With the exception of the transfer student representative, no transfer students were elected to senate or executive positions in the spring 2023 ASUC election cycle.
Although the ASUC aims to reflect the student body as a whole, many transfer students are concerned about their lack of institutional representation.
“If you come into Berkeley not knowing how the ASUC election process works and without that institutional knowledge that’s passed down, I think it makes it hard to run as a transfer student,” said Transfer Representative-elect Ashley Tigue.
Tigue added that transfer students make up around 20% of the student body, making them significantly underrepresented in the senate. She noted that being the only transfer out of 21 voting senate members makes reaching out to transfer interest groups on campus even more important.
The transfer representative position was enacted through the 2019 Transfer Remedy Act, making 2020 the first year a candidate was elected. According to Tigue, at most three transfer students have ever been elected during one term from the years 2012 to 2022. This past year, there were three — Senator Yasamin Hatefi, Executive Vice President Giancarlo Fernandez and Transfer Representative Aileen Sanchez.
Third-year transfer student and 2023 senate candidate Rashno Razmkhah expressed concerns about what no transfer students in the new senate class means for the future of transfer representation in the ASUC.
“Most of the candidates that I saw came out of a transfer senator’s office,” Razmkhah said. “When you eliminate that representation, that means for the next class of transfer students, we’re not going to have five or six transfer students running because there is not that space where they are supported.”
Junior transfer and 2023 senate candidate Kevin Li also discussed institutional barriers for transfer students running for office.
Li noted that some challenges are unique to transfer candidates, including the pressure they feel knowing they often only have one opportunity to run for office.
“While we’ve had freshmen who’ve run campaigns and successfully done so, it tends to be more of the exception than the norm, and in that case, every transfer student is expected to be an exception, which puts them at a pretty deep disadvantage,” Li said.
Alfonso Marquez, the executive vice president’s chief of staff and chair of the Transfer Student Caucus, noted that transfers have less time to learn ASUC bylaws and the institutional knowledge important to successful campaigns.
According to Razmkhah, these issues are amplified by the high proportion of low-income and first-generation transfer students. This factor, she added, makes campaigning more difficult due to the ASUC’s $200 campaign budget limit. As a result, much of Razmkhah’s campaigning presence was online.
To address this issue, Li suggested that the ASUC should compensate or reimburse candidates for the cost of their campaigns. Li also emphasized addressing political apathy among students by developing platforms to mobilize transfers during election cycles.
“There’s a self-perpetuating cycle where a lack of representation in the ASUC leads people, especially members of disenfranchised communities who feel alienated, towards a lack of incentive to take part in ASUC elections, which prevents people who do try to represent that community from getting elected,” Li said.
According to Tigue, her time as the transfer student representative will be spent ensuring transfer student voices are heard in years to come. During her term, she hopes to develop ways for more transfer students to run in future elections.
Marquez acknowledged recent efforts to make the transfer representative an executive position — an initiative that failed to pass through the senate.
“I think making the transfer office an executive office would allow Ashley (Tigue) to have a louder voice,” Marquez said. “She would have a seat at the table when it comes to meeting with administration, and it would also send a message to people within the agency.”