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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

BRIDGE accuses Whole Earth Festival Committee of stealing their theme at Feb. 2 Senate meeting

The Senate table also heard quarterly reports from the Bike Barn, the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission and others


By LEV FARRIS GOLDENBERG — campus@theaggie.org


On Thursday, Feb. 2, ASUCD Vice President JT Eden called the Senate meeting to order at 6:12 p.m., read the UC Davis Land Acknowledgement and called roll.

First on the agenda was the confirmation of second-year international relations major Reid Henderson Rizk as the ASUCD Elections Officer. Henderson Rizk took questions from the table and was confirmed unanimously.

Next, the Senate added three new members to the Aggie Housing and Transportation Advocacy Committee (AHTAC). Third-year philosophy major Zachary Boggeln was confirmed as AHTAC chairperson and first-year psychology major Giovanni Terrones and second-year history and economics major Bihn Do were confirmed as members. 

The Academic Affairs Commission (AAC) received three new voting members — second-year cognitive science major Anita Thata, first-year computer science major Curtis Chen and first-year political science and English double major Spencer Smith.

The Senate also confirmed four alternates for the AAC: first-year art history major Isabelle Villanueva, first-year political science major Siyona Roychoudhury, second-year nutrition science major Lauren Nguyen, and second-year communication major Valerie Mostajo.

Following confirmations, the Senate opened the meeting to public comments.

Members from BRIDGE: Pilipinx Outreach & Retention Program and the SRRC voiced their concerns over the recently announced theme for the 2023 Whole Earth Festival (WEF).

Fourth-year neurobiology, physiology and behavior major Regina Garcia — the community youth development coordinator for BRIDGE — said that she helped choose the theme “Rooted in Resilience” for the 2023 Pilipinx Youth Conference (PYC). The theme for PYC, which will take place Feb. 18-19, was announced via Instagram and Facebook in early December.

“I am here to advocate for BRIDGE and PYC, as we have been notified that the Whole Earth Festival, an event facilitated by the ASUCD, has claimed the same theme as this year’s PYC,” Garcia said.

WEF’s theme announcement post on Instagram received hundreds of comments noting that PYC had already selected the same theme.

“Our community feels that our intellectual property has been taken and that our emotional labor has been neglected,” Garcia said. “We can empathize if this had been a coincidence of the imagined theme. However, with the specificity of our theme, we feel that our theme has been taken by the coordinators of the WEF.”

Garcia went on to request that ASUCD ask the WEF committee to change its theme and issue an apology to BRIDGE.

Fourth-year Asian American studies major Mattia Bianca Sayson, a mentor at the SRRC, also voiced frustration.

“To see that a space like the Whole Earth Festival, which has the full support of ASUCD, gets to promote this theme without even recognizing that the SRRC […] has been promoting this theme for months now, is absolutely disheartening, discouraging and frustrating for students who look like me,” Sayson said.

Multiple Senate members responded, including Senator Zeki Xu, who is also a staff member of WEF.

“I personally, and I know many other people in WEF, apologize for the fact that we used the same theme as you,” Xu said. “We understand how frustrating it is that we basically have taken away the thunder of your theme and I just want to emphasize that this was not intentional in any way.”

Xu also noted that he is willing to have a conversation with BRIDGE and the Pilipinx students committee to see what steps can be taken.

Senate President Pro Tempore Gaius Ilupeju, the ASUCD representative for the SRRC, noted that he was in favor of WEF considering a change of theme.

“While I understand the frustration and how unfortunate this is, I also do take offense at the suggestion at saying that ASUCD is not connected to or aware of […] issues that affect marginalized communities,” Ilupeju said. “We are not directly responsible for what other units do. WEF chose that theme on their own. It’s hard for us as a Senate table to take accountability when we weren’t directly involved in that decision. The best we can do is relay these concerns, but I can assure you that none of us takes us lightly.”

