The 2020 ASUC elections ballot will include a transfer student representative position for the first time.
The position was established through the Transfer Remedy Act, which was included in the ASUC 2019 elections ballot and sponsored by former ASUC president Alexander Wilfert. The new seat will have the ability to vote and will hold the same responsibilities as senators but is not a senate or executive position, according to the ASUC constitution.
“Since we have no prior precedent, what the constitution has said is that the transfer representative is there to provide the unique voice to the table which has historically been lacking, and the passage of the act will correct some of those wrongs,” said ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert.
Despite 29.5% of the 2018-19 incoming class being made up of transfer students, no transfer student served as an ASUC elected official that year, according to the campus Office of Planning and Analysis. Similar trends can be seen in prior years, including in 2014 and 2015, according to the Transfer Remedy Act.
A lack of representation created a demand for an established position that could represent and advocate for the needs of transfer students, according to Wilfert. He added that the absence of transfer students within the senate during his term as ASUC president highlighted for him the lack of any consistent voice.
“The key is an institutionalized advocacy for the transfer experience, and we need to make sure that transfers are being represented in administrative spaces,” Wilfert said. “To be able to do that, you need to have representatives and we can not leave that up to chance.”
This year, three students are running for the transfer student representative position: campus juniors Valerie Johnson and Abel De La Cruz and campus senior Risa Fulkerson. Campus junior Augusto Gonzalez dropped out of the race to focus on his campaign for the external affairs vice president position.
According to De La Cruz, the creation of the seat is vital for serving underrepresented and nontraditional student groups on campus. While the success of the role depends on the individual elected to the position, according to Fulkerson, the seat will work toward improving the experience of transfer students.
The transfer representative will be able to provide a unique perspective on the senate that could only come from a transfer student, according to Senator Carolyn Le. She added that one of the difficulties transfer students face when running for elected positions is that they arrive on campus later than other students.
“My hope is that through the ASUC Transfer Representative position, they will have the ability to help build a foundation to support future transfer students who want to get involved in student government,” Le said in an email.
While the Transfer Remedy Act referendum was passed with 7,782 votes, it was initially met with some debate. According to ASUC Chief Legal Officer Jedidiah Tseng, there were concerns that the creation of a reserved seat for a subset of the UC Berkeley student population could become standard in the future.
Tseng added that the act was amended to reflect these concerns and that the position is not solely limited to transfer students. According to the ASUC constitution, there is no requirement that prohibits nontransfer students from running for the position.
In addition to the transfer representative position, transfer students can still run for any other elected position in the ASUC, according to Weichert.
“The establishment of this position is connecting our community more than it ever has,” Johnson said. “Students who couldn’t get the resources they needed through the ASUC now have a more direct path to cut through the bureaucracy.”