Alleged CalSERVE resource controversy highlights divisions within ASUC

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Update 2/28/2020: this article has been updated to reflect additional information from CalSERVE coalition member Teddy Lake.

UC Berkeley’s oldest active student government partywhich suffered significant senate and executive defeats last election cycle has allegedly encountered another major loss.

On Feb. 25, CalSERVE coalition member and former ASUC senator Teddy Lake alleged to The Daily Californian that ASUC independent senator Liam Will and campus junior Emmett Coleman “stole” files from CalSERVE’s campaign folders. Lake provided screenshot evidence that proved Coleman shared various CalSERVE files, among which included a campaigning schedule, campaigning reflections and contact information.

“The documents I used were used in the races before me — built upon for years by leaders. People build on them to figure out how to be better and how to build more honest campaigns,” Lake said.

Coleman called the matter a “completely stupid mistake,” according to screenshots from a Facebook message that included Lake along with Will and Jedidiah Tsang, the ASUC chief legal officer. Coleman, who has made their own major in solidarity studies, said they previously worked on seven ASUC campaigns, including Lake’s presidential campaign last year. Lake, however, denies that Coleman was on her campaign, saying they might have supported it but were not one of the 10 people working on it.

They added that if there ever was a hypothetical intention to take CalSERVE’s resources, they would have not made the matter so public, and that in an effort to share their personal campaign files, they “accidentally” included other files without the consent of their owners.

“Although my intent was to help those left out by the party binary by sharing the knowledge I have gained over the years, my impact – which is always more important – was one which broke the trust of a party I greatly respect,” Coleman said in a statement to The Daily Californian. “I apologize to Senator Liam Will for involving him in this mess. I promise he has done nothing wrong.”

Will said he included Coleman on a shared campaign resource folder when he heard that they were a CalSERVE volunteer with a passion for safe space initiatives. When Will learned about the situation, however, he reported the incident to the ASUC Elections Council and reached out to every CalSERVE senator about the matter. Will has since disaffiliated from Coleman.

“The CalSERVE chair has left me on read, two CalSERVE senators have left me on read; we have not engaged in any conversation,” Will said. “Although it’s great to explain what happened to the Daily Cal … It’s more effective to have conversation with CalSERVE. People have ignored my outreach. I want to partake in dialogue about what happened.”

Lake called The Daily Californian 21 minutes before Coleman responded to the allegations in a group Facebook message.

Coleman echoed similar concerns with the status of the CalSERVE party. They were concerned that CalSERVE executives did not engage in dialogue with them about the “mistakes” before reaching out to the press, leaving them “on read” or unfriending them.

“If we actually believe in helping others, we would share as many campaign resources as possible, especially when independent candidates are left on the sidelines. If we actually want to help others, we have to stop othering,” Coleman said in the statement.

Lake alleged that the “mistake” was something more. She said the files shared could hypothetically help its users “get ahead” and “get voters without doing the work.”

ASUC Senator Nicole Anyanwu added that she was disheartened Coleman had allegedly “manipulated” access to the CalSERVE materials without permission or authorization.

“This folder was built on the backs of marginalized folks, who combined what they could to provide themselves with a strategic edge when it came to understanding the dynamics of elections and ensuring that they secured much needed seats in the Senate,” Anyanwu said in an email. “How dare you! … They weren’t even my resources, they were a gift that had been passed down to a select few for trusted usage.”

Coleman alleged that there had been no guidelines upon reception of the CalSERVE folder — a folder that roughly 50 other associates can access. They received the folder after years of working on CalSERVE campaigns.

Will raised the issue of disorganization among CalSERVE stakeholders — he said there must be clearer conversation in the future about those who have access to the Google Drive folders. Coleman added that the incident highlights the apparent lack of trust within the ASUC as a whole.

The current controversies surrounding CalSERVE — the party that prioritizes the recruitment and retention of marginalized students, according to its website — might well carry into the election season. According to a Feb. 27 press release, CalSERVE will take a one-year hiatus and not run any candidates under the official party banner in the 2020 election.

ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert said the Elections Council could not comment on ongoing investigations.

Lake expressed her anger with the matter and said she intended to call the ASUC elections prosecutor. Will has since invited every CalSERVE senator to look at his laptop to prove that he has created, not copied, campaign material. Coleman, meanwhile, does not want to get “canceled.”

Contact Alex Casey at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @acasey.