Reminiscing on 2016-17: ASUC executives reflect on the last year

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Wednesday is the final regular ASUC Senate meeting, drawing a close to the 2016-17 executive slate’s term.

All four partisan executive offices were associated with campus party Student Action this term — a year after CalSERVE swept the slate.

Looking back on their campaigns, some executives promised to focus on representing student needs to administrators, addressing sexual violence and sexual harassment on campus and obtaining more basic needs security for students.

While all executives addressed their platforms, not all were completed, and some were found to be unprofitable for students.

President

Outgoing ASUC President Will Morrow said when he ran for president, he planned to establish a meal plan with the restaurants within the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, create a DeCal class on college issues and organize an event to promote student innovation.

As of now, the DeCal program and the Perspectives Festival have been started, both to fulfill the last two platforms. Morrow also said his office picked up a number of projects during the semester as well, including working on adding a gender-inclusive bathroom to the Recreational Sports Facility.

He noted, however, that he did not work on these platforms as much as he anticipated.

“I did not have as much of my focus as I was expecting when I ran devoted exclusively to my platforms because of the unique changing circumstances that impacted Berkeley this year,” Morrow said. “My role as ASUC president transcended much beyond being responsible for accomplishing my platforms … but to engaging as a representative of the student body in crisis after crisis as it came up.”

Morrow served as the sole undergraduate representative on the chancellor search committee this year.

In addition to making the ASUC more accessible, Morrow noted that he wishes he had been more accessible for communities previously ignored by ASUC leadership, citing the Fight4Spaces campaign, which stemmed from years of ASUC neglect.

“The focus of any ASUC president (is) not just the platforms they run on, not just the addressing things as they come up, but actively engaging with students when they most need it,” Morrow said.

Executive vice president

The executive vice president, or EVP, mediates the ASUC Senate, responding to internal issues of the ASUC, according to an email from outgoing EVP Alicia Lau.

Lau’s platforms included working on a graduate student mentor program for undergraduate students and a summer program for newly elected ASUC Senators to better accommodate them to their roles, among others.

Along with platform work, Lau said in an email, the EVP is responsible for managing ASUC Senate meetings. This year’s senate class has been largely nonpartisan, according to Lau — something she is proud to have helped facilitate. Lau, however, regrets not growing as close with her own staffers.

“If I could go back, I would have attempted to get to know my staff members on a more personal level,” Lau said in an email. “Although this might sound small, it is actually a huge regret of mine as that could have contributed to some of the turnover that happened.”

External affairs vice president

André Luu entered the office of the external affairs vice president, or EAVP, planning to work on a student discount for BART, developing a mobile safety alert app for students and increasing civic engagement among students via voting.

After discussion with BART representatives, it was found that students would have to pay more through a fee referendum to achieve the discount which Luu planned for, so the idea was scrapped. Work on the app was also halted when the app Wildfire solved problems Luu aimed to address.

The EAVP office did sign a memorandum of understanding with Residential Hall authorities in order to go door-to-door in the residence halls registering students to vote, and hosted the event Votechella in an effort to register more students.

“These initiatives … will have long-lasting impact,” Luu said. “Oftentimes, people or elected officials or people who serve in the ASUC only think about how they can impact students for the year that they’re serving, but I really tried to look at it with a big-picture vision of how I can utilize this year to make long lasting impact.”

Luu’s office also developed a department for integrating international students and formed a committee to increase communication between Berkeley City Council authorities and ASUC representatives.

Academic affairs vice president

Frances McGinley ran for academic affairs vice president, or AAVP, with plans to improve textbook affordability, academic advising services in the College of Letters and Science and sexual violence and sexual harassment survivor support systems — all of which were visited during her term.

McGinley said her office looked into the problems with the advising system and found that the primary issue was the low ratio of counselors-to-students, an issue that the ASUC couldn’t remedy. Regardless, the connection between advisors and the AAVP office has been strengthened, McGinley said.

“The long-term partnership that we’ve been able to form between L&S advisors and the ASUC means that these advising services will continue to get improved upon even if the next AAVP doesn’t work on them specifically because … those relationships are now there,” McGinley said.

Along with platform work, McGinley worked on a peer mentorship program that she plans on transitioning to the next AAVP. She also began reforming the AAVP’s grants and commissions, something she found to be one of the most important jobs of the AAVP.

Student advocate

The student advocate, or SA, is responsible for presenting policy platforms and representing student grievances with the campus. Current SA Selina Lao ran on platforms addressing sexual misconduct on campus and securing basic needs for students, among others.

Lao’s office has touched upon all of her platforms. Members from the SA office attended the UC Regents meeting in March, presenting grievances with the faculty sexual harassment policy — which is not as detailed as those for students, according to Lao.

“More students have been coming to our office seeking assistance (for sexual misconduct),” Lao said.

In addition, the SA office began working on an institutionalized response to housing insecurity, Lao said, adding that the office was able to arrange housing accommodations for a student who had a change of living circumstances, the first arrangement of its kind.

“Most of the time people report on the executives — what they did and what their platforms are — and I cannot stress enough that I feel like (that) is the tip of the iceberg,” Lao said, “I know I’m the executive … but it’s all because I have an incredible team that’s working.”

Sakura Cannestra is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.

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