Fixing the student district

CITY AFFAIRS: The Berkeley Student District Campaign’s student district plan is ambitious, but it needs to include Northside student voices.

Tonight, Berkeley City Council is set to create a new student supermajority district. The district would most likely be represented in the City Council by a student and represents the culmination of years’ worth of efforts made by UC Berkeley students to ensure our representation in city affairs.

That said, the council should wait a week before voting on the measure.

On Wednesday, the ASUC Senate should vote on whether to endorse an amended student district map as the best way to represent student voices. Because of legislative procedure, there was no earlier meeting possible for them to consider this, and the opinion of the ASUC should be known before City Council members convene to vote on a matter of such vital interest to Berkeley students.

The district plan proposed by the Berkeley Student District Campaign, an effort spearheaded by the Office of the ASUC External Affairs Vice President, is a flawed effort that does not represent the interests of all students. The plan as it currently stands does not include the voices of students living in Northside student housing co-ops or those living in the Unit 4 residence halls (Foothill, Stern and Bowles).

Tackling this problem, members of the Berkeley student community have proposed an amendment to the student district plan -— the United Student District Amendment. While the USDA is also not a perfect plan, it at least addresses the exclusion of Northside students in the original plan put forth by the BSDC.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai asserted in a recent op-ed in The Daily Californian that the original plan best integrates student populations with the larger Berkeley community because it doesn’t split up the Downtown and North Shattuck neighborhoods. Although Mecklai’s commitment to making sure students and other community members live in harmony is laudable, her argument that the USDA disrupts these neighborhoods and communal interests is unconvincing.

Even though the USDA map does split up those neighborhoods, there’s no indication that those areas contain concrete interest groups the same way the Northside concentration of co-ops and residence halls represent hundreds of students in the space of a couple city blocks. Simply put, it is not worth advocating for a “united student district” if it doesn’t actually unite the voices of enough students.