This past year has been undeniably difficult for the campus community. The pandemic’s exacerbation of existing inequalities has disproportionately impacted marginalized students on campus, from inaccessible housing to ableist pandemic response policies. With a greater need for academic accommodations, basic necessities, secure housing and accessible health care, this past year has also been a formidable test for campus leaders and their commitment to the student body. The incoming ASUC Senate class will be no exception. Students look to their senators as their negotiators with campus and as voices they can trust to advocate for their needs. Next year, the campus community will need senators that will follow through with their platform goals and truly commit to advocacy that is rooted in equity and intersectionality.
The Daily Californian’s editorial board interviewed all candidates running for ASUC Senate, except for Osvaldo Barba and Joshua Lee, who failed to respond to requests for an interview. After thorough deliberation and consideration of each candidate’s platforms, relevant experience and interview responses, we have determined who we believe can best represent the student body. The following 20 ranked candidates are those we think are right for the difficult job ahead.
1) Carlos Vásquez (Elevate Cal, he/him)
Vázquez’s people-centric policy ideas would be a refreshing addition to the ASUC Senate. Vázquez sees students as diverse and unique individuals who often have multiple, intersecting identities — and wants to develop resources for recruitment, retention, academic support and mental health accordingly. Campus and the ASUC tend to view students as representative of a single identity, but Vázquez will recognize individuals’ diverse backgrounds in all of his work. His background as co-chair and now commissioner of the ASUC Disabled Students Commission has given him experience listening to students and understanding their needs. He is also endorsed by the Latinx community.
His policies include anti-ableism and anti-discrimination training. Vázquez affirms that a lack of disability accommodations can be dangerous and disrespectful. Vázquez’s final platform is bold and unconventional: Supporting student-parent relationships in marginalized communities. Vázquez hopes that fostering helpful student-parent relationships will increase support for underrepresented students.
2) Deena Ali (independent, she/her)
Ali has a strong slate of platforms, and she has the plans, experience and support to make them happen. Ali is the Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian, or MEMSSA, Coalition-endorsed candidate. If elected, she will transition into the office currently occupied by that coalition’s elected representative, Mehnaz Grewal. After working in the MEMSSA senator’s office for two years, Ali has a solid understanding of the work her predecessors have done and how best to build on that foundation, along with connections to others who will be continuing the office’s efforts.
Her platform aims to increase the campus footprint and aid the political advocacy of MEMSSA students, and while her main goal is to serve her community, she is a well-rounded candidate with a history of working in advocacy both inside and outside her community. Ali will be a valuable addition to the ASUC if elected.
3) Soha Manzoor (Elevate Cal, she/her)
Well-versed in the inner workings of the ASUC and brimmed with a swathe of tangible plans and proposals, Manzoor is a standout senator selection.
Manzoor is running on four platforms: menstrual equity, STEM advocacy, community support and student wellness. Strung together by her steadfast support for marginalized communities, the sophomore’s focuses underscore her genuine dedication and understanding of students and their wellbeing on campus. For instance, some of Manzoor’s initiatives include uplifting mental health organizations geared toward marginalized students and carrying out a STEM ethics project.
As noted, Manzoor brings a robust resume of ASUC experience having worked in three senator offices — including her role as chief of staff for Senator Isabella Romo. As Manzoor aspires to make the ASUC more effective and accessible, such extensive institutional familiarity and experience is more than promising and a tribute to her previous and hopeful time in office.
4) Megan Yao (Student Action, she/her)
Yao has a passion for serving the East Asian and international student communities, and she has tangible plans to back it up. After working in the offices of two ASUC senators who also representing East Asian and international students — Samuel Peng and Jerry Xu — as well as connecting with various East Asian campus cultural organizations, she has a solid grasp of issues these communities face as well as how to continue and expand on past work of the ASUC.
Her ambitious platform expresses clear priorities with actionable goals. She wants to increase access to mental health, career and pre-graduate resources for East Asian international students, particularly by expanding outreach to less represented East Asian communities. She also aims to bridge gaps between these student communities by collaborating with fellow ASUC senators to improve resources for all Asian students.
5) Emma Centeno (independent, she/they)
Being the first environmental justice senator backed by the campus Eco Community and ASUC Eco Senator Varsha Madapoosi, Centeno is determined to expand environmental justice legislation and strengthen the environmentalist community on campus.
