Take back the ASUC

CAMPUS AFFAIRS: We stand with the ASUC in condemning the way in which the ASUC Auxiliary realignment has occurred.

The ASUC has faced many significant issues and challenges over the past few decades, some of the most important of which pertain to the student government’s autonomy. While different groups have each had their fair share of fault, rarely have we seen such a baffling and outrageous change carried out in such a brazen and disrespectful manner as the campus administration’s transfer of oversight of the ASUC Auxiliary from the Office of Administration and Finance to the Division of Student Affairs.

The lack of consultation and transparency goes against any precedent of good-faith communication between the administration and student leaders. We would have expected that if the administration were to carry out such a monumental change to the student government in a way that jeopardizes its autonomy, it would have thoroughly consulted student leaders and informed the student body of its reasoning. This could not have been further from what occurred. Not only did the administration not include student leaders in the decision-making process, but it has stonewalled the student leaders by not answering fundamental questions regarding the change.

Though we strive to understand multiple perspectives prior to endorsing a position, the reasoning behind the change is not even available for us to consider. For a change of this magnitude to be acceptable, the benefits would have to be substantial — but we do not even know the benefits because the administration has failed to articulate them.

The realignment is not the only substantial change about which the administration has been silent. Significant questions regarding the circumstances of ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul’s retirement two days before the realignment remain unanswered. For this to be the end to a long history of service to the ASUC by an official who has garnered significant respect among student leaders is disappointing and unfulfilling. For key administrators to remain quiet regarding his abrupt retirement is unacceptable.

Administrators have repeatedly dodged questions from our reporters as well as ASUC officials. Harry Le Grande, the vice chancellor for student affairs, is out of his office until Aug. 1, and Jonathan Poullard, the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, had said he would be unavailable until this week. Their absence suggests a lack of care for the student body, which is absurd coming from the division of student affairs. We demand that they publicly respond in detail to the ASUC’s concerns. That is their job.

But the student government itself also has a role in bringing issues to the attention of the student body. After The Daily Californian first reported on a possible auxiliary change in September, our elected officials stood largely silent. Then-ASUC President Noah Stern should have brought more attention to the possibility of such a significant change. Current ASUC President Vishalli Loomba must be more vocal in spearheading the opposition to the realignment. She must succeed where her predecessor fell short, and she must start now.

We were also surprised by the resolution unanimously passed by the ASUC Senate and the letter signed by members of both the current and incoming senate classes. While we are impressed that senators crossed party-lines for the good of the student body, we feel that this was an explosion of anger that should have been let out earlier in the process, not the day before the realignment. Students have a right to know how their elected officials feel about major campus issues.

This clash comes at a time when a united campus message is needed more than ever due to dwindling state support for higher education. The relationship between the administration and the ASUC is obviously tarnished and the onus is on the administration to make amends; no one benefits if these two groups are at odds.

We endorse, line-by-line, both the letter and the resolution and demand that the administration adhere to their provisions. The auxiliary must be moved back to the Office of Administration and Finance, and the realignment must be thoroughly and properly debated and justified — as it should have been in the first place. We demand that administrators answer all questions regarding the oversight change and that they seek student input while ensuring full transparency. And, given the magnitude of this conflict, we call on Chancellor Robert Birgeneau to directly involve himself in negotiations going forward.

We stand side-by-side with the ASUC on this issue and hope our elected officials take all actions necessary to reverse the realignment. Moving forward, they should mobilize students and explain to them the complicated issues at hand and the importance of standing up for the autonomy of their student government. We cannot allow complacency to take hold. Let this be their call: Take back the ASUC.