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Davis, California

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Resolution in support of student debt cancellation bill passed at Oct. 24 Senate meeting

Joint ASUCD-Graduate Student Association Housing Task Force report presented

The Oct. 24 ASUCD Senate meeting was held in Meeting Room D at the Student Community Center (SCC). Vice President Shreya Deshpande called the meeting to order at 6:16 p.m. Controller Kevin Rotenkolber was absent. 

The planned election chairs committee confirmation was cancelled, as no candidates showed up to their interviews.

The table then moved into interim senator confirmation. Of the three interim senators nominated, only Jose Sanchez, a fourth-year political science and communication double major, was present. Sanchez said he hoped to tackle basic necessities and food insecurity during his term. He was confirmed with no objections.

The other two interim senators who had been nominated were not confirmed due to their absences.

The Senate then moved to ex-officio reports. Gender and Sexualities Commission Chair Elena DeNocochea shared plans to introduce resolutions focusing on gender-inclusive bathrooms and menstrual products across campus. External Affairs Vice President Adam Hatefi went to the Yolo County elections office to talk about leveraging ASUCD resources to spread census awareness. 

Rotenkolber, in his email report, suggested that half of the funds raised by University Preferred Partnership Program, or UP3, be put toward the yearly Mental Health Conference. Environmental Policy and Planning Committee (EPPC) Chair Kyle Krueger talked about his committee’s upcoming partnership with the UC Davis Office of Sustainability and a planned comprehensive environmental survey.

Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Committee Chair Jonina Balabis acknowledged Indigenous Peoples’ Day, talked about giving a cultural humility presentation to the Davis College Democrats and said her committee was discussing different ways to combat appropriation at the Whole Earth Festival. 

Deshpande said they were working on the Council on Student Affairs and Fees presentation and planned to present the upcoming ASUCD fee referendum proposal to the council soon. 

Elected officers gave their reports next. Senator Tony Chen said he would schedule an appointment with the TAPS director to talk about the recent $5 fine increase for parking violations. Senator Anna Estrada talked about pressuring the university and dorms to bring EBT to actual stores and also brought up the idea of starting a professional wear closet for students to rent professional clothing. Senator Karolina Rodriguez said she was searching for more Kosher options and working on rolling out an exclusively vegetarian and vegan menu for the South CoHo. Senator Maya Barak said she was writing a piece of legislation to codify the onboarding process for ASUCD. 

Senator Shondreya Landrum expressed concern that nobody was sitting in on interviews for commission members. 

“It’s not just one person’s job to be there,” Landrum said. “It’s all of our jobs to be there.”

In response, Senator Andre Spignolio apologized for not going to interviews and said he would make more time going forward and Senator Sean Kumar encouraged people to sign up for interviews for the Academic Affairs Commission positions. 

After reports, Business and Finance Commission Chair Filip Stamenkovic recommended six nominees for the commission. All six were confirmed without objections. EPPC confirmations followed, with seven nominees successfully confirmed. 

The confirmations were followed by a housing update from Don Gibson, chair of the joint ASUCD-Graduate Student Association Housing Task Force. Gibson attributed the 2000 implementation of Measure R to today’s lack of housing. 

“To build new housing now, the entire city of Davis has to vote,” Gibson said, citing Davis community members’ beliefs that Davis was growing too fast for a “quiet agricultural community.” 

UC Davis experienced a 50% increase in its campus population from 2000 to 2017 without any significant increases in off-campus housing, according to Gibson. Student homelessness and low vacancy rates motivated the Joint Housing Task Force to develop and release a May 2018 survey to look at housing insecurity and homelessness within the city. 

The survey found that for every 1,000 beds in the city of Davis, five were vacant — the vacancy rate has hovered around 0.5% since 2004. As a result, the survey found that 45% of students said their housing expenses were their greatest financial issue and 7% of students experienced temporary or sustained homelessness. Gibson asked ASUCD to dedicate more resources to the task force.
“I’d love to have undergrads re-establish the task force at an ad hoc level,” Gibson said.

He said the task force’s current work focused on developing a student-renters, majority-minority council district, improving the weak renter’s rights ordinance and supporting affordable housing in Davis. 

Following the housing update, KDVS General Manager Noel Fernandez and Assistant Manager Ammaar Vayani gave the unit’s quarterly report. Fernandez said KDVS Talks — events where creative types gave talks to members interested in the radio industry — were being planned. 

He also touched on returning to broadcasting industry standards, running on listener support by moving back to a single fundraiser and reviving the KDVS zine. Unfortunately, Fernandez said, the radio station still has not secured a new location — a necessary measure due to the planned demolition of Freeborn Hall. KDVS’ needs for space are specific. Another issue, he added, was the branding ASUCD rolled out via Creative Media. 

