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ASUC continues discussions on prohibiting party, coalition participation in elections

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The bill would eliminate political parties and coalitions such as ElevateCal, Student Action and Progressives at Cal.


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APRIL 17, 2023

ASUC senators discussed Senate Resolution 22/23-057, moving beyond partisan politics in the ASUC during the weekly senate meeting Wednesday.

The bill would eliminate political parties and coalitions such as ElevateCal, Student Action and Progressives at Cal from endorsing and slating candidates with the goal of promoting a more equitable and accessible association.

If the resolution passes, candidates running in ASUC elections will be prohibited from running with an affiliated political party or coalition or coordinating campaign activities with a group of two or more candidates in a manner that implies party-like behavior. If passed, this bill would take effect beginning Aug. 30.

Any 2023-24 class officeholders who ran under a party or coalition for the 2023 election would be classified as “Independent.”

The resolution distinguishes political parties and coalitions from community coalitions, which it defines as “a group of a number of student organizations from a similar community and purpose, usually academic or ethnically related.” Candidates would still be allowed to be endorsed by community coalitions.

Jakob Morgan and Alexander Sanborn-Walker, ASUC Senate candidates, expressed concern that banning political parties and coalitions would give outsized influence to CalGreeks and Berkeley Student Cooperatives, since RSOs would be unable to endorse candidates. This will result in an upsurge of CalGreek- and BSC-endorsed officeholders, becoming equivalent substitutes to political parties, according to Morgan.

Supporters of the bill cited a lack of transparency and collaboration as grounds for eliminating political parties during the public comment section of the meeting.

“Party politics is a power play that leads to misrepresentation because political parties exist to win and maintain power, which leads to a culture of infighting and general dysfunction,” said Ani Sahakyan, campus student and associate director of legislation and research in Senator Yasamin Hatefi’s office. “This leads to a lack of collaboration and prevents the ASUC from being an effective representative body.”

Alfonso Marquez, lead chief of staff in the office of the executive vice president and formerly a part of Elevate Cal, said he sees both sides of the issue but ultimately stands for eliminating political parties, expressing that they exist only to “uplift their own voices” and “support cronyism” while blocking people who “actually care” about the student body from getting things done.

Jordan Ullman, a former member of ElevateCal and former party chair of Student Action, also voiced concerns about cronyism in political parties.

“(ElevateCal officeholders) are deeply qualified, you deserve your endorsements but so do other people as well,” Ullman said at the meeting. “Those people deserve a seat at the table; it’s not just people who have ElevateCal friends.”

Students including Aanya Schoetz acknowledge the flaws of the party system but believe banning them will only inhibit the ability to regulate them. It does not address inequitable access to the ASUC or coalition-building, Schoetz said.

Other students find that political parties and coalitions are important avenues for minority students to receive help in the election process.

“ElevateCal is one of the only things that has allowed me to know what running a senate campaign looks like,” said Andrea Jimenez, a senator elect who ran with ElevateCal. “It is not possible, especially having a minority identity, to get elected if you don’t have allyship on campus.”

ElevateCal co-chair Sarah Ansell explained that the organization’s goal is to uplift voices by helping candidates navigate the election process not just with the intention to obtain power and denied claims that the party tells its members to vote in a certain way. Ansell added that it is a party only by name, but akin to any other community coalition.

Students and ASUC members opposing the resolution also highlighted the importance of community building for marginalized groups.

“We do not fight corruption by putting our hands over our eyes and pretending partisan interests don’t exist just because we haven’t formalized them,” said ASUC Senate candidate Amyrah Doty, who is running with Progressives at Cal.

ASUC president and ElevateCal founder Chaka Tellem explained that he created the coalition when running for his first presidential term to help students from minoritized communities navigate campaigning “under the common slogan of (their) collective liberation” after his own experiences of being the only Black person in the senate in 2020.

Tellem cited the support he has received from various communities as the reason he has succeeded in the ASUC.

“If it wasn’t for coalition support, if it wasn’t for my Latine brothers and sisters, if it wasn’t for my disabled brothers and sisters, if it wasn’t for my MEMSSA brothers and sisters, if it wasn’t for my running mate who was an undocumented student — if it wasn’t for collective action, I wouldn’t be in the ASUC in the capacity I am today,” Tellem said. “I understand the intent, but when you ban the ability for people to work together – even if it’s just one person – you’re not allowing people from certain minority communities to take space in the ASUC.”

After further discussion, Senator Shay Cohen, a primary sponsor of SR 22/23-057, proposed adding a sunset clause to the resolution which would require revisiting the issue in two years to assess whether removing political parties has made improvements to community-building and collaboration within the ASUC and whether parties should be brought back.

Senators voted on the amended resolution, which failed to pass with a two-thirds majority.

The meeting adjourned at midnight without a final decision on the resolution because Eshleman Hall, the building in which the meeting is held, now closes at midnight.

The senators will continue to discuss the bill during next Wednesday’s meeting after motions to readjourn on Thursday and Friday failed.

Contact Ani Tutunjyan at 


APRIL 17, 2023