ASUC Parties Respond to Asian Majority on Campus

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Editor's Note: This is the first in a six-part series analyzing issues surrounding the ASUC elections.

As this year's ASUC campaign season kicks off today, students may notice a marked change from last year: an increasing focus on the Asian vote.

At approximately 42 percent of the student body, the Asian demographic at UC Berkeley has become the majority on campus, outnumbering the 38 percent of white students. This shift has had ramifications for the way certain ASUC political parties select their candidates for office.

Student Action, which over the course of its five-year existence has represented organizations with reputations of being white - like the Greek system - has increased the number of Asians on their ballot. At the top of Student Action's slate is Teddy Liaw, president of the Asian American Association.

Last year, the party ran one Asian candidate on its five-member slate. This year, that number has tripled. In addition to Liaw, Student Action is running current Senator Alex Ding for executive vice president and Senator Jen Chang for academic affairs vice president. Neither of these candidates have worked in the offices they are now seeking to lead.

But Student Action is not the only party trying to capitalize on an Asian majority. CalSERVE, the ASUC's traditionally underrepresented-minority-based political party, solicited Liaw to run on its executive slate as well.

"I'm positive it has to do with my affiliation with (the Asian American Association) in that as the president of the largest (student) organization on campus I have been in the position to reach out to numerous members of the Cal community and I have been given numerous opportunities to serve the students at Cal," Liaw said.

The presidential hopeful has been criticized by Student Action party defectors for never having worked in the ASUC and only having been slated for demographic appeal.

"I don't think my race has anything to do with the fact that I was slated," Liaw countered. "I firmly believe that my campus involvement, leadership experience and accomplishments is what appealed to both parties."

Liaw said he chose to run as an executive candidate rather than for the 20-member senate because he is more of a "project-planner than a legislator."

Although the Asian demographic may assist Asians in being slated for executive positions, it is difficult to stand out within the large demographic, Liaw added.

"It's very hard to be a big fish in a big pond, but it is easy to be a big fish in a little pond," Liaw said. "With over 40 percent of our population being Asian-American, I have had to work hard to establish myself as a leader in such a large community."

Executive vice presidential candidate Ding said political parties do consider the composition of the student population when selecting its candidates.

"I'd like to think that demographics don't come into play in any case whether it be slating or anything in general," Ding said. "However, demographics do matter when it comes to actual voting."

In addition to the increased Asian representation among Student Action's candidates, CalSERVE slated Catherine Ahn for external affairs vice president, and APPLE, a new party formed by Student Action defectors, has slated Michael Lin for academic affairs vice president.

"I think I was offered the position because I am the most qualified person," Lin said.


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