As a queer and Filipinx individual, Centeno approaches legislation intersectionally, focusing on communities of color that are disproportionately affected by environmental changes, championing people-centered solutions rather than energy systems. They crucially acknowledge that replacingolder energy systems with renewable technologies cost workers jobs and that collaborative efforts with labor unions are needed to ensure workers continue to access campus employment opportunities. Along with UC Berkeley’s Green New Deal, where Centeno acted as the director of the UC Wide department, she hopes to institute climate resiliency through environmental literacy among students and staff members. While some of Centeno’s ideas need further development, Centeno’s passion and experience will bring a refreshing perspective to environmental justice that focuses on environmental literacy, equity, anti-capitalism and collaboration.
6) Stephanie Wong (Elevate Cal, she/her)
Wong’s present, ending term in the ASUC Senate has been relatively successful in comparison to others, and steady groundwork for continuing her beneficial advocacy has been laid. She and her team have already completed notable work in one of her main platforms, Asian American and External Relations, especially in addressing the Asian American diaspora. Her team has collaborated with various leaders of different Asian American clubs on campus, as well as sponsored a bill condemning the white savior glorification of Doe Library’s Philipinx History Month exhibit. Looking forward, Wong will focus on strengthening Asian American solidarity on campus.
Her office appears to be a tight-knit group with proper delegation and provides free letters of recommendation for everyone. We look forward to seeing how this team handles Wong’s other two platforms: SVSH and finance with a focus on housing affordability. Wong’s preparedness for a second term makes her a solid candidate.
7) Mahathi Kandimalla (Student Action, she/her)
Kandimalla’s enthusiasm to represent and advocate for pre-health students, alongside her work in various ASUC offices, public health organizations as well as sexual health and sexual violence and sexual harassment, or SVSH, initatives makes her a worthy candidate. Her platforms focus on supporting pre-health students, as well as student needs overall, which includes lobbying for spaces such as the MLK Student Union and Eshleman Hall to be open for longer hours.
Kandimalla’s strong interest in sexual health and SVSH prevention initiatvies is also promising, as she currently serves on the school of public health’s SVSH committee, and if elected, plans to work on distributing free contracpetives and providing resources and information on sexual health and SVSH during Golden Bear Orientation. Kandimalla’s focus on helping marginalized pre-health students is also admirable as she plans to alleviate transportation costs for students traveling to UC San Francisco for volunteering or research opportunities.
8) Enrique Martinez (independent, he/him)
Martinez, who seeks to represent the prelaw and Latinx communities, is a worthy senatorial candidate given his campaign’s tangible platforms and action items.
His platforms include uplifting the Latinx community, improving mental health and wellness for all UC Berkeley students, advocating for undocumented students and bolsterng the campus prelaw community. As a part of his mental health and wellness strategy, Martinez has vowed to put his own ASUC stipend toward basic needs initiatives. He plans to develop financial literacy workshops to guide undocumented or low-income students through financial aid applications. To make the pre-law tract accessible and equitable, Martinez hopes to obtain student discounts for LSAT preparation books.
Martinez has prior ASUC experience, and he strongly identifies with the communities he plans to support if elected to the Senate. Many of his platforms, however, lack a sharp focus and specific action items.
9) Anjali Jogia-Sattar (Student Action, she/her)
South Asian Community Caucus-endorsed candidate and campus sophomore Jogia-Sattar has ample experience advocating for the South Asian community on campus through her previous work in the ASUC, where she has addressed mental health, SVSH and gender equity in pre-professional tracks – platforms that will be her main focus as a senator, if elected.
Her action items for increasing mental health begin with SVSH survivors. Through partnerships with Path to Care, University Health Services and CAPS, Jogia-Sattar hopes to center survivors in all approaches to SVSH education, prevention and support. Jogia-Sattar also plans to organize more pre-professional workshops for female-identifying students on campus and secure additional funding for South Asian dance teams, using intersectionality as a framework for all of her advocacy work. Jogia-Sattar’s extensive institutional experience and commitment to underrepresented students will make her a strong addition to the ASUC Senate.
