panels for them — but again, all of these plans are preliminary.

Where she seems to have excelled is in advocating student interests to administrators and educational outreach efforts: Her office successfully hosted a workshop on environmental racism, held an educational environmental photo campaign and is creating videos on sustainability for future Golden Bear Orientations.

She’s advocated for fossil fuel divestment at a recent UC Board of Regents meeting (though this seems unlikely to happen anytime soon) and attempted to negotiate against the UC Berkeley’s development of the Oxford Tract, which houses a half-acre plot managed by the Student Organic Garden Association. Jhunjhnuwala says the campus hasn’t made a final decision but appears intent on developing the land while still remaining committed to keeping the garden in some form.

Her office is tackling a wide variety of projects, but concrete results may be out of reach. Jhunjhnuwala must ensure she builds pathways for future eco-senators to bring her projects to fruition.

Nuha Khalfay (Independent)

Nuha Khalfay, endorsed by Middle Eastern Muslim Sikh and South Asian coalition, has worked this semester to improve the experiences of many campus communities, staying true to most of her original campaign platforms.

Khalfay promised to advocate for improved mental and physical health services and increased support for the MEMSSA community and provide more resources for pre-health majors.

Her office has hosted a photo campaign aimed at protesting President Donald Trump’s latest travel ban. Khalfay and the Muslim Students Association also met with Chancellor Carol Christ in September to discuss improving the experiences of MEMSSA students in light of the ban.

Khalfay has made some progress on improving L&S advising services. For the past month, her office has circulated a survey to gain feedback on L&S advising, which she took to a Nov. 17 meeting with L&S advising. We hope to see L&S advising change as a result of this advocacy.  

Her office has held a wellness fair to inform pre-health students about internships and other opportunities. Given that Khalfay has demonstrated she can organize events and workshops, we hope she will work to make meetings with administrators result in tangible changes related to the MEMSSA community.

Rizza Estacio (CalSERVE) 

Rizza Estacio’s campaign platforms revolved around revamping consent education practices, making financial aid more accessible for low-income students and eliminating lecture hall names representing colonizers and slave owners.

Her office has already held funding workshops designed to help multicultural organizations find financial resources. She has also met with Berkeley Student Cooperative members and BSC President Zach Gamlieli to discuss diversity initiatives within the co-ops. We’re excited to see what more comes of these talks.

In October, Estacio originally planned to hold a Radical Speaker week in order to combat “Free Speech Week,” but this event fell through. Her office now intends to hold the event as a continuation of the sexual violence conference that takes place on campus in April. Given how many months she has to plan, we hope she will be able to ensure that this event is put on.

Her office recently submitted a wellness grant application and met with several officials of the Tang Center to discuss possible locations to place vending machines containing emergency contraceptives.

Estacio’s office seems to be steadily making progress toward her original goals. Some projects, such as the campaign to rename campus buildings, should have been started earlier, as the hurdles might take more than the remainder of her term to overcome.

In addition, given the low detail of her weekly reports, it would be difficult for the average student to know if the time she has dedicated has been productive.

Taehan Lee (Independent)

Taehan Lee has done a thorough job of starting to achieve some campaign promises and progressing with concrete results. Lee has also started a number of projects beyond those initial campaign goals.

Lee campaigned with a focus on safety on campus and in the community. Regarding the current office of the chief technology officer app, Lee is close to adding “new features” to the Bear Safety app — features that remain vague. The development, however vague, seems to be making some sort of progress.

One of Lee’s projects that seems to have made the most progress is a “Book Adoption Project.” In an email, he stated his office will host a group of volunteers to connect with professors to buy books in bulk earlier in advance with student stores near campus — though he failed to explain how this will reduce the price of books for students, given that most books are already ordered this way.

Additionally, one of Lee’s major efforts has been doing work for international students, which has included planning International Education Week from Nov. 13-17 and advocating for a zero-unit CPT course for international students who hold F-1 Visas.

Overall, Lee’s work has largely been focused on delivering on his campaign promises. Given that Lee is only in the middle stages of most of his projects, he has time to do the necessary reflection needed to clarify the purpose and intent of his proposed changes next semester.

Vicente Román (Independent)

Vicente Román ran on a platform focused on uplifting the Latinx community and providing support for Fall Program for Freshmen students, both of which he’s taken some steps toward.

His office has worked on events such as Fiestas Patrias, a multi-event celebration of Latinx culture and community, and he has reached out to key parties such as the Berkeley Student Cooperative and Residential and Student Services Program to begin the process of creating spaces for Latinx students. With RSSP, he hopes to do this by expanding the Casa Magdalena Mora Theme Housing Program.

Overall, however, his progress seems surface level for being one semester in (granted, he’s working toward some lofty goals). We hope Román will be able to move the project past the discussion stage.

Román, concerned with the lack of STEM classes available to FPF students, reached out to the Academic Senate to discuss enhancing the curriculum, but he said in an email that he’s still “collaborating on finding a permanent solutions” that might include allowing students to take STEM classes on campus or online courses. Again, Roman’s office has not articulated  actionable deadlines for this goal.

Román said in the spring he would work to improve students’ financial literacy and support for students’ mental health. But what he wanted to do in both of these respects seems vague, and he’s made only incremental efforts. Based on Román’s reports, his office’s Mental Health and Wellness Department is clearly doing work behind the scenes, but his office’s Financial Wellness Department has only institutionalized office hours with Bears for Financial Success at FPF. We want to see more tangible effects set in place for both of these platforms.

Most notably, Román spearheaded a bill that diverted ASUC funds to support disaster relief efforts in Cuba, Dominica, Mexico and Puerto Rico. The passage of this bill taking concrete action, even though the vote was stalled for a bit, was impressive.  


Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Katerina Yamamoto is a member of the ASUC political party CalSERVE. In fact, she’s a member of Student Action.

A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that Vicente Román’s Financial Wellness Department had hosted an advising event for FPF students. In fact, the department institutionalized office hours with Bears for Financial Success at FPF.

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