For the first time in recent memory, The Daily Californian editorial board is endorsing candidates for the ASUC Senate. Voters rarely know enough about each candidate to fill all 20 ranked choice spots, so we put in the work to see which candidates would most productively use their senate seats and which candidates just don’t deserve votes.
Thirty-seven candidates are on the ballot this year, but there are only 20 seats in the senate. The board gave each candidate the opportunity to interview with one to two of its members to discuss their platforms.
There were several standards used to rate the candidates: open-minded and passionate attitude, tangible and impactful platforms and experience needed to navigate complex bureaucracy. The board also ensured that the senators it endorsed represented a diverse range of communities so there would be strong representation across the senate.
Here are the board’s rankings:
1) Saakshi Goel (Student Action)
Goel is the strongest candidate in the field and deserves to be elected. In an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members, Goel demonstrated a clear understanding of what it would take to revitalize Lower Sproul and a strong commitment to attainable platforms that would serve the South Asian community. Her platforms are rooted in the frustrations she has faced on campus. These experiences, together with her veteran status in the ASUC (she has worked in it for nearly three years already), mean she’ll be ready to hit the ground running on day 1.
2) Zach Carter (Student Action)
Carter offers thought-out solutions that build on his past work and experiences. As a student in the Disabled Students’ Program, he wants to integrate the DSP resources portal into CalCentral to make its services more easily accessible — an achievable goal.
Moreover, he plans to ensure the Interfraternity Council immediately connects survivors to PATH to Care. He also intends to create a hierarchical disciplinary system that includes mandatory re-education for repeat-chapter offenders. In an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members, Carter said, “My community is salvageable.” If Carter can actually implement these oversights, he might be right.
3) Amir Wright (CalSERVE)
If Wright could only accomplish one thing as an ASUC senator, he’d try to improve UCPD’s relationship with the community and implement proper sensitivity training. He cited the controversy surrounding UCPD’s arrest of David Cole as proof of the need for better police oversight.
Yet in an interview with members of the editorial board, Wright seemed most comfortable discussing his plans to advocate for more housing in Berkeley. His commitment to programming and marketing that would actually inform students about significant housing rules (such as rent limits) makes him a candidate worth supporting.
4) Sarah Abdeshahian (CalSERVE)
If elected to the ASUC Senate, Abdeshahian plans to mobilize the student body, empower women of color and hold UC regents accountable. These are lofty goals, but Abdeshahian’s track record indicates that she’s well-equipped to make them happen.
Abdeshahian’s accomplishments include assisting in the formation of the UC-wide Title IX student advisory board and leading demonstrations against tuition hikes. Her plan to implement a UC Berkeley Title IX student advisory board would create crucial campus reform that bodies such as the ASUC Sexual Violence Commission have struggled to implement.
5) Imran Khan (Independent)
Khan knows how to navigate the bureaucracy of ASUC spaces — he’s served as Senator Nuha Khalfay’s chief of staff, and he’s already worked on a number of projects to bolster the Muslim community at UC Berkeley. Khan has promised to institute a Middle Eastern and South Asian community theme program in campus residence halls and to create an online match application that will connect students with mental health resources. With his experience in the ASUC and his community, Khan seems poised to accomplish his goals as a senator.
6) Anna Whitney (Independent)
Whitney has ambitious platforms to increase sustainability efforts on campus. Her office would create and expand lending and reuse programs for everything from gardening equipment to course readers. She also intends to advocate for an herbicide-free campus.
Although the UC Berkeley Environmental Council, or ECO, recently dissolved, Whitney will effectively continue this year as an ECO senator of sorts if elected, with the current ECO senator Nina Jhunjhnuwala’s endorsement. With her experiences as a city zero-waste commissioner and an organizer with Fossil Free UC, we believe she is up to the task.
7) Teddy Lake (CalSERVE)
Running specifically to represent LGBTQ+ students, Lake proved in an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members that she would be an excellent negotiator at important administration meetings with the Division of Equity and Inclusion. Moreover, her goal of increasing queer and trans visibility by establishing an online publication is both achievable and useful.
In the sea of candidates attempting to tackle campus sexual violence, Lake’s clearly outlined plan stands out for its simple but impactful approach: establishing a “Survivor Sponsorship Program” that connects sexual violence survivors to mentors who share their experiences.
8) Idalys Pérez (CalSERVE)
While Pérez’s plans to address sexual violence are bold and broad, her experience working with the UC Student Association gives her the institutional knowledge to accomplish them.
If elected, Pérez would make Bear Pact a more effective prevention education. She would also create standards to hold student organizations — including fraternities — accountable to their communities. Pérez’s platforms lack some tangibility, but she proved her commitment to combating sexual violence when she helped organize a demonstration at a meeting of the UC Board of Regents that called for Norman Pattiz’s resignation. We believe her passion will translate to policy.
9) Neil McClintick (Student Action)
McClintick, who is a former Daily Cal columnist, will bring a rich skill set and important voice to the ASUC Senate with his own experience as a transfer student.
As his primary focus is to represent transfer students, McClintick plans to create more housing and inclusionary services for nontraditional students. And his experience as the chair of the ASUC Transfer and Nontraditional Communities Committee, as well as the outreach coordinator in the office of Senator Carmel Gutherz, make him well-equipped to tackle these important issues.
10) Nick Araujo (Independent)
Araujo is extraordinarily passionate about his platforms. He is one of the only candidates whose campaign centers on the important combination of educational equity, police reform and increasing professional development resources for the Latinx community.
