Thrive faces criticism for not consulting members of the Black campus community when deciding to skip last Senate meeting of the quarter in solidarity with the BLM movement
Before the June 4 ASUCD Senate meeting officially began, Jailen Graham, the president of the Black Student Union at UC Davis, read a statement on the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and the resulting Black Lives Matter protests that have resurfaced.
She said those looking to reach out to their Black friends should say “I’m thinking of you” instead of “How are you?” given the community rehashes that multiple times a day.
“Unfortunately, these events are not new,” Graham said. “A lot of us [in the Black community] are experiencing a lot of pain and turmoil. If you want to change the system, you have to change the hearts of the people who built it.”
Members of the Thrive slate, along with Senator Roberto Rodriguez-Ibarra, who is unaffiliated with a slate, issued a statement on June 3 announcing they would not attend the June 4 Senate meeting in solidarity with the Black community and those protesting.
“Instead [of attending ASUCD Senate], many of us will be attending peaceful protests in our own cities to oppose these atrocities, using this valuable time to reflect on the injustices occurring in our society and to actively be allies to the Black community,” the statement read.
Though all members of the Thrive slate, except Senator Mahan Carduny, joined the meeting around 6:20 p.m., former Senate Pro Tempore Shondreya Landrum, who attended the meeting, noted that the Senate had not reached quorum, calling it “sad.” It was noted that no members of Thrive reached out to officials from the Black Student Union or to other Black student organizations.
“BASED is here, Thrive is not,” Landrum said. “If you’re not here for the people who elected you [and] if you’re not going to sit here and stand in solidarity with us […] you might as well go and impeach them. If they’re not going to do their job, then they shouldn’t be.”
When the meeting was called to order, Senator Juan Velasco and Carduny were absent; Velasco joined late. Quorum was thus established.
After Senate Resolution #24 was passed, the table moved into public discussion to further discuss Thrive’s statement.
Senator Shreya Deshpande first asked how the Senate could be present for the Black community and how it was falling short, noting that there was lots of animosity on the table that they didn’t want to spill over into the community.
Landrum said she thought the community needed to see that the Senate was there for them, despite whatever was happening in their own personal lives.
“I’m not asking you to make any type of radical change,” she said. “You know me. You know people in the Black community. Educate yourself about what’s going on. Put yourself in the forefront to protect us. Come 10 minutes before and say ‘I want to hear you speak’ — that’s you acknowledging your privilege.”
Former Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission (ECAC) chair Jonina Balabis added that support for Black Lives Matter shouldn’t be just for a trend or for clout, given that no members of Thrive reached out to any Black student organizations.
“For you to say you support the Black community but you didn’t reach out to them, you didn’t come to our meetings — did you just find out we had Black students at UC Davis?” Balabis said.
Maria Martinez, Rodriguez Ibarra and Senator Lucas Fong apologized for having their name on the statement. Fong — who is Black and Filipino — shared an experience where a visibly white person said “What’s up, my n-words?” He asked Landrum for advice about educating those around him while learning to handle such situations.
“This is more educating you,” Landrum said. “I will say that if you are Black, you need to research your Blackness. I didn’t grow up with Black people, but I had to research it, what it meant to me. Have the hard conversations.”
She acknowledged that Fong and Martinez showed up to Senate earlier than other members of Thrive.
Academic Affairs Commission Chair Naomi Reeley said it was heartbreaking to see how the quarter turned out for the table, adding that it reflected ASUCD as a whole.
“It’s really annoying and hurtful to see people fighting about stupid shit, unless it matters,” she said. “The stuff we’re talking about, it matters. To me, it seems people only do that on this table as a political means. Slates don’t frickin’ matter.”
Senator Pro Tempore Samantha Boudaie said she only received the Senate agenda an hour before the meeting and thought she and Thrive could be better activists if they went out as a group to support the Black community.
President Kyle Krueger and Vice President Akhila Kandaswamy explained that they had met with Boudaie and Velasco at 2 p.m. before the Senate meeting and brought up the fact that Black students would be attending, but they said Boudaie told them she was still not willing to attend.
“I asked, ‘Is there anything Kyle and I could say to you, anything at all that would make you want to attend?’” Kandaswamy said. “She answered, ‘I don’t know.’”
Boudaie said she didn’t want to speak on behalf of her entire slate, but as soon as she found out Black students would be at Senate, she and Velasco were doing everything they could to figure out how they would handle the situation.
“We weren’t doing it out of the malice of our heart, we were doing this because we wanted to be activists,” she said. “I’m really genuinely sorry that this ended up being something that came up as disrespectful, and I’m hopeful that we can move past and learn from this.”