“It’s unjust for Creative Media to assign a logo without conversing with the community,” he said. “It’s also unfair to our in-house design director.” 

Landrum responded by telling Fernandez and Vayani to reach out to ASUCD if they needed assistance with publicizing fundraisers and events. 

“We can have a sit down and figure out what’s the best route,” she said about the KDVS logo. “We’re still talking to Creative Media and trying to figure out how to integrate with them.” 

The table took a break at 8:05 pm and resumed at 8:11 pm. 

Housing Advising for Undergraduate Students (HAUS) director J.J. Hsu gave the unit’s quarterly report. Hsu said in recent years an increasing amount of housing opportunities — which HAUS brings to students through Housing Day — have been around the city of Davis, rather than inside the city.

“Rent is going up and vacancy is going down,” he said, citing average Davis rent as $1,785. 

HAUS is now working with UC Davis Student Housing and holding walk-in advising hours while creating educational materials about renters’ rights with the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center, Hsu said. Following his updates, Hsu was confirmed as the new Judicial Council chair without objections.

The Senate then moved to legislation. Emergency legislation, introduced by President Justin Hurst, concerned ASUCD elections petitions which were supposed to go up during the third week of the quarter, as required by the constitution. The absence of both a judicial council and elections chair, however, made it impossible to maintain that timeline. This resolution made it constitutional for the petitions to be put up in the fourth week of the quarter solely for Fall Quarter 2019. It passed without objections. 

Next, Hurst introduced Constitutional Amendment #60, an amendment intended to reform the Judicial Council such that it had a lower body — an oversight council — comprised of nine justices. 

“This reform will enable Judicial Council to focus on bigger-scale issues,” Hurst said. He also noted that the ASUCD Constitution defined Judicial Council as an appellate court and as the first court, and such a reform would rectify the definition’s clarity. 

Barak expressed doubt about the proposed changes.

“I don’t know how I feel about this amendment in general,” said Barak. “There are lots of simultaneous steps needed to create this body.” 

Kreuger also shared concerns, especially when Hurst said the amendment would functionally restore a third branch of ASUCD government. 

“Sometimes it’s not appropriate to structure ASUCD like the federal government,” Kreuger said. “For example, you’re there for life in the judicial branch. But we tend to have turn-over — it’s more likely that a new president could [appoint] whoever they want instead of a Judicial Council staying constant if the previous president leaves.” 

Hurst said he would alter the amendment to extend the justices’ stay on the council from one to two terms. He also changed the amendment such that the Judicial Council chair was elected by a two-thirds Senate majority. With those changes, the amendment was passed with no objections and will be placed on the ballot for fall elections.

Finally, Deshpande introduced Senate Resolution #3 in support of the Student Debt Cancellation Act, H.R. 3448, adding that Congressman John Garamendi would respond to an ASUCD statement.

“Forty-six percent of UC graduates graduate with student debt,” they said. “Student debt affects the welfare of everyone on campus, with students of color disproportionately affected by basic needs and housing insecurity caused by student debt costs. This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a basic needs and a mental health issue.” 

Spignolio said he foresaw a chaotic future for the aforementioned bill. 

“The incentives that could result seem to be problematic,” he said. “It’s not a long-term solution because it sounds like it cancels debt of the students before us, but what about students after?” 

Isaac Flores, a fourth-year English and psychology major present at the meeting, said the reaction was irrational.

“Allowing entire generations of students to be shackled by massive amounts of student loan debt, that’s irrational,” Flores said. “Suggest solutions rather than saying, ‘This isn’t something I can get behind.’”

External Affairs Commission Chair Shelby Salyer talked about the discrepancy in her parents’ college experience and her own.

 “College was cheaper for our parents and grandparents,” Salyer said. “You could go to college with a minimum wage job and get by. Now, my partner struggles a lot financially so she won’t have to take out student loans, working 25 hours per week.” 

Salyer said that being an advocate for marginalized communities that have been shut off from education means doing anything to make the current student debt crisis better. 

Barak supported Spignolio, but said she also understood where her fellow senators and members of the public who came to support the resolution were coming from. The sentiments of the bill resonated with her, she said. Barak pushed for a change in the resolution’s language such that it said “ASUCD supports the sentiments of the act” instead of “ASUCD supports this passage of the act.”

Deshpande said the wording change diluted the power of the resolution. Instead, after further discussion from both the public and officials at the ASUCD Senate table, they accepted a language change proposed by Estrada — “ASUCD supports the passage of this act in its current form.” 

After a 6-2 roll call vote, the resolution passed. Barak and Spignolio voted against the resolution’s passage and Senators Sahiba Kaur and Tony Chen were absent. 

The meeting adjourned at 10:28 pm. 

Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga — campus@theaggie.org 



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