Gofman abstained from voting on Environmental Justice for Underrepresented Communities’ resolution due to potentially polarizing language
On June 5, the Campus Center for Environment’s (CCE) former unit director Helen VanBeck sent an email to ASUCD Senator Michael Gofman stating that she would like him removed as CCE’s adopted senator. The basis for the removal stemmed from Senator Gofman’s decision to abstain from voting on the Environmental Justice for Underrepresented Communities (EJUC) resolution brought forward at the April 20 Senate meeting.
EJUC is a student organization that brings awareness to environmental injustices in underrepresented communities. The group was founded by students who recognized existing problematic issues within the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. EJUC has compiled a list of short-term and long-term demands for the department, such as the development of an environmental justice course, the creation of an environmental justice major and minor and the hiring of diverse faculty of color from underrepresented groups.
Furthermore, ASUCD Senators personally adopt ASUCD units which they, in theory, lobby for within the creation and passing of legislation.
VanBeck was surprised by Senator Gofman’s decision to abstain from voting on the EJUC resolution.
“My main concern is your lack of support for the EJUC resolution,” Vanbeck said in an email to Senator Gofman. “I remember specifically talking to you about the importance of that resolution the morning of that Thursday (April 20) and I was very surprised to hear that you did not support it.”
VanBeck said that Senator Gofman’s lack of support for the EJUC did not accurately reflect the mission and values of the CCE.
“There is no excuse for running on a platform of sustainability and unifying the environmental groups on campus and then not supporting movements that are centered on environmental justice,” VanBeck said in an email to Senator Gofman. “Especially in our current political climate, it is very important for those of us within the environmental movement to prioritize intersectionality.”
In the email, VanBeck also expressed disappointment in Senator Gofman’s stance against removing the legislation mandating the presence of the American flag where Senate meetings are held.
Senator Gofman believes his removal as adopted senator of CCE was not because he was in opposition to the mission and values of the CCE.
“‘Sustainability’ is a big tent, and […] I believed (and still believe) there are so many ways to live and promote this sort of eco-friendly lifestyle here on campus,” Gofman said via email. “I don’t think my votes on [the EJUC resolution and American flag legislation] are in opposition to the mission of the CCE and, knowing that from the beginning, I cast these votes confidently and I do not regret my votes on either.”
Senator Gofman said he decided to abstain because he had issues with the language of the resolution, specifically with regard to how the resolution appeared to single out agriculture students and companies and described the university as a “colonialist power.”
“I disagreed with the EJUC bill because there was language in it that I [and my constituents] saw as problematic,” Gofman said via email. “Furthermore, students in the college of agriculture felt singled-out by this resolution, and many agricultural companies […who] pay for agricultural and environmental science research, were also directly targeted and attacked head-on. The resolution incorporated language painting the university as a ‘colonialist power,’ insinuating that students were perpetrators of ‘environmental injustice’ and ‘imperialism’ merely by being present, which I took vehement issue with.”
Senator Gofman also said in his email that he discussed his decision with both his constituents, the CCE and the Environmental Policy and Planning commission before deciding to abstain from voting.
In VanBeck’s email to Senator Gofman, she said CCE staff would be open to collaborate on specific projects with him in the future. Senator Gofman shared a similar sentiment.
“I look forward to working with the CCE going forward and remain committed to sustainability on campus,” Gofman said via email. “I plan on supporting spending and other bills they may bring forward and [helping] them in our mutual mission of making a more sustainable campus.”
Written by: Yvonne Leong — firstname.lastname@example.org
Update: An earlier version of this article did not explain the role of an adopted senator. The article has been updated with this information added.