By Jackie Bueno
This year, the Restorative Justice blog is highlighting candidates from both Student Action and CalSERVE, to find out what their platforms are and why they’re running for ASUC Executive positions and ASUC Senate. This week, we’re highlighting Idalys Pérez, a sophomore at Cal. Idalys is running for Senator with CalSERVE, Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education. The RJ Center wishes Idalys nothing but the best of luck with her campaign!
To learn more about Idalys’ campaign, click this link.
To learn more about CalSERVE, see this link.
Here’s our interview:
Jackie: Tell me about where you grew up.
Idalys: I’m from Los Angeles, California, about 435 miles away from here (Berkeley). I’m a first-generation student from my family to actually go to college and a school like Berkeley. It’s definitely been very challenging but also motivating to pursue my American Dream. And since I was little, with the help of educators, mentors and friends, just hearing about what college means to people, college has always been my American Dream in that sense.
I was lucky to get off the waitlist into Berkeley’s FPF program, so I’m currently an FPF Ambassador. Having that program allows more students on this campus, and this also gives support to first-generation, low-income students.
I’ve been able to go into this type of work with the FPF advisors, Ariana and Meghan, and a few other advisors because it’s very important. And I think my experience in the program really shaped the way I went about my academics on campus, but the program played a role in terms of helping me transition. And that’s why I’ll always be volunteering in FPF because it gives students opportunities, particularly from all backgrounds, who need that extra support, since it’s not easily accessible to us.
Like I said, we need to fight for our space being here, whether it’s for our Phase I, Phase II classes, or just getting an appointment with our advisors. It’s so hard to talk to them and get them to understand your perspective sometimes because they have a heavy caseload as advisors, which is at the fault of the public university that provides insufficient support. Instead, the university needs to provide more services that can improve the campus and wellbeing of everyone.
In terms of my background, I’m an older sister. I have a little brother who just got into a magnet high school. In my educational background, I just pursued what was offered to me to the best of my ability during high school. I think that in itself shows that our retention matters, so that they know that they deserve to be here one day, which is crucial.
Jackie: Tell me about the work you do in the ASUC currently.
Idalys: Part of my job in the Office of the EAVP as the UC Campaign Operations Manager is to overlook the UC Student Association Campaign Managers within their own campaigns which they lead across UC campuses, such as ReIGNITE, which focuses on the school to prison pipeline as well as 3D, which pertains to differently abled students and how we can bring about more resources to them.
And the last part of our work is Fund the UC, which we’ve been heavily trying to push for especially with the tuition hike where we’ve been trying to delay for out of state students which happened two weeks ago, push for more state funding from the UC and the Governor, and make sure the UC raises funds for in-state students as well.
I’ve also done work within the Legislative Office as one of the Associates and then as a UGSI for the Executive Vice President’s Office. And last year, I was an intern for the Organizing Department for the EAVP as a freshman.
Jackie: What motivates you to run for Senate?
Idalys: I think for myself, working in Rigel’s office specifically, him as a leader really gave all of the staff the ability to advocate for the issues they were passionate about from the organizing level to the legislative level. I’ve been given opportunities to go to UCSA conferences and Rigel has also allowed me to represent our Department within the UCSA Board meeting spaces at monthly events at other UC campuses.
Having his staff’s individual voices heard is something he very much prioritizes within his work, and I think that’s very powerful because it allows students to dive into what they’re most passionate about. And I think for myself, last semester and this semester as well, I’ve been really able to dive into the things I care about and the individuals who work in these spaces as well and it’s kinda led me to the point where I want to continue these same methods in passing the mic and making sure these issues are addressed because they’re really important.
Jackie: What are your main platforms?
Idalys: So the first one is sexual violence, sexual harassment prevention. That one stems from my work and overall my passions and my drive for this issue, which is very important and close to me. I see that there needs to be more confidential resources on this campus. We see the presence of programs such as PATH to Care, but they’re not highly publicized.
There could be more services offered here on campus, as well as on a city level. This campus needs to provide more preventive resources and also needs to be clearer with the implementation of procedures. What we have now is clearly not enough, as seen in the sexual harassment case led against the Dean of Berkeley Law, which left with him still having tenure and research funds. Seeing how a lot of perpetrators hold space on this campus and how there’s still work that could be done to support voices of survivors.
And even on the UC level, they don’t hold themselves accountable – we saw that with the resignation of our UC Regent Norman Pattiz, where students had to go to that meeting and go out of our way to address an issue that should have already been dealt with a year before.
And seeing how on a federal level, with Betsy DeVos, the current Secretary of Education, how she’s trying to revise these Title IX guidelines, where the current guidelines have struggled around the nation to even be implemented. On college campuses with active sexual violence and sexual assault support and guidelines, about 90% of SVSH Cases aren't reported. Only 10% of 40% of students are investigated within a span of 5 years, so students who report graduate.
The lack of accountability we see on our UC Campus is quite disheartening and there’s definitely more work that can be done on the City’s end and the campus’ end.
Financial aid reform - Just with my prior experiences alone as a low-income student of color, seeing how we face the same issues and seeing how the school miscalculates living costs off-campus by 42% is just absurd, especially with how expensive it is to get housing here.
Yesterday, I tried looking for housing and it was like $4,000 for a two-bedroom and it’s like Wow, that’s a lot! (says in shock) And seeing how demand here and the housing market really affects students lives and how many shifts they have to work, whether they have money for textbooks that semester, or if they’re stretching that dollar to the last meal is hard. Is this institution really equitable in how they’re supporting low-income POC students?
