One year after launching their campaigns for ASUC Senate — touting posters on Sproul Plaza, pitching their platforms to students and publicizing on Facebook — this year’s cohort of ASUC senators will be replaced by a new group of 20 candidates April 12, leaving behind not only empty seats but a string of both completed and unfinished projects.
Candidates typically run on three platforms that they aim to accomplish during the senate term. This year’s senators have found mixed success with achieving their platforms within the academic year, according to several members of the 2017-18 cohort.
Megha Torpunuri, a campus sophomore who ran with Student Action, campaigned on the promise of improving transportation and access to menstrual products on campus. Torpunuri was successful in securing $26,000 to make the products available in each of the eight “REST zones” on campus, including the Tang Center and Moffitt Library.
Although Torpunuri entered office with the intent of adding a new Bear Transit bus route through the south side of campus, her vision to implement such a bus line did not come to fruition during her term.
“Ideally, there would be another Bear Transit route by now,” Torpunuri said.
Torpunuri cited the time constraints of a one-year term as an obstacle to achieving campaign platforms. She added that senators often found that they had to narrow the scope of their policy goals as a result of administrative backlog.
“Some advice I would give to current candidates is that most platforms are possible, but they will take longer than expected,” Torpunuri said. “It’s as simple as waiting for two weeks … for an administrator to respond for a key email.”
Senator Taehan Lee, who ran as an independent after an unsuccessful attempt to join the Student Action slate, also adjusted his platform around student safety once he began his work with the ASUC Senate this year.
While Lee did find success in installing security cameras at the Clark Kerr Campus, he was unable to fulfill his original plan to address the lack of lighting at University Village, an off-campus residential complex that mainly houses graduate students and student-parents.
“You run into a lot of roadblocks, you run into a lot of bureaucratic obstacles, like when we were talking to the administration about changing lighting and safety resources,” Lee said.
Some issues the ASUC aims to tackle are those that cannot be accomplished by a single senator in a single term. Such initiatives — such as campus safety — become long-term projects that involve the collective, ongoing efforts of many senators over the course of several years.
“Safety is a thing that years of senators have worked on and my intent was to continue that effort from the onset, not that I would solve the effort overnight or in my term but to contribute to it and for other future senators to come,” Lee said.
In fact, it is not unusual for senators to pass down one of their projects to an incoming senator, particularly when that senator is of the same party affiliation, according to Harshil Bansal, a campus junior who ran with CalSERVE but is now independent.
Bansal ran on the platforms of accountability in the ASUC, housing accessibility and affordability for international students. Though he was unable to close a deal to provide summer storage for international students, he said he plans to pass down that work down to a new senator next semester.
Reflecting on his yearlong term in the ASUC Senate, Bansal said he could have better engaged the staffers in his office to create a more positive work atmosphere, particularly for younger, less experienced staffers.
“There’s a big issue with the ASUC that a lot of people join in the fall of their freshman year and become disillusioned,” Bansal said. “I could have done a better job of engaging the people in my team, and looking back it really was a big learning experience.”
Bansal was not alone. The low retention rate of ASUC office staffers also impacted the rollout of CalSERVE senator Hani Hussein’s platforms, which included mental health care for students of color, financial wellness for low-income students and investment in Black education.
Hussein said she was most successful in implementing financial welfare efforts by hosting workshops for students filling out appeal forms with the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships. She was unable, however, to do away with that process entirely, as she originally intended to.
“Realistically, the best you can do is lay down a foundation and hope people build off of it,” Hussein said.
Lee added that partisanship within the senate has further slowed down the policymaking process, particularly when the two largest campus parties — Student Action and CalSERVE — disagree on a certain policy.
“Some senators came into this space unwilling to work with each other. The ASUC has, of course, had years that were as hostile as mine, but it had been shifting to senators all working together,” Lee said. “I think we took a step backward this year.”