‘Service and representation’: A reader’s guide to the 2022 ASUC Elections

photo of ASUC canvassing
Francesca Ledesma/Staff
As the spring semester continues, the time for the 2022 ASUC Elections approaches. Here is a reader's guide to the various positions, roles and referendums that compose the elections.

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Students often think of March and April as a time to take midterms, party over spring break and reluctantly come back to class the next week.

For ASUC officials and candidates, however, these two months are the time to plan their election campaigns, encourage students to vote on key referendums and secure the vote of their communities. Here is your guide to understanding the 2022 ASUC Elections.

Senators

A significant part of the ASUC revolves around its senate. According to ASUC Senator Jerry Xu, a senator works on two fronts: within senate committees and within their own office to develop their platform. He said serving as a senator can mean dedicating more than 20 hours a week, which can determine who has the time to take on the position.

“Working as a Senator is tough, sometimes mentally draining and very underpaid,” Xu said in an email. “It is hard to consistently commit time especially when school work gets busy, so responsibility and dedication really matter in the long term.”

ASUC senators comprise three main groups: Student Action, Elevate Cal and independent senators. Senator and co-chair of Student Action Muz Ahmad said his party is committed to principles of “service and representation” for the entire student body.

Some notable campus programs Student Action has successfully implemented include free New York Times and Wall Street Journal subscriptions for students, the establishment of the ASUC transfer representative position and free AC Transit bus passes.

“There is no real ideological difference in running with a party or as an independent,” Ahmad said in an email. “Parties are just in place to help qualified student leaders create tangible change at Cal and to work with a passionate group of similarly-minded students.”

For Senator Sammy Raucher, though the elections were “very stressful,” it was a great learning experience. Between working on her campaign and messaging staff and students, Raucher said it is important for candidates to prioritize their academics and mental health.

She said senators can campaign on a variety of topics to gain student support based on their own personal experiences and the communities they belong to.

When deciding who to vote for, students should consider how feasible a senator’s platform is to accomplish, their experience and how motivated a senator is to achieve their goals, according to Raucher. She also stressed the need to vote, especially in light of low voter turnout in the previous year’s elections, since senators have influence over club funding.

“It is important to have a say in who you want representing you in conversations with administration,” Raucher said in an email.

Referendums

While senators play an important part on campus, they are not the only ones who have decision-making power.

Referendums are also important chances for students to exercise their rights as voters, according to Xu.

“It is where you as a student are able to practice your democratic rights and determine what should be considered essential for the campus,” Xu said in his email. “Your vote might affect all students for the next five or even more years, with millions of dollars collected.”

A student referendum is a campuswide vote where students decide whether they are against or in favor of student fees and many other potential issues, according to Xu.

Raucher also stressed the importance of students participating as voters in the elections.

“Low turnout can be really consequential,” Raucher said in her email. “For example, the Student Tech Fund did not pass because of low turnout last year.”

Student advocate

Another elected position is the ASUC student advocate. Era Goel, the current student advocate, said her nonpartisan office offers free, confidential casework services to students who have issues with financial aid, academic problems, conduct issues and other campus grievances.

Goel said her role is important because, along with her 60 student caseworkers, she helps protect students’ rights and general welfare, as well as advocate for policies that do the same.

Judicial Council

The ASUC also includes unelected positions, such as the Judicial Council. Stephen Dai, chief justice of the ASUC Judicial Council, said the Judicial Council functions as the ASUC’s equivalent of a nonpartisan “Supreme Court.”

“Our job is to ensure the integrity of the ASUC Constitution and Bylaws by resolving all issues that come before us surrounding these aforementioned documents,” Dai said in an email. “Our job is essential to the student body as we are the primary agency students turn to whenever they seek to hold ASUC officials accountable for their actions.”

The Judicial Council comprises seven ASUC-nominated justices and two Graduate Assembly-nominated justices, who serve two-year terms. According to Dai, there are one to two seats open for appointment every term.

For Ahmad, voting is an important right that students should exercise.

“It is massively important for our campus community to ensure that the student voice is heard,” Ahmad said in his email. “By voting for candidates, students are voting for an agenda that the ASUC will pursue, and it is imperative that students vote to create an ASUC that is representative of every student.”

Contact Aditya Katewa and Lance Roberts at [email protected].