EAVP candidate Varsha Sarveshwar seeks to increase student representation on campus

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UC Berkeley junior Varsha Sarveshwar is running unopposed as CalSERVE’s candidate for external affairs vice president, or EAVP, in the upcoming 2019 ASUC elections, campaigning on a platform to make student voices heard in “spaces of power” that make policy decisions affecting the campus community.

The EAVP represents the ASUC external campus issues, working with the local government, lobbying in state government and sitting on the University of California Student Association Board of Directors.

“The EAVP office is one of the biggest functioning offices within the ASUC… (there are) so many moving parts,” said current EAVP Nuha Khalfay. “Whoever holds it needs to really understand the gravity.”

Sarveshwar previously served as the Fund the UC campaign manager to former EAVP Rigel Robinson, continuing on to manage Robinson’s successful 2018 campaign for Berkeley’s City Council District 7. She currently serves as Khalfay’s State Affairs Director.

Sarveshwar’s platform can be broken down into three key focuses — “Our University,” “The City and Community” and “Beyond Berkeley.”

The first part of her platform addresses university policy and includes fighting for Fund the UC, reforming and expanding the Cal Grant and Pell Grant programs and opposing cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. To accomplish these goals, she aims to leverage her current relationships with other UC student leaders to “build a unified coalition.”

Within the first part of Sarveshwar’s platform is her desire to “strengthen the Title IX process,” saying in her written platform that she will hold the UC accountable should it place perpetrators ahead of survivors, as well as pressure the state to incorporate Title IX guidelines into state law.

The second part of Sarveshwar’s platform includes efforts to increase student representation on City Council and engage students in city affairs. Regarding organizing with communities, Sarveshwar stressed the importance of not speaking on behalf of students but instead extending her platform to the students themselves.

Due to the current housing crisis, Sarveshwar said in her written platform that she also advocates for building more affordable housing, as well as taller and denser student housing directly around campus.

“When it comes to housing, students are paying more and more and getting less and less,” Sarveshwar said in her written platform. “The housing crisis forces far too many students to commute to campus, and leaves many of them without secure housing.”

Sarveshwar titled the final part of her platform “Beyond Berkeley.” According to Sarveshwar, the campus is a “moral compass” at the forefront of important conversations, thus it is necessary for students’ voices to be heard at the national level, especially with the upcoming 2020 primary elections.

As EAVP, she said she would continue voter outreach and education efforts implemented by previous EAVPs, as well as demand that election day be made an academic and administrative holiday and automatic voter registration be incorporated into CalCentral. Since 2020 is a census year, she will also promote education and awareness about the census and partner with campus and local officials to coordinate census outreach efforts.

Khalfay, Robinson and community members, such as Mayor Jesse Arreguín, have endorsed Sarveshwar. Khalfay said Sarveshwar is already “thinking outside the box” by encouraging census participation and building on the platforms of previous EAVPs.

“Varsha Sarveshwar is a truly rare student leader, better prepared to employ the full potential of this role than any EAVP in recent years, myself very much included,” Robinson said in an email. “I endorse her wholeheartedly.”

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

Sabina Mahavni covers student life. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sabina_mahavni.