Stern has 'low-key' year after disputed start

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Correction Appended

One year ago, Noah Stern was in a very different situation.

He had been accused of voting on behalf of another student during his successful campaign for president in the 2010 ASUC General Election and was therefore the subject of an investigation by the ASUC Attorney General, which prompted a hearing by the Judicial Council that eventually found Stern guilty and issued him four censures for other violations - just one short of the amount required to be removed from office - while also requiring him to publicly apologize and amend the ASUC Constitution and Bylaws to bolster campaign rules.

He hadn't even begun his term.

Now, though a cursory Google search of his name will still display evidence of that controversy, Stern is wrapping up a presidency, which he said remained intact despite its contentious start.

But throughout his year as president, the spotlight was never focused as directly on his actions. Stern himself admitted his year was somewhat "low-key."

However, the campus climate is also different than it was last year. Student protests have not risen to the same level, the ASUC Senate is not debating a controversial bill urging the University of California to divest from companies that supplied Israel with materials used in alleged war crimes and Stern is not on trial.

"Last year there was a lot of drama, a lot of politics, a lot of big, big events - this year was not like that at all, and I was kind of bracing myself for that," Stern said. "This year, there was a lot more behind the scenes work, a lot of meetings with administrators and building up those relationships."

As president, Stern has played a pivotal role as a student representative with the Lower Sproul renovation project as well as the campus cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative.

Last summer, Stern signed a second Memorandum of Understanding with Chancellor Robert Birgeneau regarding the project, which he said carried some "big wins" for students. In that memorandum, the campus agreed to compensate the ASUC for revenue lost during construction as well as provide space for displaced student groups. A third memorandum that Stern is working on with the campus is on its way.

Though he said he thought he could have done more at times with his role in the initiative, Stern believes the campus is now "on a path to getting students more involved in that process" as the initiative heads into its implementation phase next year.

Additionally, negotiations between the campus and the student government that Stern was a part of last semester resulted in an agreement that, while the move of the campus's Career Center will be financed by fee revenue from the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative, future rent for the center will be paid for by the student service fee.

Stern's successor, Student Action Senator Vishalli Loomba, said that aside from the fact that this year has been more about policy work for the president, Stern did not take full credit for all of his actions, including work with the Career Center negotiations.

"The amount of work he's put into the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative alone is ridiculous," Loomba said.

Kelly McDonnell, Stern's chief of staff, attributed some of his reduced visibility to his character.

"He's been doing a lot," McDonnell said. "He works very hard, but he's very humble, so I think that's part of the reason why. He does a lot of speeches and all that kind of stuff, but he doesn't seek recognition, really ... He's such a humble guy, and that also makes it really easy to work with him."

Having worked with Stern since serving with him in the ASUC Senate last year, outgoing Academic Affairs Vice President Viola Tang said she would have liked to see Stern take a more active role with his presidency.

"I don't know exactly how he runs his office, but the sentiment I get is that he is not as visible as he could be," Tang said. "I feel like as president, you have the responsibility and the means to be visible."

During the election last year, Stern campaigned on goals of switching the campus's email interface to Gmail, being a strong student advocate and improving student life.

He said he feels he accomplished the latter goals through his work with campus projects, including negotiations with administrators and the introduction of the Taste of Berkeley food fair on campus. And though the senate passed a bill in February urging the campus to switch its email interface to Gmail, subsequent discussions have not yet produced Stern's desired result.

"I don't think that's a lost battle," Stern said. "For this year, it hasn't happened, but I think it's still in the cards."

Currently a junior, Stern said he would like to stay involved with the ASUC in some capacity next year, citing an obligation he feels to contribute to institutional memory in an organization that is not often able to attain it.

His ultimate career goals, however, remain "yet to be determined" among several ideas, which include political aspirations as well as interest in business and a desire to work with developing countries. He has already done work with the UC Haiti Initiative - a project that aims to provide support to the State University of Haiti following the devastating earthquake that struck the country in January 2010. Stern visited the country last summer and met with Haiti administrators at a symposium in early February.

"You know, my mom always calls me the most ambitious person she's ever met that doesn't have a goal yet," he said. "If something's put in front of me that I feel like is important, like helping the school and running for senate or president, I will do it ... but I don't necessarily know where I'm going to be in five years, specifically. I haven't found the next goal in life, for better or for worse."

Clarification: A previous version of this article may have implied that Stern voted for another student. In fact, he voted on behalf of another student.

Tags: NOAH STERN, VISHALLI LOOMBA, ASUC

Correction: Tuesday, May 3, 2011
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the ASUC Attorney General found Stern guilty and issued him four censures. In fact, the ASUC Judicial Council did.

The Daily Californian regrets the error.

J.D. Morris is an assistant news editor. Contact him at [email protected]



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