Senate meets to support observatory, proposition, research campus

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The ASUC Senate passed bills supporting the preservation of Lick Observatory, a state proposition and a new research campus on Wednesday evening.

Adopted with unanimous consent, the bills establish the ASUC’s support for the different issues and order executives to write up letters or public statements on behalf of the ASUC.

In response to talks of terminating UC funding for Lick Observatory by 2018, CalSERVE Senator Lavanya Jawaharlal sponsored SB 25 to show support in continuing the observatory’s operations. The bill establishes a committee of students to raise awareness and propose alternative funding options and urges the UC Office of the President to recommit funds.

The talks of disinvestment make it “difficult to get outside funding, when private donors are wondering why they should invest money when the UC is cutting funding,” Jawaharlal said.

The committee, which will be made up of two senators and five appointed students, will work on increasing communication with the campus administration and raising student awareness not only on the UC Berkeley campus, but also across the entire UC system.

“It’s a UC-system owned observatory and not just Berkeley,” she said. “It affects all campuses. … It’s important to raise student awareness and mobilize all of the UC system students.”

According to Jawaharlal, the ASUC is the first student government to pass such a bill or create a special committee for the observatory.

The senate also passed a bill in support of Proposition 47, which would reclassify certain crimes to misdemeanors instead of felonies.

Sponsored by CalSERVE Senator Yordanos Dejen, the bill states that the proposition “will ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses and will maximize alternatives for non-serious, nonviolent crime.”

The senate also showed support for plans of a research campus to be built in Richmond if a community benefits agreement is established, which stipulates that community benefits are provided by a developer in conjunction with the development they are pursuing.

The Richmond Bay Campus, which will be developed in phases over the next 40 years, will provide additional research facilities for both UC Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Bill sponsor and CalSERVE Senator Austin Pritzkat said he supports the campus if a community benefits agreement is established.

Finance officer Dennis Lee was also confirmed as one of the two undergraduate representatives to the Student Union Board. He will replace Arushi Saxena and serve for the rest of the year with Ismael Contreras.

Lee said he hopes to increase transparency by connecting the Student Union and the ASUC as the board focuses on overseeing commercial activities concerning the new Student Union, set to open next fall.

The next senate meeting will be Wednesday.

Heyun Jeong covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @heyunjeong.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article stated that the ASUC Senate passed a bill supporting the Richmond Bay Campus. In fact, they support the community bill agreement for the development of the campus.