UC Berkeley junior Nava Bearson is running as an independent candidate for ASUC student advocate in the upcoming 2019 elections.
Bearson, a cognitive science major and public policy minor, is the current chief of staff in the Student Advocate’s Office, or SAO. According to Bearson, the job involves working closely with the current student advocate Sophie Bandarkar, delegating the SAO’s casework and overseeing the office.
“I’ve read each and every case that’s come into our office,” Bearson said. “I’ve gained an intimate understanding of the breadth of student experiences.”
According to Bearson, the student advocate oversees the SAO’s approximately 50 student caseworkers, improves the quality and accessibility of the SAO’s services, protects student rights and ensures that students are aware of their rights. In addition, the student advocate can push for policy changes determined by trends in cases seen by the SAO.
The first of several platforms Bearson is running on is to increase free and confidential services provided by the SAO, and to maintain the nonpartisanship and independence of the SAO.
“It’s my goal to create policies and create partnerships to solve problems identified by trends in our casework,” Bearson said.
Bearson’s next platform revolves around basic needs security. Her goal is to “support the newly opened Basic Needs Center and the implementation of the housing support protocol.”
According to Bearson, the housing support protocol is a partnership between Student Affairs, the Basic Needs Center and the SAO to reduce housing insecurity by more efficiently directing students to the best resources.
Another one of Bearson’s goals is to ensure student oversight on the Basic Needs Referendum. According to Bearson, playing “a key role in the development of this referendum” allowed her to see its nuances.
The referendum, which will go to a vote on the ballot this year, would add $15 per semester to every student’s tuition. This fee would go toward students facing housing and food insecurity, according to Bearson.
“The reason that we as the SAO decided to run it this year is because there is no consistent funding for basic needs on this campus,” Bearson said.
Bearson is also running on a platform of increasing awareness around the withdrawal and readmission processes. According to Bearson, the SAO’s casework shows that students do not have appropriate information about these processes and alternative options.
If elected, Bearson also aims to increase awareness and education around eligibility for academic accommodations and the types of accommodations available to students.
In addition, Bearson aims to increase student representation on the Academic Senate to give students input on high-level academic policy changes.
Bearson’s next platform is to push for more equitable disciplinary practices through the incorporation of restorative justice into formal and informal disciplinary processes.
“Restorative justice is something I’ve been passionate about for a really long time on a personal level,” Berson said. “(It) allows us to move on in a way that’s more transformative and productive for everyone involved.”
According to Bearson, working with several students on the student conduct policy and Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment policy has given her “insight into the process and where it needs to change.”
Bandarkar said in an email that Bearson’s platforms are strong and speak to the SAO’s long-term priorities.
“I fully endorse and support Nava(‘s) candidacy for student advocate,” Bandarkar said in an email. “She’s an exceptional candidate, has done so much work for students in her first three years in the SAO and in her community, and will do an incredible job as Advocate — she’s the only qualified person to do the job.”
Voting for the ASUC elections will be held April 8, 9 and 10.