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The obstruction of ASUC political parties

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Special to the Daily Californian

APRIL 11, 2023

When I began working with the ASUC, I entered with the hopes and dreams of enacting long-lasting change for all students at UC Berkeley. Sadly, those aspirations quickly faded when the reality of ASUC political parties set in.

The ASUC has been beholden to two political parties for the past few years: Student Action and ElevateCal. These parties have often clashed at senate meetings, created unnecessary tension and rivalries, divided our peers and obstructed competence in the ASUC. 

Recently, Student Action decided to take a year off from campaigning. This decision has opened the field and has already allowed a slew of fresh faces to announce their candidacy for positions. When we do not have parties attempting to control who wins and who loses, we receive a real competitive election with candidates who actually care about students and their respective needs.

Instead of putting their platforms and students first, as they say when campaigning on Sproul, parties typically place themselves and their image above anything else. When the dust settles from all their bickering, the students are the ones who are hurt the most. 

Many of our issues, problems and needs are sent to Eshleman Hall with hopes that they will be addressed, only to be left there to die because neither party thinks it is good enough to take up; or, ideas are shot down so people can later present them and take credit by themselves. 

As a student who has worked and held top leadership positions in the ASUC, it is challenging to see firsthand how much party identification matters.

Every year each ASUC class promises to each other that they will not allow the infighting that has plagued the previous classes to affect them, only to find themselves amid a flurry of he said, she said by the second week. In fact, parties even go as far as to attempt to control what a senator within their coalition can support or not. 

Recently, Senator Yasamin Hatefi decided to disaffiliate from the ElevateCal coalition, alleging on Instagram that “the ASUC needs members who are focused on the needs and priorities of the student body, not of a party.”

This decision came after Senator Hatefi reposted a campaign launch of a candidate not affiliated with ElevateCal for the upcoming election and was then allegedly admonished by party members for tainting party image. 

Party image? No, more like self-image. This, among more, leads to stagnation in the ASUC. These incidents are not isolated. Time and time again, leaders of both parties draft performative legislation, try to influence votes and attempt to make each other look bad.

The simple fact of the matter is that we do not need these parties in student government. Especially when they effectively champion the same legislation; if these student leaders did the job we elected them to do, instead of fighting against each other, we would have a student government that was actually for, of and by the students. 

My recommendation to my peers is to vote for independent candidates. Vote for students who will fight for you instead of fighting for a party. Vote for someone who will think about what is best for students before casting their vote, not someone who will think about what is best for a party. 

Vote for students who are running because they want to make a palpable change and difference here at UC Berkeley.

At least with independents, it’s clear that these students care enough to run to make a difference. Even when being at a huge deficit in comparison to parties who harvest votes and have the ability to share funds and combine expenditures. 

There is a reason that the voter turnouts of each ASUC election barely waver around 20%, and it is because the student body does not feel as though they have a voice in their own representative leadership. Just last year, the two presidential candidates were the incumbent and his former chief of staff, showing the inaccessibility for students to hold roles in the ASUC and make demonstrable change.

This comes from someone who was on the cusp of entering party leadership; luckily, the drive and search for power of a few individuals saved me from wasting my time during my last semester at UC Berkeley. As someone who will be in graduate school across the country this coming fall, I will not be beholden to the actions of the people we elect this semester, but I care too much not to warn my peers, who I hope will do the right thing.

Alfonso Marquez is a UC Berkeley senior, and former chief of staff in the ASUC Office of the President and Executive Vice President. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.

APRIL 23, 2023