Senators debate, pass resolutions on animal rights, Hong Kong at Nov. 6 meeting

Senators debate, pass resolutions on animal rights, Hong Kong at Nov. 6 meeting

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE FILE

Senate approves bill to follow California public meeting law, the Brown Act

The Senate meeting on Thursday, Nov. 14, was called to order at 6:20 p.m. by Senator Shondreya Landrum. Neither ASUCD President Justin Hurst nor Vice President Shreya Deshpande were present. The meeting began late because chairs had to be moved into the student lounge in the Memorial Union. Senators Andre Spignolio and Maya Barak and  Business and Finance Commission Chair Filip Stamenkovic were absent. 

The senators discussed the process of interviewing potential commission members, mentioning vacancies available on the Gender and Sexuality Commission. Meanwhile, the Internal Affairs Commission is working on new legislation. Adam Hatefi, chief of staff of the ASUCD Office of the External Affairs Vice President, said that he had met with university officials Kelly Ratliff, the vice chancellor of finance, operations, and administration and Emily Galindo, the interim vice chancellor for student affairs, regarding the UCPath related strike that took place earlier that day. Hatefi attended the strike with employees of the CoHo, who pressured university officials to address the newly implemented payroll system. He also mentioned that he was working on legislation to present to the California state legislature.

Similarly, Landrum discussed the necessity of addressing student struggles with UCPath, saying that she, Deshpande and Hurst had met with Ratliff, Galindo and Sheri Atkinson, the associate vice chancellor for student life, to address the problems. Landrum also held office hours in the MU for students affected by the numerous UCPath glitches and met with individuals from the Mental Health Initiative (MHI). 

Kyle Krueger, the chair of the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC), said that he had assigned commissioners to each of the projects the EPPC is working on. 

The EPPC’s internal team is focused on working with ASUCD units to increase sustainability, using tabling events in the CoHo to educate students about sustainability and developing a comprehensive environmental survey team. They are also putting in place a sustainability career fair team that may work with the College of Engineering. Another team, the product production team, will analyze products produced on campus.

Senator Tony Chen brought up the issue of long wait times for The Pantry. Senator Sahiba Kaur talked about incentives for volunteers for Project Compost, and Senator Jose Sanchez mentioned that he is working on the ASUCD bylaws with Francois Kaeppelin, the chief of staff for the ASUCD Executive Office. Senator Lylah Schmedel discussed potentially using a survey with the African Diaspora Center to ascertain the experiences of underrepresented groups on campus.

Senator Anna Estrada said that she had attended the most recent AFSCME strike. Senator Karolina Rodriguez talked about grants for the Student Recruitment and Retention Center (SRRC) and said that she is planning on volunteering at The Pantry every Friday. Senator Sean Kumar said that he had met with KDVS officials to discuss broadcasting KDVS programs in the student dining commons. 

Ryan Choi, head of The Pantry, presented the unit’s quarterly report and discussed the high levels of food insecurity on campus. Choi spoke about making the Pantry available to all students on campus, particularly at-risk groups. Choi said that the Pantry has 21 staff and welcomes 102 volunteers per week and noted that the Office of the Chancellor and the Provost had volunteered at the Pantry the previous summer while it was low on staff. Staff at the Pantry are developing a mobile app system designed to increase access and receive input about the quality of the food they are serving and, for the first time in the Pantry’s history, it will be open seven days a week.

The MHI presented its quarterly report, discussing the upcoming Mental Health Conference and a recent rebranding effort to make their logo “less feminine,” since men are particularly at risk for mental health issues, too. In an effort to diversify recruitment, the MHI is hoping to hire people who are not necessarily from mental health advocacy backgrounds. It is also hoping to become a unit in order to receive more funding from ASUCD. 

The Gender and Sexuality Commission (GASC) presented its quarterly report. Elena DeNocochea, the GASC chair, said that she had recently gone to San Francisco to speak about the future implementation of the medical abortion pill on California college campuses. She emphasized that California is the first state to require public universities to provide such a pill. GASC said it would observe Trans Day of Remembrance on Wednesday, Nov. 20 and would work with the Period Project for another resolution regarding menstrual products on campus.

The California Community Builders then gave a presentation about the organization, which is focused on “mitigating the wealth gap in communities of color through home ownership.” The group visits college campuses throughout California to encourage students to be more civically engaged and stay up-to-date with the widespread housing crisis. Viewing “home ownership as the key to success in America,” the organization hopes to close racial and generational wealth gaps.

During the presentation, the speakers noted the impact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency had on communities of color, particularly highlighting the segregation of American neighborhoods by race and income. They also addressed the impact that the recent Great Recession had on minority families, noting the 20% loss of wealth that some families of color experienced between 2007 and 2013, in part due to predatory loan practices and subprime mortgages.

