Graduate Assembly unanimously votes to secede from ASUC after months of debate

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Maya Valluru/Staff

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The Graduate Assembly, or GA, voted unanimously to approve a resolution that would establish an independent governing body for graduate students, separate from the ASUC, during a special meeting Thursday.

Beginning July 1, 2018 — the start of the last fiscal quarter — the GA’s bylaws will be replaced with those of the Graduate Student Association of the University of California, Berkeley, or GSA. The GSA will be a nonprofit corporation that will replace the current GA and perform its same functions for a year, or until the ASUC votes to release the GA from Article 5 of the ASUC Constitution, which makes the GA the official ASUC governing body for graduate students.

After that, the GA will cease to exist and the GSA will remain as the sole governing body for graduate students, according to the resolution.

The GA began looking into separation from the ASUC earlier this year, citing decades of poor proportionate representation by the ASUC — graduate students make up about one-third of UC Berkeley’s student population, yet no elected members of the ASUC are graduate students. They introduced a formal resolution to secede in March.

“When you look at the platforms that the ASUC has run on, if they mention graduate students at all, it’s mostly lip service,” said GA president Kena Hazelwood-Carter. “When you look at the actual stuff they’ve done, there’s almost nothing. For a government that purports to support all students, they’re in fact supporting only two-thirds of them.”

During a March 15 town hall meeting, the ASUC briefly stated its support for secession, but it presented several “non-negotiable” conditions for the secession. During this meeting, ASUC president Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris was armed with a list of demands from the ASUC senators, naming several non-negotiables the GA had to respect to guarantee ASUC support for the GSA.

Several demands focused on clear communications and a “democratically” created timeline of the separation. Other demands called for the allocation of spaces controlled by the ASUC to remain under ASUC jurisdiction, including spaces within Eshleman Hall and Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

GA delegate Adam Orford opened up the following discussion session by saying that he “would not recommend framing the beginning of the discussion as a series of non-negotiables,” a comment that received widespread snapping from other delegates.

Hazelwood-Carter was similarly unimpressed by the list of non-negotiables, especially the demands dealing with space allocation.

“There’s only two spaces that graduate students have control over on the campus — Anthony Hall and the GA offices. The ASUC has the rest of the space, including the entire student union,” Hazelwood-Carter said. “Yet, graduate students pay a third of the fees. It’s a basic example of disenfranchisement of our population.”

When asked after the meeting about the list of non-negotiables, AbdulQadir-Morris said communication was the key demand.

“The most important thing is a commitment to clear communications as we move forward, even if we’re disagreeing, even if we’re on the same page,” AbdulQadir-Morris said. “We need to prioritize this in this interim period, as we transition, that that is taken seriously.”

The GA also elected its new officer board at the meeting, after the secession vote. Eleven positions were confirmed at the meeting, including electing Jonathan Morris for president.

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