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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Senate answers public questions during quarterly Town Hall meeting

During Nov. 3 meeting, senators answered questions about June’s canceled commencement ceremony and ASUCD’s response to the TPUSA protest

By SYDNEY AMESTOY — campus@theaggie.org


Vice President JT Eden called the Nov. 3 Town Hall meeting to order at 6:35 p.m. in the CoHo inside of the Memorial Union. He then recited the UC Davis Land Acknowledgement.

The format of the hour-long Town Hall meeting consisted of members of the public asking the Senate questions, both in-person and over Zoom. Answers from the Senate were two-to-three minutes long. 

The first question asked for the Senate’s thoughts on June’s canceled commencement ceremony, and their ideas for how to improve future graduation celebrations.  

President Radhika Gawde was in attendance at the canceled commencement and provided her answer to the question. 

“As of right now, [next year’s] ceremony will not be outside,” Gawde said. “No one wants to do that again. But the questions right now being considered are, should it be in Sacramento or should it be in Davis? Should they be scheduled ceremonies, or should it be [divided] by major?”

Another speaker in the crowd asked the Senate about ASUCD’s stance on recent antisemitic incidents and about what should be done by campus administration in response.

Senator Francisco Ojeda spoke on his recent meetings with Aggies for Israel, a Jewish student organization on campus, about the rise in antisemitism.

“[Administration] has not handled the antisemitism on campus very well, which is really disheartening to me,” Senator Zeph Schnelbach said. “However, beyond meetings with [administration], there’s not much we can really do, because our association only represents the student body and we can only act with the student body in our own capacity.”

Another member of the public brought attention to delays in pay for specific student workers who were women of color. 

According to Eden, there are more incidents of this happening to a variety of other student-workers. 

“I’ll take personal accountability that some of these instances are basically poor 

communication,” Eden said. “But overall, it has to do with how payroll is processed.”

Gawde also responded to the question, elaborating on Eden’s answer by explaining how pay is processed.

“They’re all very unsatisfying answers that I have to give,” Gawde said. “A lot of it is because of the transition to UCPath. Their one little office does hiring and onboarding for the entire UC system.”

Next in the discussion was the question of what ASUCD has done besides holding meetings with the administration following the Turning Point USA (TPUSA) protest.

“Hypothetically, if there was a [Registered Student Organization] on campus that espoused what I thought to be bigoted speech and I wanted to get rid of them, [there isn’t a way to do so],” Gawde said. “I’ve looked into every ethical way possible.”

Gawde went on to say that supporting the Student Community Center and continuing to hold meetings with administrators are the two ways that ASUCD plans to move forward. 

Each senator and chairperson in attendance, by the request of a member of the public, then reported on the legislation they’ve contributed to or actions they’ve taken to serve the student body this quarter.

Senator Aarushi Raghunathan said that she has been working on reducing rent at The Green at West Village.

Senator Celeste Palmer said that she has been collaborating with various ASUCD units and committees, as well as working on student sustainability efforts.

Senator Alexis Reyes said that she has been working with The Pantry and on numerous mental health directives on campus. 

Senator Vaneza Gonzaga said that she has been working alongside the Student Health and Wellness Committee.

Senator Julia Shurman said that she has been meeting with the Disability Rights Advocacy Committee and working on making Senate meetings more accessible to members of the public with disabilities.

Senator Ojeda said that he has been working with Senator Stephen Fujimoto regarding the rules for collecting a certain number of signatures for elections.

Senator Gaius Ilupeju said that he has been talking with, and trying to secure more funding for, immigrant centers on campus.

Senator Schnelbach said that they helped organize this quarter’s ASUCD-sponsored drag show in the CoHo, which will now become a quarterly event. 

Transfer Student Representative (TSR)  Logan Ueno said that he has been holding transfer student-specific events with the goal of helping transfer students utilize all available resources on campus.

External Affairs Vice President Shruti Adusumilli said that she has been working on making Election Day an approved day off so students have the ability to vote without class interfering.

Academic Affairs Committee Chairperson Megan Chung said that she is working to extend the pass/no pass deadline to the last day of instruction in future quarters, a return to pandemic-era policy.

Senator Juliana Martinez Hernandez then announced that this Town Hall would be her last act as Senator before resigning.

Schnelbach then shared a letter that he received from a student who was at the TPUSA protest.

“I ran to the private security company that was hired, […] and pleaded with them to do something [about the counter-protesters],” the anonymous letter read. “They laughed at us, they sat back and recorded us.”

The Town Hall then came to its conclusion, and the Senate members took a break to move to the Mee Room for the rest of the meeting.

Eden called the Senate meeting to order again at 8:02 p.m., took roll call and once again read the UC Davis Land Acknowledgement.

