Last week’s ASUCR meeting witnessed the passage of a UCI 11 resolution within weeks of the controversial incident’s two year anniversary. The majority of the meeting, however, was centered on the public forum as numerous students voiced their grievances regarding ASUCR’s alleged lack of transparency and connection with the students.
The discussion period revealed that some senators still held reservations regarding the UCI 11 resolution. One point of contention was a clause in the resolution that called upon the UC Riverside administration to issue a public apology for “wrongly reprimanding” the students involved—a requirement which some senators deemed unwarranted. Senator David Falstein voiced his disapproval with the purpose of the resolution itself, stating, “It’s one thing to have free speech, but it’s another thing to prevent the free speech of others.”
Prior to voting for the resolution, senators voted in favor of a motion to change the vote from a closed ballot to an open ballot. Ultimately, all but three senators (two voted against the resolution, one voted to abstain) voted in approval of the resolution. “I’m glad that the resolution was finally passed but I got a little concerned that it wasn’t passed earlier,” stated Senator Derek Roberts, expressing his relief and alluding to the fact that numerous UC campuses had already passed similar resolutions nearly two years ago.
The public comment period at the end of the meeting revealed an impassioned audience who had come prepared to confront ASUCR senators. The public comment period was extended over three separate times, each of which required a separate motion and two-thirds approval by senators in order to accommodate the large audience. ASUCR President Stephen Lee’s involvement in Chancellor White’s task force and an alleged lack of senators’ efforts at communicating with constituents were among the forefront of the public forum.
“We do our best to try to communicate with [the student body] through mass emails, tabling sessions and through Facebook even…We’re doing everything on our part, I feel like we’re coming in half way,” said Lee amid claims that ASUCR was not reaching out to students. Members of the audience countered that forms of online communication were insufficient to reach students and that additional efforts should be taken. UC Riverside student Micah Carlson criticized Lee’s “coming half way” statement, insisting that ASUCR should not be treated “like some kind of organization that people need to come find.”
Meanwhile, UC Riverside student Michael Gamboa suggested that senators should provide public service announcements during the general meetings of campus organizations in order to promote awareness. “You can’t just send an email and say, ‘Okay, everybody is informed,’” said Gamboa.This sentiment was shared by Gina Gonzalez, who stated, “I think that if you’re really passionate about your position as senator then you need to come up with more creative ways for students to get involved.”
A recent video posted by the campus group Spoiled Minds criticized Stephen Lee for attending a private task force meeting organized by Chancellor White to review campus protest guidelines. After the Spoiled Minds footage was played during the meeting, Lee cleared any misunderstandings by explicitly denying that he supported the guidelines that were published and removed by administrators last month. Controversy also stemmed from a statement that Lee made during the meeting in which he likened students to children and the UC Riverside administration as parents. Lee, however, defended the statement and explained that the comparison referred to the fact that the administration has the responsibility to look out for students in terms of creating student-friendly protest guidelines.
Police activity was addressed during the public forum, most notably with requests that ASUCR present a resolution to condemn the use of police force directed at protesters during the UC regent meetings. Although ASUCR recently passed a resolution condemning the police actions that occurred at the Davis and Berkeley campuses last November, there has been no indication that a similar resolution is underway regarding the UC Riverside incident. Police were again brought up when a student noted that UC police officers frequently—at least once per week, according to the student—approach him on campus and ask for identification. “The police force on this campus should be addressed as a key issue in every [ASUCR] meeting,” stated the student, who felt that he was being unfairly singled out by campus police.
Other students voiced their concern regarding the transparency of ASUCR’s connection with the Fix UC proposal. Shirts given out during the UC regents meeting displayed the message, “Fix UC. ASUCR Taking a Stand,” which some perceived as an association between the two entities. Senators (some of whom serve on the Fix UC board) responded by reasserting that the Fix UC proposal was an independent student-led initiative that was not directly affiliated with ASUCR.
Aside from the UCI 11 resolution, another approved resolution dealt with the official creation of a UC Riverside chapter for the lobbyist group, the California Coalition for Public Higher Education. According to coalition representative Chris Riley, the purpose of the organization is to focus on returning funding to higher education by means of lobbying efforts, encouraging student voting registration and providing information to students on which candidates support public education.
Jane Kim from the Student Alumni Association also presented information regarding UC Riverside’s first annual dance marathon. With the date of the philanthropic event less than a month away, organizers have revamped their awareness efforts and are urging students to register on the dance’s website.
The next ASUCR senate meeting will take place on Feb. 9 at 5:10 p.m. The location of the meeting has yet to be announced on the ASUCR website.