ASUC Senate passes bill in support of expanding access to higher education

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The ASUC Senate passed a bill Wednesday in support of a universitywide campaign that is working to expand access to higher education for underrepresented students.

The bill, SB 8, was passed with 19 senators in support and one abstention and will assist the Invest in Graduations, Not Incarceration, Transform Education campaign as well as the UC Diversity Pipeline Initiative in efforts to urge the UC Office of the President to allocate $10 million to establish and support student-run recruitment and retention centers on UC campuses.

The IGNITE campaign focuses on extending outreach to students of color and students from underrepresented backgrounds, such as individuals who were previously incarcerated and students raised in environments that perpetuate the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a system in which students are funneled out of school and into the criminal justice system.

Several barriers exist for multicultural and low-income students that prevent them from accessing educational resources needed to be successful in K-12 education and beyond, said CalSERVE Senator Destiny Iwuoma, who co-authored SB 8 with External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai. Iwuoma said many of these barriers are rooted in state legislation, such as Proposition 209, which prohibits state government institutions from considering race, sex or ethnicity in employment, public contracting or public education. Iwuoma also said many students face environmental obstacles as well — most notably the inconsistency in the quality of public high school education across the state.

“The school-to-prison pipeline even manifests itself in how some of California’s high schools look,” Iwuoma said. “Some schools with metal detectors, security systems and fences surrounding the property even look like correctional facilities.”

Check out the Prezi presentation created by Spencer Pritchard and Destiny Iwuoma, organizers from the IGNITE UC Berkeley Coalition.

SB 8 also supports a number of proposed bills in the California Legislature, including SB 649, AB 420 and AB 218 — which aim to decrease the criminalization of youth for nonviolent crimes and reduce the prison recidivism rate — as well as State Constitutional Amendment 5, which would make Prop. 209 not applicable for public education.

Additionally, the ASUC bill asks Student Regent Cinthia Flores to partner with the IGNITE campaign to secure the $10 million from the UC Office of the President. Flores, who has met with UC President Janet Napolitano twice to discuss the issue, said she hopes to use the funding to support existing and new resources on UC campuses systemwide for students from nonraditional backgrounds.

“If we’re not providing the opportunity for students to pursue higher education and continue to funnel them into the criminal justice system, we will continue to overfund our prison system and, in turn, underfund and deprioritize education,” she said.

Flores said she expects the final discussion of the funds to take place at the UC Board of Regents meeting in January 2014.

Contact Chloee Weiner at [email protected].