If this university is really striving for diversity, then they have to play their part and hold their end of the bargain and be able to make this campus equitable in as many ways as possible, so that of which is to implement and institutionalize the policy of making sure the financial aid office gives the accurate amount needed for need based students to thrive on this campus. For example, for many low-income individuals, it’s really hard for them or their parents or families to pull about a $1,000 deposit to secure housing, which is really inaccessible to them when their financial aid packages are from the dorms.
And then the last aspect of this platform would be to implement a work-study program which would hire student aid advisors to lower the wait time for financial aid officers. These student aid advisors would be able to answer simple questions about financial aid applications, FAFSA, grants or other financial aid services that help students get those small questions answered to determine simple provisionary terms which help them figure out how much financial aid they could be receiving if they stayed in the summer.
What happens now is that students have to get to the financial aid office early in the morning and wait several days, only to hear these financial aid advisors and their assistants just read these provisionary terms out loud to them. I aim to bridge this gap by hiring students to answer these questions and facilitate the conversation regarding financial aid between students, for students.
And overall the larger push would be to get more financial aid officers in there, to answer students’ more intricate and more individualized cases that are tied to auditing and so forth.
Financial aid officers would help students who are independent to maximize their financial aid, or help low-income background students that receive Pell Grants maximize their financial aid. From accuracy to accessibility to awareness, it all plays into the fact we make sure policies like the non-cancellation payment policy is abolished because it’s quite discriminatory against students who are put in these situations that they have no control over. So making sure these things are put into consideration when these equitable policies are being made and that these resources are accessible.
Jackie: Why did you decide to run with CalSERVE?
Idalys: I say this a lot, but it’s very true: I love CalSERVE. In the past year, I was the Vice Chair of the Community Outreach during Free Speech Week and was able to mobilize on social media to different events and go volunteer and help different organizations on our campus.
Mainly I see that as a Latinx student here, I see my community is seen as a minority here, seeing how we’re oppressed by certain issues on this campus and left in the margins. I see how other students are also being left in the margins in similar ways, different ways to some extent, and that really ignites what I really push for, which is equity.
It’s really not about oppressing people, but uplifting people to have their voices be heard. I think that being a community member of the Latinx community, especially being in Central Americans for Empowerment (CAFE), I’ve seen that it’s not good if I only support what I identify with when at the end of the day, there’s other people put in positions of harm, so what does it tell about my moral character?
I’ve felt particularly that my identities have been put in positions of harm, so I feel that with CalSERVE, their history and how they always try to uplift the most marginalized identities, such as in the 1970’s with the South African Apartheid, they were able to get the UC to divest from it, and their involvement with ReIGNITE and seeing how overall this is the kind of work I want to be pushing for me and my community because I see how there needs to be a lot of institutional change that will take longer than a one-year Senate appointment and leaving your mark beyond that.
Jackie: What is your leadership philosophy?
Idalys: My campus organizing director said last year a quote by Ella Baker that says “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.” It comes from more of a grassroots organizing phrasing that if you get a bunch of people to collectively organize, then you get a strong voice in their unity than just one person representing them. So as a leader, you want to be a strong voice and collectively work with your communities who have the power to voice what they believe in and push for that.
I think for myself, it’s really become about that, that’s there’s so many great leaders on this campus, and that works for each student in different ways. And being what you care about most, and diving into what you care about most. And just staying true to yourself and being genuine about what you’re doing cause some philosophies in leadership are very tailored toward just trying to be the best at what you’re doing, but honestly you don’t have to follow one path. I think that being a leader is just following what’s true to you.
Jackie: How do you think your Latinx identity will be integrated into your leadership if elected?
Idalys: My Latinx identity plays a part in my passions, my drive and my ambitions, in terms of how it’s driven my work, but I think at the end of the day, my identity as a Central American womxn as well as a Latin@ can only speak to some extent in that there’s very different identities in our work. And in my work, seeing how the Central American community is a very small, marginalized identity within the Latinx community, so seeing a minority within a minority, with that work that I’ve pushed for and learned about, I see how important it is to uplift other voices and how it’s my job if elected as Senator to see that all voices are heard in our community in different capacities and to make sure that I’m passing the mic to get other people involved in conversation.
Jackie: How do you think RJ can help resolve the political tensions that currently exist in our nation?
Idalys: I think that a big thing I’ve been trying to come to terms with in general in community spaces such as the Students of Color Conference this year, centers around the question that someone at the conference asked, How do we go about dismantling racial hierarchies? And how do we go from there to truly build real coalitions within our identities? An going off of this question, I think about how within our own communities, we have to hold our own selves accountable even if we’re minorities and are oppressed and marginalized in certain ways.
Individual communities and different minorities within the Latinx community hold different privileges and identities that also have to be acknowledged, so we can make sure we’re elevating one another and trying to push each other up. I want to continue this in my work by being intentional with continuing to be transparent with my community and facilitate these conversations and this work of how we can be more inclusive of all people inside our community and outside and so forth.
I think one of the controversial arguments with my slating was that someone asked me What happens if the community doesn’t side with what’s being put on the table with CalSERVE? And I think at the end of the day, with what CalSERVE believes is to always uplift those who are left in the margins in every possible way.
If I think there’s something my community doesn’t agree with CalSERVE about, we have to make sure that what we’re doing is recognizing our own privileges and identities without oppressing others, so we can all hold ourselves accountable for what we say and to also support others.
Jackie Bueno is a senior at UC Berkeley studying Sociology. For further inquiries or if you would like to be featured, please contact her at email@example.com.