ASUC Senate passes student group conduct bill

Emergency meeting lasted 30 minutes

Salih Muhammad, chair of the campus Black Student Union, spoke at the ASUC emergency senate meeting on Sunday night.
Kevin Foote/Staff
Salih Muhammad, chair of the campus Black Student Union, spoke at the ASUC emergency senate meeting on Sunday night.

The ASUC Senate unanimously passed a bill at an emergency meeting Sunday evening to promote “respectful ASUC student organization conduct,” in light of the controversy surrounding the Berkeley College Republicans’ plans to hold an “Increase Diversity Bake Sale.”

The bake sale — which created a tiered structure for the pricing of baked goods based on race — sparked immediate backlash of such size that the Senate called the emergency meeting within hours of the announcement. ASUC senators communicated by email and in person over the course of two days to draft the bill that would address student concerns as well as the larger campus climate.

Student Action Senator Safeena Mecklai said she was satisfied with the meeting, which lasted less than 30 minutes.

“[ASUC senators] did a lot of work off of the floor in ensuring that we could have a productive discussion in the meeting,” she said. “We discussed what our reach was and what we had the authority to do and what we felt was necessary.”

The senators ended up agreeing to co-author and co-sponsor a bill that would provide guidelines for respectful conduct by campus organizations. Among other provisions, the bill “condemns the use of discrimination whether it is in satire or in seriousness by any student group.”

Mecklai attributed the successful drafting and passage of the bill to the diversity of senators and their ability to reach out and hear the concerns of all segments of the UC Berkeley population.

“It allowed us to draft the best possible bill,” she said.

CalSERVE Senator Kevin Williams also expressed satisfaction with the results of the meeting.

“Going into this senate meeting it was always expect the worse, but try to promote the best,” he said.

A number of speakers from the UC Berkeley and surrounding communities voiced their opinions at the meeting, many of whom supported the Berkeley College Republicans.

Shawn Lewis, president of the club, said afterward that the meeting did not turn out like he expected.

“I thought it would be a decision about defunding [the club],” he said. “It felt like a do-nothing meeting.”

He said that while he was glad no such action took place, he hoped that the Berkeley College Republicans — which received $3,791.11 from the ASUC this fiscal year, according to ASUC Executive Vice President Chris Alabastro — should not face additional punitive measures at the next senate session based on the bill passed at Sunday night’s meeting.

“It would be unconstitutional,” he said. “We would react with legal action.”

Lewis stressed that the campus Republicans did not intend to offend any group and were simply using the bake sale as a political protest against SB 185, affirmative action-like legislation currently awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature.

“I personally feel comfortable apologizing to any individuals who were hurt or felt attacked by the event,” he said.