Landrum and Reeley called the apology an “excuse,” with Deshpande asking Boudaie to retract the statement if she was really sorry.
“All you have to do is say ‘I’m sorry, my name was on it [the statement]’,” Landrum said. “That was all you had to do, and then you do better. When you want to speak on the Black community, you talk to someone you know.”
Kinu Koide, chair of the Aggie Public Arts Committee, said Boudaie was pushing her agenda.
“You are here to advocate for students,” Kolde said. “It’s always turned into these selfish conversations about your personal agendas and hearing you apologize over and over again.”
Senator Tenzin Youedon called for Thrive to publicly apologize, take the statement down and have Boudaie resign.
“I can’t recount how many times I’ve broken down from these Senate meetings, and I’m shaking right now talking about this,” Youedon said. “Part of it has been because of you. A good pro temp would be able to bring the table together and you haven’t. If anything, you’ve divided us more.”
Kolde, who is in the Greek community, similarly criticized Boudaie for hiding behind technicalities and criticized prospective Senators who have entered Greek meetings asking for votes, regardless of their platform.
Arielle Zur, a member of the public, and Senator Martinez came to Boudaie’s defense.
“Sam represents the Jewish community,” Zur said. “She voices our concerns. She is needed on this board and we support her fully.”
June 4 Senate
The June 4 Senate meeting was called to order at 6:28 p.m.
The table moved to confirm the nominee for the Academic Affairs Commission (AAC) chair, Navreet Hundal, a second-year international relations major. Hundal has served on the AAC for the past two years.
Academic Affairs member Justin Hurst and External Affairs Commission (EAC) Chair Shelby Salyer recommended Hundal, and the motion to confirm her passed with no objections.
Next, the table moved into ex-officio reports.
Controller Kevin Rotenkolber said he met with the elections committee to discuss budget logistics and how remote elections would work in Fall Quarter.
ECAC Chair Yalda Saii said the commission wrapped up interviews for potential vice chairs and commissioners and hosted a Virtual Tunnel of Resistance, during which folks representing student organizations shared stories about resisting the status quo.
Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC) Chair Hunter Ottman said he presented at the Sustainability Summit. And in EAC, Salyer said that while commission members had worked on legislation this week, they primarily participated in Sacramento and Davis protests to show solidarity with the Black community.
The next item on the agenda was EPPC commissioner confirmations; six nominees were confirmed without objection.
Elected officers then delivered their reports.
Krueger and Kandaswamy worked on the executive office statement in support of the Black community. Kandaswamy added that she had been speaking with Black community members committed to taking action.
“We recognize it is time for us to move past solidarity,” Kandaswamy said. “We have to be here and use this platform. I was incredibly disappointed to see some members of the table did not join until several minutes before the Senate meeting.”
ASUCD External Affairs Vice President Maria Martinez said she finalized the application for the DREAMER scholarship, which intends to provide additional support for DACA and undocumented students, and released it this week. She also said she sent off a letter to the UC Regents — with over 8,800 signatures — urging them to remove budget cuts to undocumented student programs from consideration.
Senators Deshpande, Fong, Youedon and Rodriguez-Ibarra said they attended one protest. Rodriguez-Ibarra added that he went to Mexico for an appointment with the National Commission for Indigenous Rights, which has been working with him for several years to promote global education.
Boudaie said she had left the protest at the Los Angeles City Council to be an active listener to the Black community.
“Today is about listening and providing a platform to Black students,” she said. “I don’t want to make it all about us.”
The table moved to the Student Sustainability Career Fair Committee Chairperson confirmation.
Julia Pano, a third-year environmental science and management major, said she was excited to open possibilities for different sustainability career paths for students on campus.
After Ottman’s recommendation, Deshpande said they had heard lots of questions from engineering students not having sustainable career options and asked how Pano planned to get started with the career fair.
“I plan to get different professors from different fields and hear their stories about what happens in the workforce,” Pano said. “We’ll post Q&A’s on social media and see from professors’ perspectives instead of just reading company descriptions online, then start to email different companies and invite them to career fair.”
Pano was then confirmed without objections.
Four committee members for the career fair were then confirmed without objections.
Saii and Balabis delivered the ex-officio report for ECAC, starting off with a moment of silence to recognize “the recent murders of too many.”
Balabis said ECAC began the quarter with 11 planned projects, ultimately completing eight, including hosting Tunnel of Resistance and updating the ECAC Facebook page at least once a week. She also said ECAC met with AB540 students, members of the Jewish community and the American Indian Retention & Recruitment center.