Senator Erek Leshyn commented next, saying that he disagreed with Ilupeju.

“We may not have been directly involved, but I think we should 100% take accountability for it,” Leshyn said. “I don’t think we should be making excuses. WEF is happening in May, and I think that is a lot of time to alter planning and change themes, so I am in favor of members of the public asking for WEF to change their theme.”

Garcia encouraged senators to make sure WEF gets back to them.

As of Tuesday, Feb. 7, WEF’s Instagram post announcing the theme had been removed.

Following the discussion, the Senate considered fifth-year sociology and political science double major Allie O’Brien for the position of AHTAC chairperson. O’Brien previously served in ASUCD as Chief of Staff for former ASUCD President Kyle Krueger. They are interested in training new advocates, creating a comprehensive playbook on how to advocate for housing and working with the city of Davis.

Several senators and committee chairpersons, including Environmental Policy and Planning Commission (EPPC) chair Mackenzie Field, responded enthusiastically to working with O’Brien.

The Senate confirmed O’Brien as chairperson, and third-year environmental policy analysis and planning major Thomas Howe as an AHTAC member.

Moving on to quarterly reports, the UC Davis Bike Barn’s business manager Yael Berrol, a fourth-year cognitive science major, discussed the unit’s recent accomplishments and challenges.

Richard Feltstykket followed with a quarterly report on Information Technology (IT). According to Feltstykket, IT is currently at 50% staff capacity and is hiring with the hope of returning to pre-pandemic staff levels soon.

The Senate then paused reports to suspend the bylaws in order to consider and confirm second-year human development major Kadira Wilkins for AHTAC Vice Chair.

Following a short break, the meeting was called back to order by Eden at 9:25 p.m., and the table heard the Office of the External Affairs Vice President (OEAVP) quarterly report from fourth-year international relations major Celene Aridin, the vice president of external affairs.

Aridin discussed the OEAVP’s recent Students of Color Conference in January and her goal to transition her staff from volunteer to stipend positions. The OEAVP’s goals for the year include ensuring state funding is being used appropriately at the UC, establishing Lobby Corps, continuing lobbying trips to the Capital and attending the Student Lobby Conference.

Following Aridin’s presentation, commission chairs gave ex-officio reports and senators presented officer reports.

Senator Priya Talreja noted that Unitrans wants to spread awareness about safety issues at the Silo bus terminal. Unitrans hopes that the problem, a result of the influx of students around the Teaching and Learning Complex (TLC), can be solved by moving the terminal to the Latitude Dining Commons area and adding student crossing guards next year.

Field, a fourth-year environmental science and management major, discussed EPPC’s recently posted Environmental Justice Report in the EPPC quarterly report. She also highlighted the Cool Campus Challenge coming in April, in which Davis will be competing with other UCs. According to the website, the challenge is “a friendly competition to reduce UC’s carbon footprint and create a culture of sustainability across campuses.”

The Senate then passed the consent calendar, which included four pieces of legislation SB #57, SB #55, SB #56, and SB #59.

Two pieces of old legislation passed. SB #50 addresses hiring delays in ASUCD committees and would give committee chairpersons the responsibility of hiring chairs.

According to the bill’s text, “the major change presented in this bill is requiring committee chairs to attend the meetings of their oversight commission. This will hopefully encourage a stronger relationship between the Commissions and Committees and allow the committees to receive the support they need.”

Senator Stephen Fujimoto and Eden both agreed to write legislation to strike this bill from the bylaws if the bill “turns out to be a disaster.”

SB #54 revives the Aggie Arts Committee as a committee of the ASUCD Senate and dissolves the Fair Trade Committee.

Fujimoto requested that two table members commit to being adopted senators for the committee — Senator Zeph Schnelbach and Senator Jacob Klein accepted the role of adopted senators.

The Senate then approved past meeting minutes and adjourned at 11:19 p.m. 

Written by: Lev Farris Goldenberg — campus@theaggie.org