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.
After living in three different countries, Alexander Wilfert has learned the importance of being flexible.
If elected ASUC president with the Student Action party, this flexibility will be key for Wilfert as he navigates a difficult campus climate. Wilfert, a junior political economy major and a self-identified “third culture kid” from a German and Lebanese background, said he was shaped by his family’s constant moving from nation to nation, making new friends and adapting to new environments.
Currently an ASUC senator, Wilfert has used this flexibility and “open mind” to successfully represent students on campus, according to senator Hung Huynh, the executive vice president candidate on the Student Action slate.
As Wilfert heads into his last week of campaigning, he said his mother and grandmother serve as his biggest inspirations. Wilfert’s mother and grandmother both left Lebanon in 1982 during the Lebanese Civil War and lived as refugees first in Greece and then in the United States, where they made a life for themselves, Wilfert said. They struggled through the war’s trauma and “poured everything” into raising Wilfert and his four siblings.
Talking to his grandmother about corruption in Lebanese politics inspired Wilfert to pursue activism, he said.
“My mom and grandma taught me a lot about empathy, about compassion, about being kind,” Wilfert said.
Born in New Jersey, Wilfert moved to Germany, where his father is from. From there, Wilfert moved to England, then to Seattle, then back to England — and now he studies at UC Berkeley.
At an international high school outside of London, Wilfert said he developed his own “consciousness” while studying with students from different international perspectives.
With his political economy major focused on the Middle East, he said he is interested in Arab nationalism and the region’s movement away from European colonization. He is also pursuing a history minor, adding that his academic interests cater to his hope to pursue public service.
Will Morrow, who was ASUC president for the 2016-17 academic year and who worked with Wilfert in the ASUC, said Wilfert would make an “excellent” president.
“He is someone who deeply cares about the campus,” Morrow said. “One thing that really strikes me about Alexander is that he is someone who is open to learning, open to being challenged on what he thinks.”
Wilfert first joined the ASUC his freshman year, working in former senator Karthik Prasad’s office, and he served as chief of staff for former senator Miranda Hernandez his sophomore year.
Outside of the ASUC, Wilfert’s time in the fraternity Chi Psi motivated him to run for senate. He saw potential for change at the chapter, where he helped to established new risk management tactics such as consent talks, active bystander awareness and hard alcohol bans.
These tactics became a model for the Interfraternity Council, or IFC, according to campus senior EJ Morera, who has worked with Wilfert to address sexual violence and alcohol abuse in the Greek community.
“Alex wanted to make his community better, even if that just meant starting with the people in his own backyard,” Morera said in a statement. “For Alex, change started with taking accountability for it, and so Alex had already instituted some of the things that we view as commonplace in the IFC now.”
Wilfert ran for senate to represent the international relations and ROTC communities — he was impacted by his low-income friend’s ability to attend college because of the ROTC program but saw that ROTC was “chronically underfunded.” He decided he wanted to make Berkeley students in the ROTC program feel supported, leading him to work with the Cal Veterans Group and secure more funding for events.
In fall 2017, as a financially insecure student, Wilfert waited in line at 8 a.m. to speak with a financial aid officer and find a way to save his classes from being canceled. The experience contributed to his strong stance on ending the Cancel for Non-Payment policy.
After advocating for communities, whether he is a member or not, Wilfert said he has seen the ASUC’s power to make change. He said his ability to adapt to different situations will help him support students of all backgrounds.
“As someone who is white-passing and someone who has experienced a lot of privilege in my life, I think it’s really important that I’m cognizant of that,” Wilfert said. “That’s going to be an emphasis of my office, … one of which we’re uplifting people of color, low-income and undocumented students to make sure their narrative is being heard.”