The meeting then moved into the introduction of new legislation. Senate Bill #14 proposed to amend the use of the Entertainment Council show reserves. Authored by Kimya Khayhat, the director of the Entertainment Council, the bill aims to addresses the fact that Entertainment Council cannot use future revenue to pay off current debt. The bill was referred to the Business and Finance Commission. 

Next, old pieces of legislation were considered. SB #5, authored by Kaeppelin, amends ASUCD meeting procedures to adhere with the Brown Act which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. Under this bill, scheduled Senate meeting times, locations and agendas must be made publicly available 72 hours before any meeting. The bill passed as amended with eight senators in favor and four abstaining.

SB #12, which would restructure the relationship between commissions and committees was tabled as Hurst, who authored the bill, and Senator Maya Barak, who introduced the bill, were both absent.

SB #13, authored by Barak and Landrum, was written to create a distinction between a body within the Academic Senate and a body within ASUCD for the purpose of reducing confusion. Under SB #13, the ASUCD body will be named the Executive Advisory Council and will advise the ASUCD Executive Office (ASUCD President, Vice President and ASUCD Controller as well as their respective staff), ASUCD Business Manager and Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs on select items,

External Affairs Commission Chair Shelby Salyer and Krueger introduced Senate Resolution #4 which asked for increased vegetarian and vegan options on campus as well as encouraged alternatives to animal testing to be offered. The UC Davis California National Primate Research Center in particular was a topic of concern in the bill as there have been many alleged instances of negligence and abuse.

During the bill’s introduction, Krueger highlighted lack of power animals have over their environments. 

“The job of a government is generally to represent constituents, and that’s great, that’s how democracy works,” Krueger said. “But by only doing that, we risk neglecting marginalized communities [such as lab animals] who perhaps don’t have the proper resources to represent themselves.”

Krueger highlighted his own involvement in medical research and experience in testing on animals and the difficulty in navigating the topic. 

“This resolution does a great job addressing some of the potential solutions that allow us to both continue this important research but, at the same time, reducing animal suffering,” he said. 

A public comment made by a current Davis resident noted alternatives to animal testing such as computer modeling and in vitro tests using human cells and tissues. 

“Our technology is now to the point where we can build an organ on a computer chip,” the resident said. “We can give it an infection […] and see how it processes and changes over time. The models tend to be very close to what we find outside of computers.”

Senator Rodriguez talked about her veganism and support of the resolution, adding that she has also taken steps to make the south CoHo exclusively vegetarian and vegan. Rodriguez invited the authors of the resolution to contact her and collaborate on further efforts. 

“It’s totally unnecessary,” a member of the public said. “In this day and age and so therefore making that conscious choice to abuse animals is intrinsically immoral. The Primate Research Center needs to be held accountable for their actions.”

SR #4 passed with all present senate members voting in favor. 

The Senate then moved onto SR #5 authored by Davis for Hong Kong and introduced by Salyer, which would condemn censorship and intimidation of peaceful student activists on the UC Davis campus.

“Davis for Hong Kong has received a wide variety of intimidation and tactics censorship,” a representative for the group said. “This has occurred in the form of direct destruction of our materials, physical and social intimidation, claimed appeals to the university to deplatform our ideas and appeals to the Chinese consulate in San Francisco to silence our message.”

In the introduction of the bill, the Davis for Hong Kong representative said that surgical masks worn in solidarity have been threatened to be forcibly removed, a cane has been held with the unspoken threat of violence, videos have been taken in a manner aimed to intimidate and members have even been followed to their cars.

“It is highly troubling to other UC Davis students [that people] are directly attempting to influence free speech on an American campus, through pressure from a foreign government,” the student said. 

The student continued by saying that this points to a “larger issue of stigmatization and suppression of free speech at UC Davis” and closed by stating that students “should not have to fear intimidation or reprisal for expressing [their] views.”

“We don’t have a great history of supporting student activists on campus, but we have a chance to change that with this resolution,” Salyer said.

Both the Davis College Democrats and Davis College Republicans voiced their support for free speech on campus.

“It’s really important more than ever to have a representative of the student body say that ‘Hey we hear you, we want to support you in the efforts of free speech,’ because I feel like nobody on campus should feel uncomfortable for saying their opinions,” said Davis College Democrats President Brooke Pritchard. 

“No one should have to go through what you have to to express their views on campus,” Landrum said.

The resolution passed unanimously. 

The meeting adjourned at 9:56 p.m.

Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace and Jessica Baggott — campus@theaggie.org 

Correction: A previous version of this article did not list External Affairs Commission Chair Shelby Salyer as a co-introducer or author of SR #4, or as the introducer of SR #5. The article has been updated to reflect this, and The Aggie regrets this omission.