Editor’s note: This is one installment in a three-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.
UC Berkeley freshman Stephanie Gutierrez has helped lead many protests this year and now wants to try her hand at leading the ASUC.
Gutierrez, who is endorsed by the Defend Affirmative Action Party, or DAAP, is running for both ASUC president and Senate on a platform of social justice and equality for immigrants, people of color, women and all marginalized groups. She said she especially wants to focus on making UC Berkeley a sanctuary campus while defending immigrant and women’s rights.
“I understand that I’m fresh to the scene,” Gutierrez said. “But I believe in what I’m running for.”
Though she has not yet declared her major, Gutierrez has focused heavily on global studies and said she prioritizes activism and broader change.
“I’m not just interested in improving quality of life on campus in small ways,” Gutierrez said. “I want to restructure the system to make big change.”
Gutierrez moved around a lot growing up, but in high school she ended up in Claremont, a town in Southern California. She added that Claremont is a very encouraging place, as she was able to get the funding to advocate for the issues she cares about.
Gutierrez said she attended a liberal high school but still witnessed many incidents of woman- and immigrant-bashing. She attributed this type of conservative thinking to President Donald Trump’s election.
In response to these sentiments and to Trump’s inauguration, Gutierrez helped start a feminist club and participated in demonstrations at her high school campus. She added that her background is unique in that she has the ability to understand both marginalized and privileged perspectives.
“I see the issues of privilege, but am also from a privileged background,” Gutierrez said. “It’s easy to turn a blind eye and focus on your studies and let someone else handle it.”
Gutierrez, the daughter of Mexican and Colombian immigrants, said she identifies as female and Latina. She said that if the ASUC begins focusing on the issues of marginalized groups and on advocating for social issues, other people will not have to “drop their lives to get involved.”
“Gutierrez represents the marginalized students on campus because she is one herself,” DAAP senate candidate Mary Carrasco said.
Gutierrez added that she wants to bring broader social issues to the forefront of the ASUC, which she said the organization does not currently focus on enough. She said in its current state, the ASUC is too caught up in appeasing campus administration.
Gutierrez has been involved in DAAP and the activist group By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, since she arrived at UC Berkeley this academic year. BAMN activist Yvette Felarca, a former DAAP senator who has been helping Gutierrez with her campaign, has been vocal in her support for the freshman.
Felarca said she met Gutierrez earlier this year and got to know the presidential candidate through BAMN by attending rallies and organizing events together. Felarca said she supports Gutierrez because the candidate embodies what DAAP stands for — speaking truth to power and standing on principle, not career.
“She stood out as a leader early on. … She brings a freshness and a level of courage to the ASUC,” Felarca said. “We need people that are fresh to the campus and have that optimism — people that have not become cynical.”
Activism and immigrant rights have been the main focus of Gutierrez’s college career. She said the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, raids earlier this year were an important moment for the pro-immigrant movement. Gutierrez, along with BAMN, helped alert the community about the ongoing raids by notifying Berkeley High School students. She also held an emergency protest at Berkeley City Council to spread the news.
“These are the kinds of things that Stephanie has shown herself capable of doing, which is bringing a mass movement into Berkeley,” DAAP senate and student advocate candidate Casey Leeds said. “I don’t think any other candidate has been able to show this kind of commitment.”
According to Felarca, Gutierrez recognizes the historic role of campus students in nationwide activism and understands the power that college students have to bring about change.
Gutierrez said leading a national student movement is a “moral obligation.” She added that her involvement in BAMN-organized rallies has had a monumental influence on her platform.
“When you’re not afraid to speak out, you can get corporeal change,” Gutierrez said. “I’m willing to take action because I know there’s a movement of people behind me.”