ASUC Senate continues search for Sexual Assault Commission director

Sheena Paul-Rachel Schuster-Berkeley
Suyang Lu/File

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The ASUC Senate reconvened Wednesday for its regularly scheduled meeting, focusing particularly on the search for a student leader for the ASUC Sexual Assault Commission.

After a discussion about the appointment of a new director for the commission, the senate unanimously withdrew its nomination of campus senior Meghan Warner, who was previously selected Monday, in order to extend the timeline of the application process. The senate hopes the extended timeline will usher in more applicants from different backgrounds, although Warner will still be considered for the position.

Warner, who has served as director for the past year, had been interviewed and nominated by the University and External Affairs Committee for the position earlier this week. She was the only candidate being considered.

“Nobody reached out to explain (the decision),” Warner said in a text message. “I’ve done nothing but support the commission and have always remained 100 percent open to feedback and critiques.”

University and External Affairs Committee Chair and CalSERVE Senator Alana Banks voiced their concerns about the selection process at the senate meeting, primarily regarding the lack of diverse applicants the committee received. The senate ultimately passed a motion to reopen applications for an additional two weeks, with an emphasis on publicizing the applications among a variety of student groups.

According to Banks, who aims to represent underrepresented-minority communities on campus, some of their constituents approached them after the nomination was announced and voiced concerns about not being aware of the application process.

“I felt like it was our due diligence as senate to be inclusive in our application process,” they said. “The commission should be highly broadcast as something that’s inclusive and wants people of color in it.”

Thanh Mai Bercher, a UC Berkeley junior and the assistant director of the commission, said the decision to not reappoint Warner as director was “hurtful” to members, many of whom are underrepresented minorities, because the commission supported Warner’s nomination.

“For people who assert that the commission is a white space, they’re just saying that those people don’t exist and that they’re not present, which is really offensive,” Bercher said.

At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, ASUC President Yordanos Dejen and ASUC Executive Vice President Lavanya Jawaharlal jointly appointed Cooperative Movement Party Senator Sheena Paul as interim director of the commission. Jawaharlal said the process to review applications and process another official appointment could take about a month.

Paul, who was involved with the commission last year, said she hopes to ensure that the ASUC is held accountable for making sure that its commissions adequately represent the entire student body.

The senate will reconvene at its regular meeting time next Wednesday.

Ariel Hayat is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @ArielHayat.