Fact-checking the ASUC 2016 election

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Rachael Garner/File

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With voting for the ASUC elections beginning Monday, The Daily Californian is fact-checking some of the more significant assertions made by candidates at its annual ASUC elections forum held last week. In case you missed it, you can also watch our video of the ASUC forum. We’ve ordered the assertions in chronological order.

Assertion: “The administration plans to increase enrollment by at least 15,000 students over the next few years and yet has only plans to build 725 net new beds by 2020.” — Chris Yamas, cosponsor of the Declaration of and Action to Mitigate the Student Housing Crisis Referendum

Verdict: Half true — the UC Berkeley administration will not increase enrollment by at least 15,000 students over the next few years. The campus plans to add 725 net new beds as part of an overall initiative to add 14,000 new beds by 2020 across the UC system that was announced in January by UC President Janet Napolitano. But the initiative comes after a UC regents plan to increase in-state undergraduate enrollment by 10,000 over the next three years — not by 15,000 — with on-campus undergraduate enrollment increasing by 750 in fall 2016. According to ASUC Local Affairs Director Matthew Lewis, the campus will see a total increase of 1,500 in-state undergraduates at UC Berkeley over the next three years.

Yamas later clarified that he misspoke and meant to say 1,500 — a much more reasonable and accurate number for a campus enrollment increase.

Assertion: “Students are spending an average of $1,200 a year on textbooks.” — Frances McGinley, Student Action candidate for ASUC academic affairs vice president

Verdict: Depends on who you ask.

The College Board estimates that the cost of both books and supplies for the average full-time undergraduate student attending a four-year public university such as UC Berkeley is $1,200. But other sources, such as the National Association of College Stores, put the cost at closer to $650 — estimating that students paid an average of $313 during the fall 2014 term. Ultimately, it’s difficult to determine how much students spend because the cost of a textbook depends on factors such as whether you buy used or new or even rent, what your major is, and if you can find an open-source version.

Assertion: In reference to a mobile panic button at UCLA, which a candidate hopes to replicate at UC Berkeley, “This is proven to reduce response times by 44 percent, something that could make a huge difference and impact so many students’ lives. And the best part of it all is it only took one year for the student government to implement.” — Andre Luu, Student Action candidate for ASUC external affairs vice president

Verdict: Not quite.

First of all, Luu conflated two different apps in his response — Circle of 6, implemented at UCLA, and Safe Campus, a similar application developed by Canadian security company Guardly for use at a number of college campus. According to a Guardly case study, Safe Campus does reduce emergency response times by 44 percent, but no similar public data is available for Circle of 6 at UCLA.

Additionally, from inception to implementation, the UCLA-specific Circle of 6 application took more than a year. In October 2013, the idea to develop a safety application tailored to UCLA’s campus first began to materialize. But the struggle to acquire funding took longer than expected: A $15,500 allocation originally granted to the app by the student government was redistributed to students after many expressed resistance to the dispensation of the money. The application ultimately debuted in January 2015, costing between $10,000 and $15,000.

Assertion: “(I’m) the only candidate in this stage who is endorsed by folks in the city, by the Berkeley Tenants Union, by the chair of the Berkeley rent board, by City Council members such as Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington. … I’m the only candidate on this stage who has been constantly going to City Council and advocating for housing-related items. I feel that it is important that if you are running for external affairs vice president, you need experience working with the city.” — Boomer Vicente, CalSERVE candidate for external affairs vice president.

Verdict: To some extent.

When candidates make the “only candidate on this stage who” claim, it’s easy for some of the facts to be lost or misconstrued — for example, to draw the conclusion that Vicente is the only candidate who has experience working with the city.

While it’s true that Vicente is endorsed by Jesse Arreguin, Kriss Worthington, the Berkeley Tenants Union and Rent Stabilization Board Chair Jesse Townley, Vicente’s claim that he is the only EAVP candidate endorsed by city community members is inaccurate: City Councilmember Laurie Capitelli has come out to endorse Luu. And while Vicente previously served on the Police Review Commission and interned with Arreguin, Luu has also served on the Human Welfare and Community Action Commission.

It’s indisputable that Vicente, who said he goes to City Council meetings about twice per month, has been to more council meetings than either Luu or his other opponent, Aarefah Mosavi — although Luu has attended a City Council meeting to lobby against the group living accommodations ordinance, a housing-related measure.

All three candidates have different housing-related platforms: For example, Mosavi is seeking to improve rent control in Berkeley, Luu wants to work with administrators to subsidize some housing, and Vicente hopes to make students more aware of their rights as tenants.

Assertion: “Chancellor Harry Le Grande authorized police to beat students during the peaceful protests of Occupy Cal.” — Aarefah Mosavi, independent candidate for external affairs vice president running with the Defend Affirmative Action Party.

Verdict: Mostly wrong.

On Nov. 9, 2011, during the Occupy Cal protests, police officers wearing riot helmets used batons in an attempt to break through a line of students. The confrontation came after a Nov. 7, 2011 email from UC Berkeley administrators stating that encampments on campus property would not be allowed — a policy violated by student protesters who had set up camp outside of Sproul Hall. When police came to break up the camp, the protesters linked arms around their tents, causing chaos.

A lawsuit filed by BAMN — a national activist group affiliated with the Defend Affirmative Action Party on campus — alleges that UC Berkeley administrators including former chancellor Robert Birgeneau and Le Grande were partially responsible for alleged excessive force by police.  

But campus administrators contend that they only authorized police to enforce the no-camping policy on that day. According to briefs released by the defense, which includes campus administration, in September 2015, BAMN hasn’t produced any evidence to show that administrators such as Le Grande “knew or should have known that constitutional violations would result from their having authorized campus police to enforce the no-tents/no-encampment policy.”

But emails between Birgeneau and then-executive vice chancellor and provost George Breslauer regarding the Nov. 9, 2011 confrontation do indicate that Birgeneau didn’t question the police use of batons and may have approved of it.

Assertion: “That bill gives the rapist all of the power in the hearing process. He gets to decide what sanctions — he gets to decide what sanctions that he receives, he gets to decide what evidence is presented in the case. If the victim puts forward an argument, it can just be deemed irrelevant by the rapist.” — Michael Cortez-Mejia, independent candidate for ASUC president running with DAAP.

Verdict: Flat-out wrong.

For starters, Cortez-Mejia refers to the Student Code of Conduct as a bill, which implies that it was passed by the ASUC Senate. While students can have input regarding revisions, ultimately, they do not have final say in the process.

Secondly, neither the respondent nor the complainant has control over the sanctions given out. According to Student Advocate Leah Romm, with a sexual assault case, the Center for Student Conduct first proposes the sanctions; if one or both of the parties involved is dissatisfied, they have the right to appeal.

Additionally, all evidence is collected and compiled by an independent hearing officer who has the power to either keep or dismiss evidence, according to Romm — meaning that the respondent cannot reject evidence entered. Romm also noted that when it comes to sexual misconduct cases, given the nature of the allegations, respondents are often suspended from campus during an interim period. She believes that this consequently gives them much less power in the hearing process than Cortez-Mejia alleged.

Katy Abbott is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @katyeabbott.