The passage of two resolutions brought forth by the Legislative Review Committee (LRC) highlighted last Monday’s ASUCR senate meeting. After some complications with the editing of the resolutions, 14 senators present at the meeting unanimously passed a resolution to expand access to higher education for underrepresented students, as well as another resolution to recognize UC unions’ collective bargaining effort for bettering their constituents’ working conditions.
The senate resolution titled, “A Resolution in Support of the UCSA IGNITE (Invest in Graduations, Not Incarceration, Transform Education) Campaign and UC Higher Education Diversity Pipeline,” supports a system-wide campaign led by UC Student Regent Cinthia Flores.
The campaign urges the UC Office of the President (UCOP) to attain $10 million in funds to establish retention centers and support student recruitment across the 10 UC campuses. According to the resolution, these centers will tear down the barriers that exist for previously incarcerated students and facilitate their entry or re-entry to higher education.
The campaign also calls for the state to divest from prison funding, as California is known for its high prison spending — ranking 49th in the nation in adjusted per pupil expenditures. The state spends four times as much on prisons rather than on education, investing $47,102 per inmate, compared to $8,482 per student.
“We recognize that there definitely is a misallocation of resources and misunderstanding of California’s top priorities when we place a much higher value on prison funding,” said Senator Michael Ervin. “Our state has such a high prisoner rate, and I think that it is something really unsustainable, especially if we want to continue the great prestigious legacy of UC legislation.”
Vice Chancellor of External Affairs and President of the University of California Student Association (UCSA) Kareem Aref explained ASUCR’s effort behind pushing this resolution across the senate floor is to gain a unified system-wide consensus of the support.
“Because UCSA adopted IGNITE as one of its campaigns this year, part of the idea was to engage the constituency on the grassroots level. So there are resolutions like this one that are going through all the UCs right now,” said Aref. “We want to make sure that our (own) constituencies are engaged, and that our student government, outside of just being a sign that UCSA, is also in favor of it.”
Aref announced his intent to speak in support of the IGNITE campaign during the next UCSA board meeting from Nov. 12 to 13.
During the reading of the resolution by President Pro Tempore Aaron Johnson, two typos were found in the writing. In addition, Aref motioned to strike one paragraph out of the resolution, since the bill mentioned in that paragraph had already died and was therefore irrelevant to discussion.
Edits to the resolution required senators to re-vote on each adjustment made. As a result, few senators expressed frustration at having to vote again on the same piece of resolution and thereby delaying the meeting process.
Senator Niela Darmani commented, “As LRC, it is our job to catch these errors, and I believe that they were caught when (this resolution) was reviewed by the committee. So when we do send back to whoever authors (the resolution), please have the adjustment already made so we don’t have to do it in the senate meeting.”
The next resolution scheduled for voting, titled “Fossil Fuel Divestment Support in Divesting ASUCR and University Investments from the Fossil Fuel Industry,” was sent back to the LRC committee due to a fault found in the resolution’s composition. Since every reference to facts listed in the resolution requires footnote-style citation, senators voted to table the legislation until the missing footnotes were added.
The next resolution on the voting docket was titled “ASUCR Resolution in Support of AFSCME 3299 and Campus Workers,” and called for the UC to compensate fair wages and ameliorate working conditions for the university staff workers, especially the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
In the beginning of the fall quarter, UC administrators notified AFSCME 3299 and other unions that they would be imposing cuts in pay and health benefits on its service workers. Many unions, especially AFSCME, were unwilling to comply with the university’s decision and appealed through strikes.
Through the resolution, the senators sought to work in solidarity with AFSCME 3299 and its allies to create better working conditions and compensation.
“UCOP should recognize AFSCME and the union workers’ collective bargaining effort,” said Senator Kelly Tran. “Workers are vital to the UC campuses and it is unfair to see the UC executive compensation being increased so much, while the AFSCME 3299 workers are barely making ends meet.”
The entire ASUCR body supported the resolution. However, one senator caught punctuation inconsistency in the resolution writing. The proceeding editing process further bogged down the course of the senate meeting as senators had to vote on the adjusting the resolution before its final endorsement.
Senator Nayeli Figueroa recommended LRC not pass anything with edits any longer to avoid prolonging the senate meeting with trivial grammar mistakes.
As Chair of the LRC, Johnson took blame for the complication. “I will take the fault for that LRC has not been reviewing edits once (they) were given back to us for the second time. It will not happen again. I will make sure that it is thoroughly read before it is processed at the floor.”
But when addressing the authors of the resolutions, Johnson urged, “Please review and revise legislation before it is sent to the LRC. While our committee is designed to edit and revise legislation, we do expect submitted resolutions to be on par with basic university level writing requirements.”
President of Students for Justice in Palestine Amal Ali brought to the senators’ attention a resolution expected to be proposed in the near future. The resolution previously called for UC to divest in companies that allegedly support apartheid in the Middle East, which caused much contentions within the UCR community last year.
President Sai Patadia addressed concerns that ongoing conflicts, particularly between the pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian student groups, may be reignited.
“Last year, reflecting back on the resolution, a large issue was that not both two of the parties were aware that the resolution was coming to the senate,” said Patadia. He suggested Ali to contact the pro-Israeli communities at UCR and resolve as much disagreements as possible before the resolution comes to the senate.
Ali replied that the resolution has not been drafted yet. But when it is prepared, the pro-Israeli community organizations will be contacted.