Congratulations, UC Berkeley students: You’ve just elected a squirrel to represent you.
On Monday, Chancellor Carol Christ sent a campuswide email calling for more students to join in the fight to stop further tuition hikes, even though just three months ago, she was justifying tuition increases at the UC Board of Regents meeting. This change didn’t come from nothing: Countless hours of work from elected student officials preceded it. Members of the ASUC commit their lives to helping fellow students — but now, that mission is at risk.
Aspects of last week’s ASUC election results prove that UC Berkeley students don’t take this advocacy work seriously. This is a travesty, given that the ASUC does thankless work in the interest of the student body.
It’s a shocking display of privilege to vote for a squirrel over candidates who have actual plans to help students who need it. Instead of electing qualified students who had real, tangible ideas — improving UCPD relations, boosting housing, bolstering sexual violence or mental health awareness — many of you (at least 538 strong) thought it might be a funny joke to have a man dressed up in a squirrel costume with no real platforms represent you at the administrative table.
The UC Berkeley Memes for Edgy Teens Facebook page generated countless jokes about “furry boi,” a satirical squirrel candidate whose human proxy is campus sophomore Stephen Boyle. The page’s endorsement of Boyle’s satirical campaign likely encouraged many uninformed students to jokingly vote for a squirrel for senate. But Boyle had no campaign promises — and he didn’t even show up to the tabulations ceremony. Still, you voted for him.
On a campus where roughly 20 percent of undergraduate students are transfers, instead of a single transfer representative in next year’s senate class, there’s a squirrel. Without a representative, there’s no guarantee that anyone in the ASUC will work to directly improve the transfer student experience in the coming school year.
Just as in national, state and city elections, it’s critical for student voters to be informed. But this ASUC election season showed that students just vote for the latest meme trend.
It’s not just that: So many students don’t vote at all. So many students vote for their one friend senate candidate and nothing else. And this year, so many students even voted in response to a fraternitywide email that seemed to borrow liberally from the fear-mongering rhetoric that fuels populist political campaigns. (Interfraternity Council President Jon Jay sent an email to his entire fraternity community on the first day of voting, absurdly urging brothers to “protect our way of life” by voting for the Student Action executive slate and certain senate candidates.)
Clearly, most students aren’t aware of the essential work that the ASUC does. It’s up to the new ASUC executives and senators to make sure that the student body takes the ASUC more seriously for the next election. With one of those senators being a squirrel, our confidence is wavering.