ASUC tables housing referendum, plans to make it a resolution

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Grace Zhang/Staff

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The ASUC Senate tabled the proposed Affordable Student Housing Action Plan referendum — which would have showed symbolic support for administrative action on the housing crisis — and called for the referendum to be rewritten as a normal resolution instead.

The referendum draft addressed the lack of student housing in Berkeley and would have appeared on the 2018 spring ASUC ballot as a list of six demands for administrative action. Prior to the meeting, the proposed referendum was expected by some to pass the senate easily, but during the meeting, concerns were raised about the bill’s language, which was described as jargon-filled and dense by several senators.

The majority of senators who raised objections supported its content but were concerned about the clarity. Senator Harshil Bansal feared that, even if passed, the referendum could do more harm than good if it didn’t pass by a sufficiently high percentage.

“If we have about 20% of the voting population say ‘No’, that means the university can claim that 1/5 of the student body does not support you,” Bansal said in an email. “This does not help us at all in our advocacy efforts.”

After some debate, members of the ASUC Housing Commission who were present at the meeting asked the senate to send the referendum back to the committee to be rewritten as a resolution.

Matthew Lewis, the Housing Commission’s deputy assistant chair, described the last-minute concerns as circumventing the ASUC committee system’s purpose.

“Tonight was extremely, extremely frustrating because if there are concerns like this, they should be brought up in committee,” Lewis said. “We were told maybe an hour (before the meeting) that a bunch of senators were concerned that the referendum language would be too complicated for voters.”

A comparable referendum passed in 2016 on a similar timeline, according to Lewis, and the 2016 referendum was placed on the ballot and passed with 93 percent approval.

The senate briefly addressed possible nonprofit uses for the Stiles Hall basement space in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union. Stiles Hall is scheduled to move into the new David Blackwell Hall before Aug. 2018, leaving its current space empty.

“We’ve been having a lot of conversations about what the space will look like,” said Executive Vice President Helen Yuan, “including a new idea that the (Executive Vice President’s Office) was introduced to, which was the potential for a Basic Needs center.”

At the moment, however, nothing has been officially decided. According to Yuan, the biggest obstacle at the moment is locating the contracts of other campus programs that are in the basement, such as the Student Parent Center and the Undocumented Student Program, in order to determine the rights of each party to the basement space.

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.