Ariana Kretz steps into the role of Student Advocate with a team of around 70 caseworkers ready to head four student-serving divisions within her office.
In describing her vision for the school year, Kretz noted: “Many short-term goals end up being long-term goals.”
Despite institutional challenges, Kretz has already set initial plans into motion for each of her respective divisions: academic, conduct, financial aid and grievance.
One of Kretz’s main academic priorities is to implement 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.
Kretz has ambition, but we are cautiously optimistic given the variety of institutional barriers to getting across the finish line, such as the bureaucratic processes involved. Kretz told us she spent the summer speaking to university officials about the policy outline, and she hopes to have the absence proposal prepared in time for a May vote before the academic senate.
A key responsibility of the Student Advocate’s office is to support students accused of violating university conduct. More specifically, when asked how she plans to balance working with both respondents and complainants of sexual violence and harassment cases, Kretz emphasized the importance of restorative justice.
From Kretz’s perspective, the needs of respondents and complainants are not diametrically opposed. She affirmed that, when caseworkers are willing to listen to respondents, accountability and healing are more likely to take place. Avoiding hostile processes is another priority for Kretz’s term.
Another essential facet of Kretz’s vision for her role includes continuing to build relationships with organizations representing students from diverse backgrounds.
Within the realm of financial aid, Kretz pointed to the importance of creating opportunities for accessible student housing. While the eventual overarching goal certainly surrounds the ability to provide affordable housing for all UC Berkeley students, Kretz pointed to more tangible short-term goals such as the Winter Break Housing Program. In collaboration with the Financial Aid and Scholarships Office, the Berkeley Student Cooperative (BSC) and Center for Support and Intervention (CSI), the Student Advocate’s office was able to house around 25 students. Kretz is hoping to surpass that total this coming winter break and develop a more robust program altogether.
For the past three years, the Student Advocate’s office has been conducting an anti-racism audit meant to explore concrete ways the office can approach casework systems through the lens of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Kretz stated that she plans to extend outreach to the Native, Latine, co-op and student-parent communities during her tenure in office.
The goals of the Student Advocate encompass many systemic issues that extend far beyond the scope of the university. Coming up with solutions to overcome these crises seems infeasible, but as she continues to progress toward her ambitious goals, we feel that Kretz is the right person for the job. The only outstanding question is whether obstacles presented by the university at large will allow for the substantive reforms she aims to put in place.