ASUC senators call UC Berkeley’s guest speaker policy ‘roadblock’ for student organizations

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Xiaoye Yan/Staff

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At the ASUC Senate’s regular Wednesday meeting, senators pushed back against UC Berkeley’s interim guest speaker policy.

The interim policy, which became effective Aug. 14, requires eight weeks’ notice from registered student organizations at UC Berkeley wishing to host events with more than 200 attendees or events with amplified sound. The senate heard from Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Stephen Sutton, who initiated a discussion about the pros and cons of the policy.

Several senators questioned the efficacy and fairness of the policy. Some voiced concern that the policy would silence student activists and that it could prevent student groups from holding events. Senator Josh Wilson called the policy a “roadblock.” Senator Nuha Khalfay pointed out that the policy has the potential to prohibit students from holding vigils, which, Khalfay said, cannot be planned months in advance.

Others said they felt the policy was a blanket approach to security that burdened all student organizations because of the actions of a few.

“There are huge deterrents to student organizations,” said Senator Rizzo Estacio. “It seems like student groups are being punished for events like ‘Free Speech Week,’ like Milo.”

In response to the senators’ concerns, Sutton emphasized that with the policy in place, most student-organized events went off “without a hitch.” He added, however, that he recognized the negative impact that excessive police presence can have on the campus community.

“We don’t want our community activism to be squelched by a policy,” Sutton said at the meeting.

Also during the meeting, members of the senate criticized The Daily Californian for a cartoon that it published depicting renowned lawyer Alan Dershowitz in a manner that many have called offensive and anti-Semitic. At the close of the meeting, senators Carmel Gutherz and Alexander Wilfert shared statements expressing disappointment and alarm about the cartoon.

“I am deeply saddened by cartoon posted in the Daily Cal,” Gutherz said in her statement. “For me, the legacy of Hitler’s final solution still echoes.”

The senate approved Senate Resolution 25, which allocates $1,500 in funds from the ASUC General Reserve to charities providing aid to Latin American countries affected by natural disasters. About 30 community members came out in support of SR 25, urging the senate to consider the impact these events have had on the UC Berkeley community. Six speakers shared stories of friends and family members who were homeless or without power as a result of the natural disasters, and they described the fear and uncertainty that these events have inspired in the campus’s Latinx community.

After a long debate, during which the bill was amended to change the source of the funding from the ASUC’s contingency fund to its general reserve, the senate passed the bill with 18 in favor and 2 against.

“This is really simple to me,” said Wilson, who voted for the bill, at the meeting. “There are students coming to us, telling us how we can support them, and it is our job to help them.”

Dissenting voters echoed their support for the sentiment behind the bill, but they argued that funds could be raised more effectively through other means.

After the meeting, Senator Vicente Román, the primary sponsor of the bill, said he was proud of the senate for passing SR 25, adding that he believed the resolution sets a “good precedent.”

“It’s a good step in terms of the ASUC really trying to be there for communities and not just upholding bureaucracy,” Román said.

Contact Sam Levin at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @SamJLevin.

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  • California Defender

    “Some voiced concern that the policy would silence student activists…”

    It’s called backfire. According to OED, “(of a plan or action) have an opposite and undesirable effect to what was intended.” The intention was to silence any speech that does not conform to the leftist Berkeley orthodoxy. Need more convincing of this truth? Two paragraphs later:

    “It seems like student groups are being punished for events like Free Speech Week, like Milo.”

    Student “Senator” Rizzo Estacio appears to be suggesting that it’s quite acceptable to punish groups that invite speakers like Milo, but not those that invite speakers who reinforce the aforementioned dogma.