By Jackie Bueno
This year, the Restorative Justice blog is highlighting Student Action, CalSERVE, and Independent candidates to find out what their platforms are and why they’re running for ASUC Executive positions and ASUC Senate. This week, we’re highlighting, Nick Araujo, a sophomore at Cal. Nick is running for Senator as an Independent candidate. The RJ Center wishes Nick nothing but the best of luck with his campaign!
To learn more about Nick’s campaign, click this link.
*Titles for Identification Purposes Only*
Here’s our interview:
Jackie: Tell me about where you grew up.
Nick: I moved around a lot growing up. I lived in East Los Angeles, then moved to a single room household in East Anaheim, then Hawthorn, but I grew up mainly in the Moreno Valley, so Riverside County. I went to public school there from K-12 and heavily invested in public education, and their social and public services.
I grew up in a single-parent household with a resilient women of color, who put food on the table and kept the lights on, but it was not easy. Always strengthening to capitalize myself with knowing strong vocabulary, so we would stop being dismissed in a world of classism and institutional racism.
I’m out here in my second year, trying to thrive in a university that wasn’t built for us. And in this process, making spaces and doing advocacy for those that I can and so the future generations after me can have a better educational experience.
Jackie: Can you speak to your experience that you believe qualifies you to run for Senate?
Nick: The poverty and inequities growing up were, and are, focal points for all ambition and tenacity that qualify me to run for Senate. Remembering those disparities of housing insecurity, homelessness, financial insecurity, not being supported through administrative levels, by being dismissed, being rejected because of colorism, anti-blackness, because of the ambiguity of the color of your skin, all of that is what I want to address.
This past year, I also served as the Chief of Staff for the current Latinx endorsed Senator, Vicente Román. Some of the deliverables we had this year include stripping money from the ASUC budget to send to Puerto Rico and Cuba for the natural disasters, something that has never been done before. We also worked to have the Chancellor be more accessible to the community by holding forums. We’re working on creating scholarships for FPF undocumented and underserved freshmen. We’re working on expanding a Casa Mora program that has a 100% retention rate.
I know the Latinx community often dismisses and rejects the ASUC, and one thing I’ve seen our office do was make space for those community members that happen to be brown and believe in public policy because there’s space for those identities. I’m proud of that.
I’ve also worked for the office of the UC Student Regent; he’s one of the board of regents whom are traditional, white, wealthy males. He’s a Salvadorian student at Berkeley Law, and pushing his agenda forward has been a lot of growth and building in my avenues to strengthen our community.
I’ve also worked on police accountability by interviewing schools such as UC Davis, presenting at UCR, interviewing Brown University and finding what works from different universities and finding what works to create some policy, some legislation, some one-pagers to be sent to the UC President. And because of what we’ve done, the UC President has started a police task force to look into how we’re talking about police safety, which has never been done before.
Jackie: What motivates you to run for Senate now?
Nick: I didn’t know I was going to run for Senate until I saw the power and privilege that is a seat in Senate, and how misused it can be when you don’t have the right kinds of people in Senate.
And I think one of the biggest values I have is bringing together community spaces. I really enjoy going to community spaces and really deconstructing the ASUC by asking what is the ASUC? What have they done? What haven’t they done? What can we fit in, and how do we move in together? And I find people enjoy being included in the conversation, instead of being tokenized or exploited for a vote.
Jackie: What are your main platforms?
Nick: All of my work in Senate include the recruitment, retention, safety, success, empowerment and professional development of brown and marginalized bodies on this campus. More specifically, I’m endorsed by the Latinx community and will cater to what their needs are. Our communities are vastly diverse, highly intersectional, many of our community members come from Central America, some by which are biracial, LGBTQIA, student-parents, transfers, so catering to all of them is not something I can find a solution to alone, but I can make space and facilitate conversations that cater to all of us.
My first platform is reinforcing educational equity on this campus by strengthening the pipelines from the admissions office to recruitment and retention center elevate the work they already do, strengthen the capital project they have in finding permanent space, as well as working with the Office of the President and California state legislature, to find avenues and practices that work around Prop 209. This state law makes it illegal for institutions to use identity to choose candidates, and if there’s anything I know about education, it heavily intersects with the other identities you hold. Far too many brown students are dismissed in their first year because of probation, so if you want to fix this issue, dismissing them is not the answer.
My second platform is reframing campus and community safety and having a wide conversation with administration, students, faculty and staff. When Free Speech Week happened, the Chancellor’s plan never alluded to my safety. It never included the conversation around Black and Brown safety, because I promise you it does not mean spending $8M and inviting U.S. military to campus. In our communities, police doesn’t always represent heroism, and yet I’m expected to thrive in school and not be affected by all of this. I’m not saying all police are bad. I am saying heavy conversation needs to be had around campus safety and make sure campus protocol knows how to deal with intersectional identities.
While we have an operating Police Review Board, I would say it is not effective because it only has 2 students out of 40,000, so opening up student engagement is something I want to do.
My third platform has to do with alumni engagement and professional development. Working with the Cal Student Alumni Association, the Chicanx Latinx Alumni Association, and the Black Alumni Association, and how we can engage POC student organizations to work with alumni to form pipelines to take up career and administrative spaces after graduation and building relationships, so they can provide funding. I want to invest in our marginalized groups using alumni money for bond funds for those that are detained, where the university can’t grant because of “legality” fees. These funds can also help us defend against organizations such as ICE, and supporting further marginalized groups. This platform revolves heavily around building community across generations, and empowering a community elevation, especially in this political climate.
Jackie: What is your leadership philosophy?
Nick: I think leadership philosophy is rooted in the idea that being a leader includes being humble and courageous. I also think a strong leader creates strong people. When the leader is out of the picture, there’s still strong people that can continue the work that needs to be done. The leader is not the sole person that holds the power and the wisdom but being able to be community focused and valuing all identities.
Jackie: How will you make sure that people from different communities and identities can come together to resolve issues on campus collectively if elected?
Nick: One, I’m running independently which allows me to build stronger community. I am all for our community development at its forefront, how we can elevate our narratives, but I’m not in any way for harming any community or any marginalized communities. That’s something I say now, and something I will always push for. Being an independent will allow me to get support from all senators. I’m not willing to push out people because of their identities, not because of their diverse thought, but building community and practices to support each other that will institutionalize change.
The question is Will my work support traditional, affluent students? I think there’s been enough representation for them where my advocacy won’t be needed for them. And I think my work may support their efforts, it may not, but what I know is that liberation has to start from the bottom. Any type of liberation, whether it’s black liberation or brown liberation, but there is no liberation until we liberate those from the bottom. I want to create institutional change and that being transcending the borders of the ASUC.
Jackie: How do you think RJ can help organizations on campus such as the ASUC resolve issues it faces?
Nick: I think first and foremost, Restorative Justice and its values, align heavily with that of many community spaces. I think bridging the Restorative Justice Center and what it does to what community spaces are doing. I think right now we’re working on a community safety platform that works on protecting students’ identities and rejecting anti-blackness. Seeing how we can stop criminalizing students for their day-to-day practices of their survival and unapologetic lifestyles.
Jackie: Anything else?
Nick: I didn’t talk about my identity because I don’t want to participate in identity politics. I mean my identity is what it is, but I know the work I’m gonna do is because of the anti-blackness, the discrimination I witnessed because of my ambiguous, ethnic and intersectional identity, which is complex of that for my white teachers, white employers. Like I said, my campaign is that I’m unapologetically taking space. I’m complex, I’m diverse, I’m proud of who I am, the work that I’ve done. I think I’m in a space where I bring back deliverables in greater spaces.
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.