UC Berkeley juniors Aastha Jha, representing Student Action, and Regan Putnam, representing CalSERVE, are going head-to-head for the position of academic affairs vice president, or AAVP, in the 2019 ASUC elections, each with platforms that address diversity and representation, wellness and accessibility to resources.
The AAVP manages the relationship between students and the academic senate and faculty. The office appoints students to campus committees, meets with administrative officials and manages the distribution of ASUC scholarships and grants.
Jha, who is studying economics and data science, is the current chief of staff under AAVP Melany Amarikwa and is running on a platform that aims to improve academic resource equity, wellness, faculty accountability and food security in order for students to “thrive” on campus.
“When I see something wrong, my first instinct is to find a solution to fix it,” Jha said. “Since my freshman year, I’ve been seeing things around me … ‘This needs to change.’ That’s why I joined student government.”
If elected, Jha said she will increase academic resources by expanding laptop rentals from Moffitt Library and contextualizing grades for recruiters in an effort to address “grade deflation.” Jha said she will also focus on student wellness by expanding sexual health programs and increasing the number of vending machines that include first-aid kits and contraceptives.
Putnam, who goes by they/them pronouns and is studying data science, served as chief of staff to former ASUC Senator Juniperangelica Cordova. They are running on platforms that address “institutional cracks” and improving the short-term support offered on campus while also creating long-term solutions that increase diversity, accessibility and wellness.
“To reach that dream of what UC Berkeley can be, we have to dream big and we have to stick the landing,” Putnam said. “We have to have bold yet pragmatic solutions, and my track record and passion for this work makes me the most qualified candidate for this position.”
Putnam aims to increase the quantity, accessibility and visibility of resources on campus for all students. They will also push for increased student diversity, representation and equity regardless of identity. They also hope to create a long-term wellness solution to combat “toxic” campus culture that prioritizes academics over health, in addition to ensuring that mental and physical healthcare includes support for sexual violence.
Amarikwa said the AAVP office is unique because it is already “set in motion” — it is not defined by a party, and those who are new to the office must learn how it functions. She added that she brought Jha on as the chief of staff because she saw that she was highly motivated.
Jha added that though she has worked in the AAVP’s office for two years, there is still more for her to learn about navigating the office and executing initiatives.
“I saw last year how having an AAVP who’s already been in the office made for a much smoother transition,” Jha said. “Sometimes we forget how important continuity is and that’s one of the biggest gripes of the ASUC — our high turnover rate.”
Putnam said that as AAVP, they will continue to advocate for students with their previously acquired skills for fundraising, policymaking, organizing and engagement with faculty and staff.
Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Steve Sutton, who was interviewed in a personal capacity, said that Putnam plays a key leadership role in advising him on important student matters as the liaison for the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Council.
“Regan is organized, thoughtful, insightful about a large range of campus issues, inquisitive, articulate and approachable,” Sutton said. “Regan fully commits themselves to being a productive, trusted and hard working student leader.”
Voting for the ASUC elections will be held April 8, 9 and 10.