DAAP/FIRE presidential candidate Stephanie Gutierrez looks to uplift marginalized students

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Editor’s note: This is one installment in a four-part series on this year’s candidates for ASUC president. Read about the other candidates here.

UC Berkeley sophomore Stephanie Gutierrez has been an advocate for marginalized communities since high school, and if elected ASUC president, she hopes to use her own experience in activism to inspire action in the campus community.

Gutierrez is running for the presidency representing the Defend Affirmative Action Party/Fighting for Immigrant Rights and Equality, or DAAP/FIRE party, as she did in the 2018 election cycle, on a platform to protect students by leading campuswide movements to support President Donald Trump’s impeachment and affirmative action in the 2019 ASUC presidential race.

Gutierrez studies sociology and American studies. She came to Berkeley from Claremont, a city on the outskirts of Los Angeles, where she was raised by Mexican and Colombian immigrant parents. In high school, she led a feminist club and demonstrations in response to Trump’s inauguration at her school.

“What really inspires me is what I’ve learned about student movements on this campus,” Gutierrez said. “UC Berkeley has always had this position and power of authority. We are truly what can break (from) the pack.”

In her time at UC Berkeley, Gutierrez has participated in activism relating to a variety of issues. She said at the election forum that she was there to “run out the ‘alt-right’ ” from Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park during a confrontation between ralliers and counterprotesters in 2017. She added that she participated in the protests against conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos the same year.

In 2018, she said she called for action again when the campus learned about the sexual assault allegations against Brett Kavanaugh before his Supreme Court appointment. Earlier this year, Gutierrez said she also helped organize the Oakland Teachers’ Strike, which she said strengthened her leadership ability.

Additionally, she along with the activist organization By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, notified community members and Berkeley High School students of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, raids last year. Campus senior Casey Leeds previously told The Daily Californian that this involvement proves Gutierrez is capable of bringing a “mass movement” to Berkeley.

BAMN activist and former DAAP senator Yvette Felarca has known Gutierrez since her freshman year when Gutierrez first joined BAMN, and last year, Felarca helped Gutierrez with her campaigns.

“She absolutely optimizes the vision of DAAP/FIRE,” Felarca said. “She understands that we have the capacity to change history, and she has confidence in the power of students on this campus.”

Gutierrez added that “racist attacks,” such as ICE’s detention of immigrants, trickle down into institutions such as UC Berkeley and can affect minority student enrollment. In defense of affirmative action, she said the ASUC must continue to fight Proposition 209, which banned college campuses in California from considering race, sex and ethnicity in admissions decisions.

For Gutierrez, the mass movement she hopes to address as ASUC president is the push to remove Trump from office. She added at the forum that UC Berkeley should create a “call to action” to inspire campus walkouts and protests nationally.

“What’s different this election season is that … there is more at stake,” Gutierrez said. “A year has gone by, and things have just escalated. Another year has fueled the fire even more.”

Gutierrez also said that having only a small percentage of some minority groups on campus that do not reflect national demographics further isolates marginalized students. She specifically referenced UC Berkeley’s low portion of Black and Latinx students and said she wants to improve the resources for these communities. She added, however, that these resources cannot be utilized if these communities aren’t represented on campus.

Ideally, Gutierrez would like to see the number of Black, Latinx, Native American and Southeast Asian students doubled, which she said could potentially be achieved through a sit-in protest at UC admissions offices. With Prop. 209 still in place, Gutierrez said she wouldn’t be surprised by a “conservative” organization picking a legal battle over affirmative action but said that is a fight UC Berkeley should take to court to potentially get the proposition overturned entirely.

Additionally, Gutierrez said she hopes the ASUC can become a sanctuary institution for undocumented students. She also would call for tribunals to support sexual misconduct survivors on campus. She added that this would alert the community about who the perpetrators are and discourage other potential perpetrators.

“All of these demands need to be completely independent of administration,” Gutierrez said. “When students take matters into their own hands, change happens.”

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_.