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Fact-checking the ASUC senate candidates

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MARCH 21, 2017

Implementing a counterclockwise Southside Bear Transit route, despite the fact that it already runs counterclockwise. Talking to Vice Chancellor Harry LeGrande, who stepped down in December. Creating more UC Berkeley research positions in STEM, even though funding is scant.

What do these misinformed ideas have in common? They’re all platforms of this year’s ASUC Senate candidates. They all belong to people who must have barely researched pressing issues on campus. Worst of all, they are using the publicity surrounding their campaigns to mislead the public about the legitimacy of these flawed platforms.

In preparation for the annual popularity contest, students must develop a more critical understanding of student government. Many refuse to take the ASUC seriously, but the reality is that it manages a $1.6 million budget, can influence the selection of administrators and is one of the largest student-government organizations in the country. Plus, officials receive a pretty nice stipend.

Positions should go to qualified candidates who have laid out clear promises to effect change. Unfortunately, thanks to the sheer number of candidates running for senate positions, many slide by with half-assed ideas. But this year, they won’t. Here are just a few examples of unsound platforms, though many more exist:

  • Alexander Wilfert, Student Action: Wants to repeal a “bill” passed by the city of Berkeley that mandates quiet hours. Revisions to the ordinance have already addressed almost every problem Wilfert raised with it.
  • Megha Torpunuri, Student Action: Wants a counterclockwise Bear Transit line. The line, in fact, already runs counterclockwise.
  • Hung Huynh, Student Action: Previously referred to Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Harry LeGrande — except LeGrande retired from that position in December. Huynh also wants to add “university points” to the Cal 1 Card. Did he not realize that Cal 1 Card debit accounts effectively operate like a point system? He is a classic case of a naïve freshman campaigning for something that already exists.
  • Katya Yamamoto, Student Action: Wants to increase research opportunities in STEM. These research opportunities, in fact, are heavily funded by the state and federal government. Without increased funding, new positions will not materialize out of thin air, no matter how much she dedicates herself to “working with faculty.”
  • Jess Yang, CalSERVE: Wants to get students more engaged in local politics by distributing a newsletter, which, if we’re being honest, hardly anyone will read. As a newspaper that covers the city of Berkeley, we know how hard it is to get students engaged in coverage of city politics.
  • Carmel Gutherz, CalSERVE: Wants to give Pell Grant-eligible students a discounted or free parking pass. In theory, the idea is relevant, but parking in Berkeley is already limited, which discourages driving. Though it would be an immense undertaking, discounts on BART rides would be far more appropriate to advocate.
  • Derek Topper, independent and former Daily Californian distribution analyst: Wants to expand the minor program to include more departments. Not only is UC Berkeley in the middle of a massive budget deficit, but minors are established by individual departments. Other than through relentless negotiation with various department chairs, the ASUC Senate has no chance of adding minor programs.
  • Nina Jhunjhnuwala, independent: Considering the #EnvironmentalismSoWhite campaign, it is strange that the Environmental Council-endorsed candidate mentions the Greek community as a main example of a student group she wants to connect with environmental organizations.

While many candidates will complain that our Editorial Board did not reach out to them before writing this editorial, they fail to recognize that we are critiquing platforms they have touted. They chose to represent themselves to voters in this manner, so they have a responsibility to face the music when they fail to accurately address the campus community’s problems.

Our board analyzed and fact-checked these platforms within an hour. We encourage every student to conduct such simple research on their own to elect an informed senate.

Luckily, it’s not all bad news. While combing through the candidates, we found some who offered concrete plans and solutions. They deserve recognition.

  • Juniperangelica Xiomara, CalSERVE: Wants to reshape Nixle alerts and the unnecessary attention they draw to race and gender, which encourages racist and transphobic remarks. She has also promised to prioritize undocumented students, transgender students and students of color, who are often neglected by their student government.
  • Bryan Osorio, independent: Has specific strategies to improve financial aid logistics and graduate school accessibility for first-generation, low-income students.

With the proliferation of independent candidates, we would like to see more like Osorio — who is running to represent smaller groups and tackle real issues on campus — now that the currency of “CalSERVE” or “Student Action” at the bottom of a profile picture has depreciated.

The futility of the ASUC begins with apathetic voters. If students want to make the campus a better space, they have to inform themselves and support candidates who will genuinely make a difference.

Corrections: A previous version of this article failed to disclose that Derek Topper formerly worked at The Daily Californian.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

JUNE 19, 2018