Deshpande and Youedon both commended Balabis, and Youedon said she admired and looked up to Balabis.
The table then moved to Transfer, Reentry, and Veterans Committee (TRVC) member confirmation. Third-year biochemistry major Wasim Sandhu, who said he thought the position would be perfect for him to help connect transfer students to communities, was confirmed with no objections.
Business and Finance Committee (B&F) commissioner confirmations followed. Kasra Soltani Nia, a third-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major, and Isabelle Poux, a first-year managerial economics major, were confirmed without objections.
Jenna DiCarlo was then sworn in as a member of the Judicial Council.
The table went into a 10-minute break and called the meeting back to order at 7:56 p.m. Former ASUCD president Justin Hurst stood in for IAC Chair Emily Barneond.
As per the consent calendar, Senate Bills #51, #70, #71, #72, #73 and #74 were passed unanimously. No new legislation was introduced, pushing the table into consideration of old legislation.
Boudaie asked to call a motion to table Senate Resolutions #24 and #25 in favor of “time and other reasons.”
“We all came out here tonight to support the Black community, and we’re just seeing legislation that’s completely irrelevant — we need to focus on more urgent legislation,” she said.
Reeley objected, asking for her resolution — SR #24 — to at least be seen. Deshpande also objected, asking to amend the agenda to enter into public discussion.
Kandaswamy seconded the motion, but Boudaie’s motion still stood, pushing the table into a roll call vote.
Landrum interrupted the vote to say that the meeting had already run so long that she was the only Black member of the public able to stay.
“If it’s about us, we’re not worried,” she said.
Reeley added that senators were also here because they had a duty to the student community.
“Every student is important and there’s no excuse for why we shouldn’t finish the agenda,” she said. “Yes, it doesn’t pertain to what’s going on, but you all signed up and ran on a platform to help all students. If you wanted to hear the Black community today, they were able to talk at the beginning of the meeting.”
The roll call vote to table SR #25 was 3-5-3; the motion remained on the agenda.
Reeley then commented on SR #24, explaining that the resolution calls to order things that students wanted to see in the library space.
Member of the public Nancy Juarez said she agreed that the resolutions were important but that they shouldn’t have come before Black voices.
“I’m extremely disappointed in how this all turned out,” Juarez said. “If you can figure out how to undo that and still do the resolutions but allow these voices to be heard, I suggest you do that.”
Senator Laura Elizalde acknowledged that though Graham spoke earlier, the conversation with the Black community was not a two-second item but instead a dialogue.
Krueger steered the conversation back to the resolution by saying he thought it was incredibly relevant.
“It’s making sure we have an essential resource to come to for connectivity and quiet space that’s as well-funded as possible,” he said.
The resolution was approved with no objections and the table moved into public discussion, as described in the first section.
Heated discussion over resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement
The table moved back to consideration of legislation, starting with SR #25.
Noor Al-Deen, a member of the public, introduced the resolution — co-authored by the Muslim Student Association, ECAC and EAC — and said the resolution urged UC to divest from corporations that aided in the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
“This is expressing concern of where the UC money is spent and is not meant to discount personal and political beliefs,” Al-Deen said. “The facts show that these companies are complicit in crimes against humanity — we can’t sit silently while this happens.”
Salyer noted that EAC passed the resolution unanimously.
“We don’t want our tuition dollars going to corporations going to militarized bulldozers that kill Palestinian students and destroy their homes,” they said. “Human rights shouldn’t be a debatable topic.”
Mohammed al-Messra, a member of the public, said the resolution was headed a good direction but was very discriminatory toward Israel.
“I just don’t get it — why focus on this when there’s so many issues in this country you should be focused on?” al-Messra said. “You guys are children. This drives a wedge between Israel and the U.S. Two great allies! I don’t get it, folks! Above all, just vote no. This is against everything I came to the states for.”
Deshpande retorted that there was no real harm done beyond finding another construction company.
“People matter over profits and we can have a conversation with people when they actually have the space, power, privilege and ability to be here,” they said.
Member of the public Justin Weiner, a previous candidate for both ASUCD vice president and senator, questioned why the table was “singling out Israel.”
“Why aren’t you singling out Taco Bell, which donated a bunch to Donald Trump’s re-election campaign?” Weiner asked.
Former Senator Alisha Hacker, who ran for ASUCD president alongside Weiner, said ASUCD pushes for unity and change to directly impact students and that she had talked repeatedly about how it hadn’t accomplished that.
“The Jewish community is here asking Senators not to vote yes, and they need to listen to all members of the Jewish community — for too long, their voices have not been heard on campus,” Hacker said.
