On Sept. 26, 2017, freshman convocation occurred with speakers such as Chancellor Kim Wilcox, President of the UCR Alumni Association Kenneth Noeller, Executive Vice Chancellor Cynthia Larive, Chairman of the Academic Senate Dylan Rodriguez, and ASUCR President Aram Ayra. Speakers welcomed the Class of 2021 with Ayra urging freshmen to “set your sights high.”
The free speech debate reached UCR’s campus when a viral video taken on Sept. 27 depicted a dispute between Matthew Vitale, a fourth-year economics major and Edith Macias, a fourth-year ethnic studies major, over a “Make America Great Again” hat that she snatched off of Vitale’s head. Chancellor Kim Wilcox sent out a campus-wide email in which he called on the student community to “affirm that our dedication to free speech need not conflict with our commitment to mutual respect.”
The 2017-18 ASUCR senators were sworn into office on Wednesday, Oct. 4 during the first state of the association meeting of the year. After the agenda was approved and officer reports were made, staffing was approved for the Associated STudents Program Board (ASPB), among others.
UCR’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), who are represented by the University and Professional Technical Employees (UPTE) union, were in contract negotiations with the UC Office of the President (UCOP) concerning the ability for CAPS to retain its workers. UC representatives did not attend any of six planned bargaining meetings and issues remain unresolved.
On Tuesday, Oct. 31, UPTE union members protested against the UC, citing low wages and a high number of layoffs. They also claimed unfair treatment of workers.
Activists representing UCR’s Muslim community demanded more halal dining options on the UCR campus. David Henry, the Dining Executive Director, explained that the department is working with new on-campus brands like Chronic Taco and The Habit to transition to halal products.
The Habit Burger and Grill opened inside of Latitude 55 on Nov. 15.
UC Riverside’s Middle Eastern Student Center (MESC) showed interest in expanding through a relocation to Costo Hall. Tina Aoun, director of MESC, stated that a move to Costo Hall would allow students access to more resources.
ASUCR contentiously voted to ban political parties for the 2018 election on Wednesday, Jan. 17 with a vote of 4-3-9. Students against political parties at the time believed parties would pool favor or resources into candidates running on behalf of a single group’s interests, such as Greek life.
On Jan. 18, in response to the planned removal of countries whose illegal immigrants are eligible to stay in the country, students protested to raise awareness of the Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This policy protects immigrants fleeing conflict or natural disaster from deportation.
ASUCR banned the practice of laptopping from the 2018 elections with a 9-1-0 vote on Jan. 24. It was a controversial political practice which allowed students to approach others and ask them to vote on an insecure, privately owned laptop by providing their login information.
UCR union members took to the Bell Tower on Feb. 1 to decry unfair working conditions in a UC-wide day of protest. Workers protested higher wages, alleged racist treatment of university staff and poor accommodations.
Sammie Ayoub, a third year political science and internal affairs major was at the center of the ASUCR meeting held on Feb. 7. During public forum, two students, Hawie Mekbib and Jose Venegas, denounced Ayoub’s candidacy for chief of staff under the office of ASUCR Vice President of Internal Affairs Semi Cole by making the senate aware of Ayoub’s alleged sexual misconduct during his time at Riverside City College. Ayoub’s appointment was not approved, with a vote of 5-6-1.
Kicking off elections, ASUCR announced the names of those set to run for an ASUCR position in the 2018 elections, most notably Carisha Moore and Diana Jekki’s run for presidency.
On Wednesday, Feb. 28, ASUCR passed a $35,285.45 expenditure in order to fund R’Gear, a program which provides apparel to students at no upfront cost, with funding deriving from student fees. The controversial program was largely promoted as an effort to bolster school pride, especially for freshmen.
On Wednesday March 7, The R’Gear financial allocation was vetoed by ASUCR President Aram Ayra and Executive Cabinet members Johnathan Li, Vice President of External Affairs, and Carisha Moore, Executive Vice President. The process did not involve all ECAB members and was therefore questioned by several others, with the veto eventually filed for review.
On Tuesday, March 13 the veto was overturned by the judicial council, who ruled that the veto did not meet constitutional requirements.
In the first week of April, multiple sources told the Highlander that the sudden retirement of former UC Riverside Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandoval arose from a comprehensive Title IX investigation into sexual harassment allegations made against Sandoval in the early summer of 2017. The source told the Highlander that Sandoval was investigated by UCR Human Resources but was absolved of wrongdoing sparking complaints which caused the university to enlist UC’s Title IX office to conduct another investigation.
ASUCR election debates featured candidates speaking about their future plans and initiatives. The debates centered primarily on boosting student involvement and food insecurity.
Chancellor Wilcox spoke to the Highlander regarding the Michigan State University investigation in which a report from the Detroit News suggested that Wilcox failed to act on numerous complaints of sexual misconduct against the school’s former Dean William Strampel. Wilcox told the Highlander that he did receive anonymous feedback that Strampel had made inappropriate comments and as a result instituted a corrective action plan that directed Strampel to stop making such comments.
Semi Cole was elected president of ASUCR for the 2018-19 academic year on April 30. Cole won in a landslide with 1,493 votes against his opponent Diana Jekki, who won 967 votes.
ASUCR’s 2018 election sparked controversy and frustration when the voter turnout rate was overestimated due to a programming glitch. The program, built by Patrick Le, duplicated more than 2,000 students’ votes in a vote-counting list, giving the illusion that the 20 percent voter threshold was met when, in reality, only 14.39% of undergraduate students voted.
On May 2, students protested the Highlander Empowerment Student Services Referendum’s (HESSR) failure at an ASUCR meeting.
On May 7 to May 9, the largest UC employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Chapter 3299 called for a strike due to stalled contract negotiations regarding worsening work conditions.
At a Legislative Review Committee meeting on May 16, a subcommittee that reviews and edits bills killed a bill that would reduce ASUCR Executive Cabinet stipends by approximately 60 percent.
Through a special election on Tuesday, May 22, a vacant CNAS Senatorial seat was filled by third year transfer student and biology major Wajeha Mahmoud. She ran on a platform of expanding research opportunities for undocumented students and freshmen.
Disparity between administration’s salaries and money spent on students, such as those in Costo Hall, was the catalyst for a student protest by GS 107, a student coalition for students and workers’ rights at UCR, on Tuesday, May 29. They said that the lack of funding does not align with UCR’s diverse image.
Wajeha Mahmoud’s election victory as CNAS senator was short-lived, due to her appointment through a special election in May being ruled unconstitutional by the Judicial Council. Students running for senate seats need to have completed at least three quarters at UCR, according to Article 3, Section 8 of the ASUCR constitution.