For many UC Berkeley students, the status quo on campus is not one they want to return to when in-person instruction resumes next fall. Among underrepresented communities, feelings of exclusion and disrespect on campus are pervasive. Many students struggle to secure basic needs, including food and housing, and a majority of undergraduates experience anxiety and depression. Perhaps the most significant silver lining of the pandemic is that the upheaval of the past year allows us to approach a return to campus life as a total reset.
If campus is to be rebuilt with the best interest of all students — and particularly those who have, to date, been most marginalized at UC Berkeley — in mind, the student body will need strong representatives with specific, imaginative and feasible goals. The Daily Californian Editorial Board individually interviewed all candidates running for elected positions, researched their platforms and discussed who we think will best serve the student body. Here are our choices.
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As UC Berkeley continues to recover from the upheaval and hardship of the past year, the student body needs a leader who can at once serve as a symbolic figurehead — representative of the best values and ideals this campus has to offer — and as a pragmatic changemaker. With her genuine dedication to the needs of all student communities and her stated plans to help meet these needs, Khwal Rafique is best poised to take on the position of ASUC president.
In his interview, Aditya Varma made a point to acknowledge the difficulty of this past year for thousands of UC Berkeley students. His enthusiastic approach to legislative reform — to push for radical change and settle at or beyond the spot he realistically hoped to reach — is just the kind of bold advocacy that students will need most as we navigate a hopeful return to campus next fall.
Riya Master’s energy was infectious during her interview with the Editorial Board, indicating a fervent desire to enact the goals she has set for herself. The EAVP serves as an essential connection between students and the institutions that impact them, and Master will not only uplift student voices but will be a guiding force for students who want to create change.
James Weichert’s unmatched experience in the ASUC Office of Academic Affairs Vice President, or AAVP, makes him the standout candidate for the job. His knowledge of the particular academic procedures developed amid the pandemic will be crucial in advocating on students’ behalf during the transition back to in-person learning.
There is perhaps nobody more qualified or prepared for the job of ASUC student advocate, or SA, next year than Era Goel. With six semesters of experience in the ASUC Student Advocate Office, or SAO — the last two of which she’s spent as internal chief of staff under current SA Joyce Huchin — Goel has the knowledge necessary to lead the SAO through what is sure to be another challenging year.
The next transfer representative will be only the second in ASUC history to hold the position after it was established in 2019. Because the office is so new — and because it helps fill significant gaps in resources and representation for transfer students at UC Berkeley — the job of the transfer representative is a crucial one. Gabriel Alfaro is well-poised to continue the work Valerie Johnson, current transfer representative, has done to advocate on behalf of transfer students.
The incoming ASUC Senate class will juggle rather unique responsibilities. Next year, the student body will need ASUC senators who are experienced, dedicated and willing to advocate boldly on behalf of all UC Berkeley students. The following 20 ranked candidates are those whom we think are right for the difficult job ahead.
As they have in previous years, the referendums on the 2021 ASUC ballot involve improvements to student life at UC Berkeley and the expansion of resources for a variety of student communities on campus. This year, there are four referendums on the ballot: the Student Technology Fee, Protecting the Checks and Balances of the ASUC Constitution, the Graduate Assembly Fee and The Daily Cal Initiative.