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Monday, April 15, 2024

Tell your ASUCD representatives how to best represent you

From Lawntopia to divestment bills, the student body can directly impact where their student fees go 

 

By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

 

Every Thursday night at 6:10 p.m., the ASUCD Senate and other elected officials gather on the third floor of Memorial Union to make decisions representative of the wants and needs of the student body. Despite this, these meetings are typically a ghost town. Aside from the required attendance of ASUCD officials and the obligatory presence of a reporter from The Aggie, it’s not often that students show up to a Senate meeting, and it’s even more unlikely that they stay the whole time. 

We don’t entirely blame you — with an agenda that severely underestimates the amount of time that it takes to discuss a single topic, these meetings can sometimes last as long as seven hours. Even further, there is no accessible place to find these agendas which outline the topics that the Senate will be deliberating at each meeting ahead of time.

However, these last few weeks have shown us why wider student engagement at the Senate meeting actually works, and we need to keep this momentum going.

For example, SB #41, which allocates $469,075.63 from the ASUCD General Reserves to the Entertainment Council (EC) to go toward the 2024 Lawntopia concert, passed 9-4-1 (Yes-Abstain-No) at the Feb. 8 Senate meeting. This bill was controversial: Many senators originally felt that nearly half a million dollars from the reserves was too much to put toward a concert that can only host 15% of the student population. Other senators argued that this amount was needed to make a successful Lawntopia happen amidst the EC budget being reduced by over $150,000 for this academic year.

Regardless of the Editorial Board’s opinions on this piece of legislation, the bill’s widespread and productive dialogue serves as an excellent example of the power that the student voice holds. Once Senators Binh Do and Jonathan Kang made an Instagram post — which received over 900 likes — encouraging students to attend the Senate meeting in support of the bill, a large sea of students showed up and shared their various opinions on the topic during the public comment period. While the Senate held split opinions on the bill, it was the strong attendance of individuals in support that pushed them to vote in favor of what the students wanted. 

Another recent bill, SB #52, implements an ASUCD-wide boycott and divestment from Israel and corporations “complicit in human rights violations against Palestinians in Gaza.” This bill passed 12-1-1 (Yes-Abstain-No) at the Feb. 15 Senate meeting. Prior to the meeting, UC Davis Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) made an Instagram post that also encouraged students to attend and speak in support of the bill. When the meeting started, hundreds of students came and voiced their opinions, leading to nearly six hours of debate before the piece of legislation was passed. Once again, the Senate table’s votes toward the bill reflected the majority opinion of students who voiced their support at the meeting, determined to get it passed.

Showing your face and presenting your opinion on something that you care about forces the Senate to listen. We recognize that these meetings are long and tedious, but being present during the deliberation of a bill or topic important to you both better informs the Senate and holds them accountable for the campaign promises they made to get elected. Every Senate meeting has a public comment section during which students and community members are allowed to raise objections or express support for agenda items. 

It’s also a two-way street: The Senate needs to be better at publicizing when they will be making certain decisions and how students can let their perspectives be known. When student organizations publicize relevant Senate legislation prior to meetings, it often increases turnout significantly — but they shouldn’t be the only ones putting work into making Senate agenda items known. 

SB #41 and #52 both involve a lot of money and impact a ton of students, but where is the publicity for other pieces of legislation? Every bill, big or small, affects a number of students, whether or not they know it exists.

Why are the Senate agendas impossible to find? The ASUCD Government website has been down for months, and aside from the bill regarding Lawntopia, senators rarely ever post about legislation prior to it being deliberated on during a meeting. Students can’t show up if they don’t know where to look for this important information. 

Why is the ASUCD roster not available online? And why is the ASUCD roster that is currently linked to the ASUCD Senate Instagram from the 2021-2022 academic year? (It’s 2024.) Students can’t reach out to their senators if there’s no accessible way to find out who they are in the first place.

With the goal of making this information easier to navigate, the Editorial Board has decided to start posting the Senate’s weekly agendas prior to each meeting on The Aggie’s Instagram page (Although we can’t control how far ahead of time the agenda is shared with us).  

If you can’t make the Senate meetings, here are some other ways that you can make your voice heard within ASUCD:

  • Because it’s so hard to find, let us remind you who the current senators are: Chasa Monica, Gabriel Gaysinsky, Jacob Klein, Dani Antonio, Curtis Chen, Trinity Chow, Jonathan Ng, Binh Do, Katia Bouali, Yara Kaadan, Nur Ambaw, Leah Jung. Each has an Instagram account dedicated to promoting what they do as senators. 
  • Talk to a senator during their office hours. Most senators publicize the times and places that they hold their office hours on their Instagram page.
  • Fill out the ASUCD Senate Public Comment Form if you cannot attend the meetings but still have opinions that you would like to see voiced there. Submit your comment before each Senate meeting and it will be read out loud during the public comment portion. The link to this form can be found on each Senate agenda.
  • Join the Senate meeting via Zoom if you can’t join in person. You can still participate in public comment this way. The Zoom link is always the same and can also be found on each Senate agenda. 

 

Written by: The Editorial Board

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