Candidates for presidency discuss experiences, goals

Photo: CANDIDATES (From Left to Right): Lauren Ballard, Defend Affirmative Action Party, Emily Carlton, SQUELCH!, Stefan Montouth, Independent, Vishalli Loomba,  Student Action
Brenna Alexander/Staff
CANDIDATES (From Left to Right): Lauren Ballard, Defend Affirmative Action Party, Emily Carlton, SQUELCH!, Stefan Montouth, Independent, Vishalli Loomba, Student Action

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Next year, candidates running for ASUC president hope to play a leading role in what some view as a critical year for both the University of California and the UC Berkeley campus.

As the Lower Sproul renovation project continues to play out, the campus cost-cutting Operational Excellence initiative enters its implementation phase and the university absorbs at least a $500 million cut from Gov. Jerry Brown, the president will have many issues to confront.

The role of the president as described in the ASUC Constitution and Bylaws leaves much room for interpretation. Student Action candidate Vishalli Loomba said she interprets the position as a leader who wants to make sure that the ASUC represents students in every possible way.

As a Student Action senator this year, Loomba authored a bill supporting the athletic teams that had been cut by the campus and met with several officials responsible for the decision, which she pointed to as evidence of her efforts to represent students.

"It's at times like that when the ASUC really comes into play and takes a role in making sure that the student voice is being heard," Loomba said. "I was able to do that as a senator."

If elected, Loomba said she would want a formal budget proposal to be sent from students to Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, outlining students' priorities.

"Cuts have to be made, but we should be the ones making the decision on what's more important," she said.

Independent candidate Stefan Montouth is no stranger to education budget cuts. When he was a senior at Encinal High School in Alameda, Montouth said, his school board eliminated funding for the entire athletics department, which immediately prompted a student walk-out and discussion with local officials that he said first introduced him to the political process.

"Those types of things I saw on a wider scale at UC Berkeley because every year since I've been here, we've seen budget cuts and fee increases," he said. "The only difference is we didn't have to pay to go to high school."

To confront budgetary problems on campus and within the ASUC, Montouth said he would want to hire an ASUC grants writer to solicit sustainable sources of funding for the student government.

Montouth, in his current role as a CalSERVE senator, helped establish a student review board to the UC Office of the President's hate crime reporting system - work he said he hopes to continue as ASUC President.

SQUELCH! candidate and former senator Emily Carlton, whose party aims to point out some of the fallacies of the student government, said she thinks students should be able to do whatever they want and that a lack of enthusiasm for other candidates helped convince her to run.

"I feel like a lot of people run, and they think that they can win just because of popularity and name recognition, so I feel like it's appropriate to make fun of them," Carlton said.

Running a campaign without much publicity, Carlton, who is currently the deputy of academic policy in the Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President, said she hopes to win "solely on the basis of name recognition and charm."

Defend Affirmative Action Party candidate Lauren Ballard - who is also running for ASUC Senate - said she would want to increase the president's role in the community by holding forums for students to discuss methods of effectively opposing budget cuts and discussing important issues.

Though her campaign is now in full force, she said she was initially hesitant about running for president.

"I realized I really wanted a movement to happen, and if I kept waiting around, it would probably never happen," she said.

She said that although she lacks prior experience with the ASUC and would have much to learn if elected, she is up to the task.

Ballard's campaign is founded on her party's three main goals of opposing Brown's cuts, doubling minority enrollment and passing the DREAM Act - proposed federal legislation that would help pave a path toward citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.

"These are long-term, big goals for the campus, but it takes a lot of little steps to get there and what I want to do is really spearhead building a campus community movement for these issues," Ballard said. "This is a collective struggle that's going to be going on for quite a while."


J.D. Morris covers student government. Contact him at [email protected]

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