The first order of business was confirming a new Senate President Pro Tempore following the resignation of Martinez Hernandez. Ilupeju was nominated and unanimously confirmed for the role following his acceptance of the nomination. He then took his seat next to Eden.

Martinez Hernandez then gave a final farewell to the Senate.

Following Martinez Hernandez’s exit, second-year political science major Daniel Mojica was unanimously confirmed as the new chair of the External Affairs Commission. Mojica has previously served on the Internal Affairs Commission and on the Elections Committee. 

The Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission then had a new vice chairperson confirmed. After brief deliberation, the new vice chair was unanimously confirmed.

In public comments, Fujimoto congratulated the teaching assistants, student researchers and post-doctoral students’ unions for their vote to strike if demands are not met soon by the administration. 

The Whole Earth Festival (WEF) then gave their quarterly report. The festival has finished receiving applications, and will now move to hire 40 new employees. WEF has also taken steps to remove cultural appropriation from its festivities by ending the non-university-affiliated drum circle, typically performed by alumni, and by having a more active land acknowledgment with members of tribes at the event.

WEF also cited plans to rent out their solar-generated light towers to other ASUCD units in order to continue being self-sufficient. 

The IAC then gave their brief quarterly report. IAC chairperson Thuyanh Truong gave the report, which described their past projects over the quarter, including their involvement in new legislation. The report clarified the process by which new legislation is sent to the commission from the Senate, and then back.

The quarterly report from the Entertainment Council (EC) was delayed, and senators

instead filed ex-officio reports before moving to open forum.

Ueno brought attention to a letter he had received from a member of the student body regarding a lack of gender-neutral bathrooms in the library. Gawde suggested talking to the Library Committee Chairperson to work toward a solution to that issue.

Fujimoto brought up concerns for the Elections Committee in regard to flaws in the system for candidates registering and for students signing petitions. 

“I was able to encourage one of the people I know on campus to run, and they’re super confused on what’s required,” Fujimoto said. “What’s not required, the date of what’s required and it’s just a little bit icky because I really want to have a competitive election.”

“I’ve had multiple reports from first-years and first-year transfers that they have been unable to sign my petition,” Fujimoto said.

Raghunathan expressed similar concerns.

“Just in general as a candidate, it’s been pretty confusing for me too,” Raghunathan said. “I was unable to figure out the date for when things were due. It seemed like the document changed every time I looked at it.” 

The EC then gave its quarterly report. The council operates Sunset Fest, as well as other smaller events and performances on campus throughout the year. The council reported recruiting over 50 volunteers, as well as two new paid directors. However, some of these directors have yet to be paid because of payroll delays, as addressed in the Town Hall. 

The status of previous legislation followed the quarterly report. Fujimoto moved to overturn Gawde’s veto of SB #14 by reconsidering the bill. The bill seeks to remove the Judicial Council’s power to enact permanent injunctions on legislation, especially when it is voted on by the student body. 

Fujimoto said that he decided to reintroduce the legislation after not receiving a response to multiple requests for a meeting with the Judicial Council to speak on the current legislative process.

Schnelbach shared their stance on the issue.

“The Judicial Council’s job is only to review legislation that we pass and determine whether or not it’s constitutional,” Schnelbach said. “When redefining their injunction powers we are infringing on their constitutional right to determine whether or not what we are passing is constitutional.”

After lengthy deliberation, the bill failed to override its veto with a 5-6 vote. 

Consideration of old legislation came next. 

SR#2 seeks to outline the implementation of constitutional amendments #78 and #77, which would move the election for International Student Representative and Transfer Student Representative to the spring ballot. While this kind of legislation is unprecedented, according to Eden, the bill passed unanimously.

SB #10 seeks to introduce more flexibility in the operations of the Outreach and Engagement Board. After deliberation on clarifications in the text, and some discussion on whether the board should be a committee, the bill passed 6-3-1.

The next piece of legislation was CA #79, a constitutional amendment that seeks to allow student voters to vote for a replacement candidate at the same time they are voting for a recall. 

“If or when the next recall happens, students will have a say on who gets to be in charge,” Fujimoto said.

Academic Affairs Committee Chairperson Megan Chung explained why she believes it is important for the president to be able to choose a vice president that they trust.

“I understand that the point of this amendment is to make [recalls] more democratic, and mirror whatever process we have in California,” Chung said. “But I think it’s important to understand that as an association we don’t operate the same way that any other government would. We’re sending the vice president and president to administration meetings that others don’t have access to.”

A motion was called to see a raise of hands on how senators planned on voting. Seeing as the majority raised their hands for no, the amendment was tabled for the Dec. 1 meeting.

Following the approval of past minutes, Eden adjourned the meeting at 11:16 p.m.


Written by: Sydney Amestoy — campus@theaggie.org