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Davis, California

Thursday, April 18, 2024

Senate bill passes to transform operation of student advocacy

On March 13, ASUCD Senate passed a bill to consolidate advocacy sectors into one single unit, as the Office of Advocacy and Student Representation (OASR).

Prior to Senate Bill (SB) #53, student advocacy was represented by three separate units: University Affairs, Lobby Corps and City and Community Relations. To establish a more cohesive and efficient unit, ASUCD and the directors of each unit agreed that grouping together would best utilize their capabilities.

“We’ve had issues in the past where we felt that having the three be separate from each other causes disconnect, an inefficient expense of resources and it causes all our limbs to move in different directions,” said Gareth Smythe, president pro tempore of ASUCD Senate.

Certain advocacy issues are handled by officials according to their concerns but often overlap.

“The main problem was that while we operated as separate units, the issues our students face have no regard for those borders,” said Dillan Horton, director of University Affairs and author of the bill.

According to Horton, UC Davis and City of Davis police and fire departments typically handled public safety issues, while various University, state and federal officials took care of financial aid concerns.

“In designing SB #53 we had to create a unit that was versatile enough to handle projects spanning multiple areas, yet also allow for specialized research and policy making,” Horton said.

The consolidation would also allow Lobby Corps to shift focus from mainly addressing student issues on a state level to more federal advocacy.

While the OASR continues to work with UC Davis, University of California Office of the President and the Board of Regents, the Division of Academic and Student Affairs will take on a majority of University Affairs’ duties.

Projects that overlapped amongst the separate units were often not time efficient when more than one unit had to conduct the same research. By dissolving the three units, ASUCD intends to reduce the amount that the advocacy units in total cost the association. A $12,000 contract that Lobby Corps has with a research agency for legislation analysis will cease. Ultimately, one central budget will take place of the three.

“Right off the bat there’s going to be more cohesion,” Smythe said. “I think that if anything this will get these three units to start talking to one another. That’s a really important facet of why they were consolidated.”

The bill was tabled numerous times prior to its passing in a 7-3-2 vote. A previous consolidation attempt with SB #105 in 2012 died in legislation due to its incompleteness but played an influential role in SB #53’s success. Demonstrating what wouldn’t work, the failed bill helped advocacy units draft a better outline for the potential consolidated unit.

SB #53 was driven by the efforts of all three advocacy unit directors as they were greatly involved in the process and co-authored the bill.

“As a co-author, I assisted in reviewing and making any necessary changes to the bill that pertained to City and Community Relations [CCR],” said Beyza Seflek, CCR director. “I was also present for all of the conversations that occurred in planning and drafting prior to the legislation being presented to the commissions and senate.”

The OASR will become official after the budget hearing on May 18 and will begin operating in July to start off the 2014-15 fiscal year. Writing of the long-range plan that outlines the unit’s specific functions is in motion but will still be a draft by the time of the hearing.

“Once the long-range plan really starts coming together, we’re going to start transitioning everyone and ironing out all the projects from this year that will be carrying over to next year,” Lobby Corps Director David Kuwabara said.

Hiring of senior staff positions will take place this quarter, and interns will be selected in the fall.

OASR’s first item on its agenda is to prepare for the transition and see how well the unit functions together. Now with more flexibility in its operations, the overall goal is to improve advocacy while focusing on more than just policy changing.

“Early on we will focus on developing a capability in federal policy, organizing student representatives to committees, expanding cooperation with municipal governments and increasing our connection with the student body,” Horton said.

NICOLE YI can be reached at campus@theaggie.org.



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