Every emerging class of ASUC leaders come into Eshleman Hall bright eyed and bushy tailed. Fresh off a successful campaign trail and entering a new school year brimming with promise, ASUC leaders are determined to change the somewhat stagnant reputation of the body they will soon govern.
Lofty goals of revolutionizing the student experience are often shrank down to reform, and in some cases, regression.
These are the perceptions that loosely attach themselves to the ASUC, and as the campus newspaper, we maintain responsibility to see if any merit exists in these musings. This past weekend, the editorial board was fortunate enough to receive responses to questions we had regarding the roles of the most prominent leaders within UC Berkeley’s student government.
We spoke with Academic Affairs Vice President Kenneth Ng, External Affairs Vice President Alex Edgar and Student Advocate Ariana Kretz. While President Sydney Roberts did not meet with us in person, her team provided us with sufficient information to create a profile as well.
We also interviewed Transfer Representative Ashley Tigue. While Tigue does not currently sit on the official executive slate, she still remains a vital voice for transfer representation that we felt important to highlight.
While we were given the opportunity to meet with most of the executive officials and Tigue, a name that remains absent from our profile piece is Executive Vice President Shrinidhi Gopal.
Gopal and her office did not respond to requests for an interview, which leaves us with questions about both her semesterly goals and plans for communication with the student body. We hope that in lieu of an interview, we will see the platforms she ran on and the responsibilities dealt to her by the student body come to fruition.
As new students file into UC Berkeley, the roles and responsibilities of these leaders are unbeknownst to many. Differentiating between the plethora of acronyms can be quite confusing, which is why we decided to create a piece that conveyed transparency and transmitted crucial information on the officials that are elected to serve us.
The vast array of challenges facing the student body may change, but these positions stand as permanent reminders of how student voices can reach even the highest levels of campus administration.
We encourage the student body to read about the student leaders making decisions that will affect their experiences during their time at Berkeley, and in some cases beyond, as we follow the long road to April 2024 elections.
Read full profiles via the links below.
Sydney Roberts claimed her place as the face of UC Berkeley’s student body in spring 2023, taking on the mantle from former ASUC President Chaka Tellem, both politically and personally.
Her “unprecedented” experience as Tellem’s two-term chief of staff sets Roberts up with a solid set of tools to take into her new role — but offers up for consideration how the president plans to distinguish herself from her predecessor.
The principles of integrity, equity and community are at the heart of the work Roberts plans to do in her time as president. This is visible within her long-term goals, which aim to foster a sense of belonging for students, particularly for those who have been historically excluded from higher education.
The role of the ASUC president has been largely nominal and past presidents have left the student body with a series of promises unfulfilled. With that being said, we remain hopeful that Roberts will deviate from tradition to transform the office and her work will amount to something more tangible.
Kenneth Ng stepped foot into the ASUC Office of Academic Affairs before he even set foot on campus — now, he runs the place. In order to fill these shoes, he’ll have to work both with and against the administrative C that is UC Berkeley.
Ng claims he is close to fruition in his first goal to put minors on diplomas.
Another target of Ng’s campaign was to eliminate fees for dropping and adding classes past the stated deadlines, a feat that is currently in “bureaucratic purgatory.” Ng is confident that he has the numbers in the Council of Undergraduate Deans, but the true test of his leadership will be found in his response to an unfavorable outcome.
Though Ng emphasized his strong relationship and regular meetings with administrative officials, he acknowledged that decisions continue to be made without student input, and he hopes to change that.
His term has only just begun, and it seems Ng has a firm grasp on the bureaucracy he faces and the tools at his disposal to make the changes students wish to see.
When asked about the role of the External Affairs Vice President, or EAVP, Alex Edgar emphasized his goal: “Be that megaphone to the student body.”
For Edgar, this means bringing more students to lobby in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., obtaining more mental health and student safety resources and solidifying a housing committee on campus.
Locally, Edgar wants to establish a hub for polling in Eshleman Hall to centralize voter engagement. Nationally, he wants to amplify student voices with media outlets, as well as state and federal government officials.
Plans for a polling hub in Eshleman Hall seem feasible, but bringing students to the state and national capitals also requires funds. It is imperative to ensure there is money to make these initiatives last.
Edgar brings a passion for student engagement and uplifting the community. However, he admitted the relationship between the ASUC and students is a shaky one that he must navigate. The EAVP will also need to push the ASUC to actively hold campus accountable if he wants to see tangible change.
Edgar wants to be the megaphone for the student body, but we believe it is important to note that he ran unopposed — just like his predecessor. Responses from students themselves will ultimately decide if they feel heard.
Ariana Kretz has ambition, but we are cautiously optimistic given the variety of institutional barriers to getting her goals accomplished, such as the bureaucratic processes involved in many of her initiatives.
One of Kretz’s academic priorities is implementing a grief absence policy. This project, which began in 2018, will address students’ needs to take time off after the loss of a loved one.
On conduct work, Kretz emphasized the importance of restorative justice in regards to handling cases for both respondents and complainants of sexual violence and harassment.
For financial aid, Kretz stressed the importance of creating opportunities for accessible student housing. Kretz points to tangible short-term goals such as the Winter Break Housing Program.
Finally, Kretz’s vision includes building on the three-year anti-racism audit conducted by the grievance division. This would enhance relationships with organizations representing students from diverse backgrounds.
As she continues to progress toward ambitious goals, it is clear that Kretz is the right person to handle the task of advocating for Berkeley’s student body. The only outstanding question is whether obstacles presented by the university will allow for the reforms she aims to put in place.
Transfer Representative Ashley Tigue has ambitious plans for the next two semesters. With goals of increasing the visibility of her office and transfers, the Solano Community College alumnus plans on organizing networking mixers for transfer students and bringing more transfers into ASUC offices.
However, Tigue’s most notable goal is passing the Strengthening Transfer Representation on Necessary Grounds Act, which would elevate her office to executive status. Currently, her office is neither a senator nor executive official, yet it operates on a senator’s budget.
Tigue represents a community that makes up 20% of the student body, and we agree her budget is a massive institutional obstacle. If she does push the once-defeated bill across the finish line, that may serve as both a crowning achievement and a testament to her leadership.
Though Tigue and her team have an onerous task ahead, we are optimistic. Tigue demonstrated a deep understanding of the inner workings of the ASUC and has positioned herself to be a driving force for transfer students. That being said, we are confident the transfer community will be in good hands this year.