Kenneth Ng stepped foot into the ASUC Office of Academic Affairs before he even set foot on campus — now, he runs the place. However, in order to fill these new shoes, he’ll have to work both with and against the administrative bureaucracy that is UC Berkeley.
Ng launched his campaign last spring on platforms of academic reform and elevating student voices. Starting off strong, Ng claims his first goal is to wrap up that of his predecessor and put minors on diplomas — the class of 2024 will be the best judge of whether or not that goal was successful.
Another target of Ng’s campaign was to eliminate fees for dropping and adding classes past the stated deadlines — $10 per course dropped after the Friday of the second week of instruction and $5 per course added after the Friday of the third week.
However, according to Ng, elimination of the fee is currently in “bureaucratic purgatory.” Having passed the initial stages of approval, the fee removal is being deliberated by the Council of Undergraduate Deans at the request of Chancellor Carol Christ. Though Ng is confident that he has the numbers, the true test of his leadership will be found in his response to a potentially unfavorable outcome.
The other portion of his platform — elevating student voices and rebuilding trust in the ASUC — has hit a more tangible roadblock. Though Ng emphasized his strong relationship and regular meetings with administrative officials, he acknowledged that a lot of decisions continue to be made without student input and hopes to change that.
To do so, he plans to create a liaison program in which his office builds two-way relationships with students in each college.
However, it has proved much easier to connect with students who are already leaders or representatives within said colleges, such as the Haas Business School Association, the Engineering Student Council and the College of Environmental Design Undergraduate Student Council.
Lack of a formal leadership structure, Ng added, poses an additional challenge in reaching students in colleges such as Letters and Science. For such instances, Ng said he is reaching out to student organizations to establish more formal lines of communication.
Yet maintaining those relationships, hearing student concerns and communicating those concerns to those in power is a whole other feat that Ng must take on if he is to truly center students.
His remaining platforms — increasing accessible course content, reducing general education requirements and expanding the limit for pass/no pass lower division courses — seem to be longer-term goals that once again involve many more decision-makers than him alone.
Though his term has only just begun, 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.