Former ASUCD President Michael Gofman said it was silly to say Israel was committing genocide against anyone, especially Palestinian people, and called the resolution an anti-Semitic statement.
“It may come as a surprise that since 1967, the Palestinian population has doubled,” he said. “If you say Israel is committing a genocide, it is the worst genocide in history.”
He said he couldn’t definitively say whether any mainstream Jewish organizations or Jewish leaders on campus had been contacted about the resolution before it was passed, pointing to the previous Judicial Council ruling on a similar resolution passed in 2015 that called it unconstitutional.
“This makes Jewish students feel uncomfortable, expressing one of the tenets of their religious beliefs, and it’s disgusting,” Gofman said.
Former Muslim Student Association President Muaz Aznan said he had worked to get interfaith dialogue between Jewish, Muslim and Palestinian students but added that “interfaith” was a distraction from the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
“Freedom and liberty are not given from the oppressor to the oppressed — the oppressed must demand their freedom,” Aznan said. “Anyone who thinks that they can say how Palestinians ask for freedom is quite simply a fool.”
Member of the public Danielle Younai said the Jewish community only learned about the resolution 10 minutes before, saying ASUCD had zero transparency.
“The only senator who made a genuine effort to reach out to Jewish students is Senator Boudaie,” Younai said. “All other ‘efforts’ are performative — the Jewish community showed up and are being routinely silenced.”
Younai called for the resolution to be tabled until all people could read it.
Rudy Rochman, an Israeli rights activist based in Israel, said the only way to move forward was to acknowledge such resolutions were a part of the problem, calling SR #25 a zero-sum solution.
“If you’re pro-Israel, you must be pro-Palestinian and vice versa,” he said.
Gofman added that no one in the meeting — including him — knew the whole state of Israel or Palestine.
Beshara Kehdi, a graduate student in ethnic studies, countered Gofman’s statement and said students aren’t stupid.
“You don’t need to have a degree in Palestine Studies to have an idea of what’s going on and to say something about it,” Kehdi said, adding that 100% of Palestinian refugees who moved out of their homes were denied the ability to return.
A roll call vote was then called. Senators Amanjot Gandhoke, Boudaie, Martinez and Velasco voted no, Fong and Carduny abstained and Deshpande, Rodriguez Ibarra, Youedon, Khalil Malik and Elizalde voted yes. The resolution passed with a 5-4-2 vote.
The day after the meeting, on June 5, Krueger vetoed SR #25, calling the resolution problematic because it was written with minimal to no input from the Jewish community beforehand and noting that the Jewish students he had spoken to after the SR #25 vote expressed hurt over its passage.
“Our respect for the Palestinian community cannot come at the expense of the respect of the Jewish community,” he wrote. “If the authors are passionate about divestment from companies involved in human rights violations, I would encourage them to write a resolution that more holistically requests the UC’s divestment from companies involved in human rights violations.”
Close of the Senate meeting
SR #26, which supports the Davis Innovation and Sustainability Campus given its job creation and lack of negative environmental impacts, and SR #27, which supports the development of affordable housing in the University Mall area, both passed without objections.
Senators then made closing remarks. Velasco asked senators to share information about the DREAMer vouchers. And Boudaie expressed dismay about the vote for SR #25 and said she wanted to apologize for her leadership as pro temp.
“Being pro temp in a pandemic on Zoom isn’t necessarily very easy,” she said. “I’m really sorry if you all felt like I wasn’t trying my best. I’m extraordinarily offended that some of y’all want me to resign because of this.”
She said she had experienced frustration for her past efforts in standing up for the Jewish community on campus, but affirmed that she would continue to do what she could to support them.
“I know if I wasn’t here, none of you would do anything for the Jewish community,” she said. “I’m sorry that my leadership has not been perfect. I’m 19 and I’m still learning. But I will not apologize for doing what I can to stand up for a community that has historically been attacked by ASUCD.”
At the end of the day, she said, albeit those calling for her resignation, it had been a wonderful quarter,
Velasco and Martinez both expressed discontent with the atmosphere in ASUCD this quarter, with Martinez saying slates have no purpose in the system.
“ASUCD is not fun for anyone,” Velasco said. “It stems from a lack of communication and a lot of virtue signaling from social justice warriors, saying everyone is oppressed and using buzzwords to bring even more division. I hope you all will stop making this organization into the disgusting organization it has become.”
Krueger concluded by saying he wasn’t as collaborative and empathetic as he could have been and was looking forward to doing that moving forward.
The meeting ended at 1:40 a.m.
Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga — firstname.lastname@example.org