Candidates for ASUC executive positions went head-to-head Tuesday night at an annual ASUC elections forum hosted by The Daily Californian.
About 100 students crowded together to attend the forum, moderated by Daily Cal opinion editor Kaitlyn Hodge.
Academic affairs vice president, or AAVP, candidates Aastha Jha and Regan Putnam began the forum with a lively debate regarding their platforms, both of which include improving campus mental health programs.
Jha, who is running with Student Action, identified her main policy platforms as improving mental health care, combating food insecurity and hiring faculty members who are more representative of the student body.
“Students are forgoing their mental health in order to keep up with the rigor (of academics),” Jha said. “It’s time UC Berkeley stops hiding behind their reputation of being the No. 1 public university in the world and starts taking care of its students.”
CalSERVE AAVP candidate Putnam, who uses they/them pronouns, said if elected, they aim to focus their work on mental health, securing funding for marginalized students — including LGBTQ+ students and those registered with the Disabled Students’ Program — and expanding campus accessibility for low-income students.
Campus junior Nava Bearson, who is running unopposed for student advocate, said she will focus on maintaining the nonpartisanship of the office, promoting basic needs and instituting more equitable disciplinary policies.
Bearson was followed by external affairs vice president candidate Varsha Sarveshwar, who is also running unopposed.
“I was in Sacramento all day, and I got back just in time for, I guess, this debate with myself,” Sarveshwar said, to laughter from audience members.“At the end of the day, I really care about this work.”
Executive vice president, or EVP, candidates Andy Theocharous and Maureen Simmons went head-to-head next, marking the first time since 2016 that candidates from Student Action and CalSERVE have competed against each other for the position.
Current ASUC Senator Theocharous, who is representing Student Action, said he hopes to “build bridges between the students and the university.”
Simmons, a transfer student running with CalSERVE, said she brings more than 20 years of human resources management and negotiation experience to the position.
“I am not here to tickle your ears — I’m here to deliver results,” Simmons said. “If you want results, you will vote for me for EVP.”
Finishing up the forum, the four presidential candidates engaged in debate, with their platforms often clashing.
Current ASUC Senator Amma Sarkodee-Adoo, who is running with Student Action, said she was inspired to run for president because she has “existed at the intersections of this university” as a Black woman in the Panhellenic community.
CalSERVE presidential candidate and current ASUC Senator Teddy Lake said she aims to use her platform for ASUC president as a “tunnel for student voices to navigate through.”
Stephanie Gutierrez, representing the Defend Affirmative Action Party/Fighting for Immigrant Rights and Equality, is running on a platform that focuses on resisting the Trump administration.
“These are three terrific candidates, probably way more qualified than I am,” said independent presidential candidate Wyatt Colby in his closing statement. “I just hope — because obviously only one person can win — that we’re not enemies.”
Voting for the ASUC elections will be held April 8, 9 and 10.