10) Akash Ponna (Student Action, he/him)
Ponna might not have several platforms and goals for his potential tenure in the ASUC Senate, but his unwavering commitment to the campus dance community and actionable ideas make him a strong candidate for the job. If elected, Ponna, a queer dancer of color, hopes to help the campus dance community find safe spaces to learn coreography and rehearse, while prioritizing styles that require dancers to be barefoot. He also hopes to aid campus dance companies in their transition to in-person practices and hopes to make the community more accessible to all campus students through mandatory DEI training programs.
Beyond the dance community, however, his platforms are relatively limited. Ponna has stressed the importance of streamlining mental health resources, but has yet to unveil specific plans that would benefit the dance community or the campus at large.
11) Manuel Cisneros (independent, he/him)
Though Cisneros may lack formal experience in the ASUC, he certainly does not lack passion for the communities he seeks to represent — one of the most important qualities in being a strong candidate. As the QT endorsed senatorial candidate, Cisneros wants others to feel more comfortable in their own skin. Though his platforms could use additional detail and expansion, they center around important community issues, including QT inclusion and housing security, which he hopes to address by creating a specific QT hotline similar to the one created by current senator Jason Dones. Cisneros also wants to facilitate more social and career events for the community, such as holding ballroom shows for students to learn more about LGBTQ+ culture. His dedication to helping those in his communities feel included and held ultimately makes him an incredibly strong candidate for an ASUC senatorship.
12) Raymond Hufnagel (Elevate Cal, he/him)
Sophomore Hufnagel has an impressive resume — two years of experience in the ASUC with connections to back it up. He is enthusiastic about his work despite having navigated complex institutional structures, and his platforms address challenges he has witnessed: inefficiencies in the ASUC and insufficient collaboration between offices. As a gay man in Greek life, he also wants to change the attitude toward LGBTQ+ people in fraternities and sororities by directly contacting their presidents, an admirable goal for a community that can lag behind in acceptance. He also plans to consolidate resources for new and transfer students.
Despite his zeal, Hufnagel’s main platform is somewhat vague. Reform, transparency and accountability are often repeated by candidates but often lack specific implementation plans. Some of his ideas also seem infeasible — the idea of piloting floating deadlines in classes to decrease stress, for example, seems unlikely. He shows passion for the job, but the outcomes of his work remain to be seen.
13) Shri Gopal (Elevate Cal, she/her)
Freshman Gopal is already active within the ASUC, serving as current President Chaka Tellem’s chief of staff intern. As a STEM student, Gopal wants to advocate for and support this large community of students. She is also focused on addressing challenges that affect all students, such as housing and sustainability.
What Gopal lacks in overall experience, she more than makes up for in her enthusiasm. She has developed her platforms by hearing the concerns of her fellow students, which she aims to continue should she be elected into office. Gopal’s enthusiasm, however, is also cause for concern as she may find herself pursuing too many tasks and ultimately be unable to successfully complete them all. In addition to the aforementioned, Gopal also seeks to address menstrual equity as well as dining hall food options and quality. Gopal’s enthusiasm, coupled with her focused plans, give her the capacity to be a productive senator.
14) Hitesh Kamisetty (Student Action, he/him)
Campus sophomore and industrial engineering major Kamisetty will be a positive addition to the ASUC Senate. With a range of experience in the Engineering Student Council and as director of engineering in Senator Elif Sensurucu’s office, Kamisetty has the experience to navigate challenges facing the engineering and larger STEM community. His willingness to tackle these issues — such as the lack of availability of research positions, enrollment in engineering and computer science classes and the racial disparities in graduation rates of engineering students — is an encouraging start. However, we would like to see more specificity in his plans to address them. If elected, Kamisetty hopes to bolster support for the Engineering Student Council, increase mental health support for students by collaborating with CAPS and create more 24-hour study spaces. His passion to represent these communities is evident along with his initiative to integrate them into the ASUC through creating a formalized engineering caucus.
15) Jordan Ullman (Student Action, he/him)
Ullman has a lot of big dreams. Ullman, while running with the Student Action party, stands by his own principles that one should be representative of their cultural community, first and foremost. With this comes a plan to create a“more equitable playing field for Jews,” building upon his work with members and leaders of Hillel and Chabad. However, one of the main pillars of his platform is interfaith relations, which he hopes to collaborate with the UC Berkeley Multicultural Center on campus.