Araujo plans to implement networking opportunities to connect UC Berkeley students and working alumni who are part of the Latinx or undocumented communities. Araujo told Daily Cal editorial board members that he recognizes the inaccessibility of the ASUC to certain communities on campus and, as a senator, he would begin the process of making the ASUC more inclusive of minority voices.
11) Angelica Santos (CalSERVE)
Santos has a firm grip on what the job of an ASUC senator entails — she’s already served as chief of staff to Senator Rizza Estacio and worked in former senator Benyamin bin Mohd Yusof’s office. She is endorsed by the Pilipinx community and has proven her dedication to that community through her consistent service.
Santos aims to increase access to mental health services by creating an automated online chat service and to secure a Tang Center counselor who caters to the Pilipinx community. She also wants to alleviate financial barriers to expensive textbooks and lab manuals by creating and expanding lending programs.
12) James Li (Student Action)
Each year, there is at least one senator who promises to serve the international community on campus — and this year, that candidate is Li.
Li hopes to expand international students’ orientation experience before they arrive on campus to help them acclimate to campus culture. He also plans to create more career development resources that are specifically geared toward international students. With the support of the international student community behind him and his experience in Senator Lynn Shiung’s office, Li will surely be able to accomplish his goals by the end of his term.
13) Anne Zepecki (Student Action)
Zepecki pledges to centralize academic resources and streamline job hunting for engineers. She also intends to create a diversity coalition within the engineering community that will serve underrepresented minorities to address diversity and inclusion issues.
She stands out as a strong candidate to represent the STEM community. Like many candidates, her platforms could use more clarity. Voters might not exactly know how she’s going to implement her goals as a senator. But her commitment to her community combined with her extensive ASUC experience cements her strength as a senate candidate.
14) Stephanie Luna-Lopez (Independent)
Luna-Lopez wants to grow the Latinx theme program and work closely with bridges Multicultural Resource Center. As a staffer in ASUC Senator Vicente Román’s office, she organized a town hall between Chancellor Carol Christ and Latinx community members — and students should vote for candidates who have proven that they can connect their communities with top campus officials.
In an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members, Luna-Lopez demonstrated that she knew which administrators would help accomplish her goals. But it’s unclear whether she had a Plan B should officials be unresponsive, which is often the case.
15) Gabriel Louis-Kayen (Student Action)
Louis-Kayen wants to address basic needs security. In a 2015 survey, 48 percent of undergraduate students and 25 percent of graduate students in the UC reported being food-insecure, and that’s reason enough to support a candidate committed to focusing on this issue. As a senator, Louis-Kayen would make CalFresh EBT credit an accepted form of payment at Golden Bear Cafe and increase student enrollment in the CalFresh program through marketing campaigns.
He’s lower on our list because his platforms to address pre-law job training seem unrefined and low-impact, and his idea to create a buddy system for night safety needs to critically consider the “stranger danger” axiom.
16) Aaron Bryce Lee (Independent)
As both a member of the East Asian community and a policy writer in the ASUC, Lee is qualified to secure the necessary funds to realize his vision of unifying the East Asian community. But he was vague about actual programming and event ideas in an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members.
Given the campus’s ballooning student fees, voters should admire his emphasis on financial accountability. He also hopes to tap into the business and tech prowess of students to bolster the ASUC’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer.
17) Andy Theocharous (Student Action)
Theocharous would bring valuable insight to the ASUC Senate representing Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, and veteran interests. In addition, he wants to nix what he calls “unfair” Golden Bear Orientation rent costs — a worthy goal, but one that won’t be achieved through lobbying alone, as he suggested in an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members.
Drawing from his experience, he wants to establish zero-unit (read: free) Curricular Practical Training classes to help international students pursue summer internships. But he was vague about how he would accomplish this in light of past senators’ failed attempts.
18) Amma Sarkodee-Adoo (Student Action)
Sarkodee-Adoo’s focus on diversifying the Greek community and other clubs on campus is vital, even if her solutions don’t quite hit the mark. Waiving fees for low-income students interested in rushing Greek organizations won’t fix Greek life’s systemic diversity issues — and regardless, that goal seems out of reach for an ASUC senator.
Her experience working in the ASUC Office of the President provides her with valuable institutional knowledge. Her plan to connect more students with city politics would certainly be helpful, even if countless candidates over the years have been trying to do that.
19) Justin Illescas (CalSERVE)
Illescas’ goal to begin constructive conversations with administrators about ADA compliance and to bring back the Disabled Students’ Readiness Program, which was removed in 2016, is laudable. But he still has a lot to learn about institutional campus structures — and the bureaucratic obstacles he will inevitably face — before he’s ready to execute his vision.
Based on an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members, his plans to tackle housing issues seemed ill-informed, even though he has served on the ASUC Housing Commission in 2017-18. Illescas should follow through on advocating for his ambitious plans, because few others will.
20) Tashie Williams-Powell (CalSERVE)
Williams-Powell brings up the rear of our pack because her understanding of the ASUC is limited and a few of her platforms seem inactionable. In an interview with Daily Cal editorial board members, she said she didn’t really know the mechanics of the ASUC. Her commitment to bolstering the nontraditional student experience, however, is too important not to be represented in the ASUC Senate. Her goal of mitigating issues at University Village — including mold, power outages and extended repair wait times — is admirable. We hope that she will rise to the occasion.