Graduate students want out. They want out of a student government system centered around the undergraduate experience. They want out of an ASUC that has proved difficult to work with and slow to address their financial and academic concerns. They want out now.
The Graduate Assembly, or GA, part of the ASUC since 1969, is considering becoming independent. The long list of the assembly’s grievances involves everything from underrepresentation to underfunding to lack of transparency. But though the assembly is justified, UC Berkeley students as a whole benefit from being represented by one united government body.
In response to these concerns, on Feb. 15, ASUC senators and executives presented the assembly with a proposal for governance reform that would create a “federal system” in which, like the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the two bodies would have equal authority over policy decisions, creating a structural form of checks and balances for each other.
But this productive first step comes weeks after it was promised and months after graduate students expressed their desire to leave in an October 2017 resolution. ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris explained that the ASUC’s delay was warranted, saying that undergraduate ASUC officials in elected positions needed time to talk to stakeholders and make sure the elected officials were all on the same page.
It makes sense — student officials should make sure they understand every facet of a decision before making one, especially regarding complicated governance matters that have long-term implications. But this issue goes to the heart of graduate students’ concerns: Many graduate students get involved in student government and serve as executives or committee members for years, while undergraduates come and go every few semesters, struggling to pass on institutional knowledge.
As it stands, the ASUC’s proposal for governance reform needs work. Its vague commitment to a federal system doesn’t exactly specify how, for example, representatives from each body will collaborate to dole out the ASUC’s $2 million funding allocation budget and divvy up campus spaces.
Even if the proposal were up to snuff, ASUC senators and executives cannot hope to regain the GA’s trust without seriously addressing their lackluster track record of educating the next generation of undergraduate student leaders. (For an issue of this much importance, students should keep a close eye on what ASUC candidates have to say as election season ramps up.)
Some members of the GA are still open to reconciliation with the ASUC — even this vague proposal has convinced some assembly members to reconsider the split. But many more in the assembly are not swayed by this honest, though incomplete, effort at compromise. GA delegate Adam Orford said at the most recent GA meeting that the ASUC’s plan remains uncertain and that separation is a more viable, immediate solution. That kind of absolutism does more harm than good, especially if the two government bodies ultimately split and have to work separately to advocate for their interests to administrators.
Everyone benefits from a student government that equitably and evenly represents their interests and concerns. It’s time the ASUC and Graduate Assembly put to bed their differences and form a more united body for the sake of all UC Berkeley students — graduates and undergraduates alike.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.