Ullman, if elected, intends to enter the senate with pre-written and prepared legislation, a sign that he is genuinely interested in the work he intends to do. What that legislation looks like, however, remains to be seen. With his impressive ASUC resume, passion to help others and agenda full of dreams, we are interested to see what Ullman can accomplish as an ASUC senator and believe he deserves a chance.
16) Shay Cohen (independent, she/her)
Cohen’s experience in Sam Coffey’s and Isabella Romo’s offices, as well as her personal, passionate stake on her three main platforms — Jewish Inclusion, SVSH and ASUC transparency — make her a well-informed candidate.
Despite her qualifications and passions, she seems to lack a bit of substantiality on her central platforms when it comes to feasible solutions to the challenges she seeks to address. A few passing ideas, such as extra SVSH training among fraternities and mitigating the issue of midterms and finals being scheduled concurrently with Jewish holidays, were mentioned, but more concrete details on her plans are necessary moving forward.
Nevertheless, Cohen offers a tangible, genuine dedication to her constituents that will hopefully shine through in her work in the Senate. Overall, it is evident Coffey is hardworking and experienced, but is perhaps not the most polished candidate for the position.
17) Kailen Grottel-Brown (independent, he/him)
Grottel-Brown has wasted no time getting involved within the ASUC. As a freshman, he has worked in four offices,giving him not only quality connections but also a solid understanding of the institution, which he plans to leverage if elected. Through his experience in the ASUC, he has realized that many projects fail to last beyond the short, yearlong term of sitting senators. In turn, he hopes to bring continuity by carrying on the projects he has been involved with.
In particular, Grottel-Brown is excited to enhance financial literacy education on campus and make resources more accessible for students by building upon the work of the recently created ASUC Financial Wellness Taskforce. While he briefly addressed his platforms — which include mental health and wellness and affordable housing — he did not provide substantive details or plans on how he would support student needs in these areas. While some of his ideas remain vague, Grottel-Brown has the dedication and passion to be an effective senator.
18) Yasamin Hatefi (ElevateCal, she/her)
During her time at Santa Monica College, Hatefi worked closely with the Board of Trustees to ensure students’ concerns with online proctoring systems did not go unnoticed during a time of remote instruction. As a junior transfer, Hatefi’s advocacy on behalf of her peers has continued during her time working as chief of staff for the junior transfer representative Gabriel Alfaro.
Running on a three-pronged platform — more spaces and opportunties for transfer students, increasing access to menstrual and sexual health products and increasing access to affordable housing — Hatefi has big ideas. However, many of her ideas lack clear plans for implementation in the coming year.
Hatefi brings strong experience, immense passion and an incredibly important transfer student perspective — one that has often otherwise been lacking within the ASUC — which would make her a worthy addition to this year’s Senate class.
19) Thin Rati Oo (independent, she/her)
Oo’s realism centers her platforms on tangible tasks that she should be able to accomplish, if elected. As a freshman international student, Oo is focused on building community and easing the transition to college for students but particularly fellow international students. She believes concentrated efforts can make positive change. This idea drives her to focus on areas she can directly impact with tangible plans.
Oo seeks to leverage her experience as current Executive Vice President Giancarlo Fernandez’s chief of staff intern to guide her tenure as a senator. Being from a different background than other students, Oo seeks to represent marginalized communities and focus on DEI. Her self-proclaimed laid back attitude gives her confidence in her abilities to work collaboratively with other senators to complete tasks, but may prevent her from doing more. While she is not the best suited person for the job, she is far from the worst.
20) Tyler Mahomes (Student Action, he/him)
As the vice president of the Alpha Tau Omega chapter, Mahomes hopes to use his experiences to bolster SVSH prevention and provide support for underrepresented communities within Greek life. Hoping to host town halls and highlighting multicultural houses, Mahomes recognizes that systemic problems within Greek life — such as sexual assault and racial discrimination — cannot be solved through workshops alone. From offering scholarships to eliminate financial discrepancies barring people from joining Greek life to emphasizing the importance of belonging during town halls, Mahomes wants to make Greek life more welcoming and equitable for more students. However, to bring these elusive goals into fruition, he must formulate clear-cut, actionable plans. Inequitable structures within Greek life will not evolve simply by starting conversations. As the Greek community’s endorsed senate candidate, we hope Mahomes will lay a framework for tangible, impactful decisions to match his good intentions.