ASUC presidential candidate Khwal Rafique intends to fight ‘tooth and nail’ for student interests

Photo of Khwal Rafique

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

After watching her community face a “genocidal threat, physical and mental harassment and isolation,” ASUC presidential candidate Khwal Rafique decided she wanted to help alleviate the pain that marginalized communities feel on campus.

Rafique is a sophomore studying legal studies who currently serves as the director of the Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian, or MEMSSA, student association, internal director of the Muslim Mental Health Initiative and an undergraduate representative on a chancellor’s committee.

As MEMSSA director, Rafique created a bCourses module dedicated to MEMSSA students, hosted a panel of activists who spoke about the importance of self-care in advocacy and worked to create a South Asian, Southwest Asian and North African space on campus, according to her campaign manager Tasnia Chowdhury.

Endorsed by the South Asian Coalition, the ASUC president, the ASUC external affairs vice president and various organizations within the MEMSSA student association, Rafique’s campaign is focused on community organizing, a factor that she said is the reason she wanted to run independently of a party.

“Running independently is the only correct choice when you’re running a campaign rooted in community,” Rafique said in an email. “Your campaign is a representation of what your time in office will look like. If a candidate is willing to give up morals to run with a party that has historically put down certain communities, then I couldn’t trust that candidate to run their office with morals.”

Rafique believes that, in upcoming years, campus’ interests may not align with students’ interests due to financial constraints resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. She said the primary reason she chose to run was to ensure the person in the position puts student interests first by fighting “tooth and nail” for them.

Chowdhury noted that another motivation for Rafique’s presidential bid was that she would open doors for others through her campaign.

“ASUC positions, especially the executive slate, are historically gatekept,” Chowdhury said in an email. “If Khwal’s campaign does one thing, I hope that it inspires others outside of the ASUC bubble to run.”

Rafique’s platforms are outlined in the “ABC’s”: accessibility, belonging and connection. Accessibility, in this case, refers to advocating for more community spaces and spaces that counter the “toxic productivity culture” on campus. Additionally, Rafique wants campus academics to be more equitable, and she wants to expand Basic Needs programs.

Another of Rafique’s goals is to help all students feel a sense of belonging on campus. To do so, she plans to advocate for a better connection between students and campus administrators and to ensure transparency within the ASUC Office of the President by holding town hall meetings and releasing monthly newsletters, among other initiatives.

“I want to ensure that the ASUC embodies the values of transparency, honesty, and empowerment,” Rafique said in her email. “Being elected to a senate or executive position doesn’t make anyone ‘better’ than any of the students … I want to ensure we create major progress in actually serving the students.”

Rafique added that she plans on changing the ASUC culture by listening to the needs of communities and including them in relevant conversations.

The first thing she would do as ASUC president, Rafique noted, would be to meet with the leaders of different campus communities, a promise that Chowdhury is confident Rafique will act on.

“I have watched Khwal time and time again fight tooth and nail for her peers no matter how hard it gets,” Chowdhury said in her email. “I hope I can get across how much I believe that she’s the only candidate who will genuinely advocate for marginalized communities, and not just use the presidency as another point on her resume.”

ASUC elections will be held virtually from April 5 to April 7.

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.