UC Berkeley junior Nava Bearson announces independent candidacy for ASUC student advocate

Stephanie Li/Staff

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UC Berkeley junior Nava Bearson announced her independent candidacy for ASUC student advocate Monday night for the 2019 ASUC elections.

Bearson, who is studying cognitive science, said she first got involved with the Student Advocate’s Office, or SAO, during her freshman year as a caseworker, working one-on-one with students accused of violating the campus code of conduct. When she entered the SAO as a freshman, Bearson said, she was especially focused on restorative justice, but now, as a junior, she aims to focus more broadly on the student experience.

In fall 2018, Bearson became a co-chief of staff for the SAO, working closely with current student advocate and campus senior Sophie Bandarkar.

“I’ve become even more passionate about housing security and basic needs security,” Bearson said. “I’ve developed a more holistic perspective on the student experience and things that can be improved.”

The SAO is one of five ASUC executive offices but is the only office to conduct peer-to-peer casework for students with issues against the campus. The role of the student advocate is to maintain a welcoming, nonpartisan office, communicate with the rest of the ASUC and inform policy work by looking to SAO casework, according to Bandarkar.

During her time at the SAO, Bearson has led outreach for the winter break housing program and worked to provide resources for housing-insecure students who might potentially be homeless during winter break. This academic year, Bearson worked to secure $30,000 in one-time emergency grants for struggling students with dependents. She also currently serves as a resident assistant, an experience Bearson said has furthered her understanding of the student experience.

Bearson’s platform largely focuses on streamlining student resources, implementing equitable disciplinary procedures and supporting basic needs security. If elected, she aims to enhance the work done by the SAO’s free casework offices, support the newly established Basic Needs Center and push for incorporating restorative justice into campus conflict resolution.

Bearson added that she hopes to advocate for academic and financial advising resources for students considering withdrawal and raise awareness regarding academic accommodations, especially for students with “invisible” disabilities such as depression and anxiety.

In addition to her SAO work, Bearson sits on the Coordinated Community Review Team for Sexual and Gender-Based Violence and Misconduct. If elected, she aims to advocate for increased resources to encourage “timeliness and transparency” in processing campus sexual violence and sexual harassment cases.

Bandarkar said she thinks Bearson and her platforms will successfully steer the SAO after Bandarkar graduates in May. The two women met nearly three years ago when Bandarkar trained Bearson as a caseworker, and they have since collaborated on many SAO projects.

“I think she’s by far the best person for the role,” Bandarkar said. “She has my full endorsement.”

Voting for the ASUC elections will be held April 8, 9 and 10.

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.