ASUC postpones vote on Transfer Referendum because of legal concerns

Samuel Albillo/File

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After a lengthy debate, ASUC senators motioned to postpone a vote about the Transfer Referendum because of legal concerns at Wednesday night’s regular meeting.

According to Senator William Wang, the ASUC Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of academic status, and several senators were concerned that the Transfer Referendum — which would establish a designated transfer student representative within the ASUC — could be construed as a violation of this clause. The senators will reconvene Thursday evening to finish discussing the referendum and will vote on whether or not to place it on the 2019 ASUC elections ballot.

More than 20 transfer students attended Wednesday night’s meeting to voice their support for the referendum during public comment. President Alexander Wilfert, a primary sponsor of the resolution, said during the meeting that a 20-hour recess is the only viable way to place the referendum on the ballot before the filing period ends Friday.

Before Wednesday night’s meeting, the referendum went through the Governance and Internal Affairs Committee. Senator Nick Araujo, who sits on the committee, said they discussed the referendum for more than four hours and made several amendments to it. These amendments, however, were not formatted properly and are now lost, Wilfert said during the meeting.

Chief Legal Officer Claire Goudy had a consultation with the ASUC’s professional counsel, which consists of lawyers that represented the ASUC in a lawsuit from 2016. Goudy said, in the words of the professional counsel, that the referendum does “reserve a seat” for an elected position and therefore does present a legal risk. A safer option would be to consider creating an appointed official or commissioner, as opposed to an elected one, she added.

“Both our chief legal officer and legal attorney have expressed concern about this referendum,” said Senator Amir Wright during the meeting. “What’s the harm in waiting until this is perfected?”

Senator Justin Greenwald said during the meeting that the referendum is “rushing the process” and fails to explore already existing options — such as commissions — that could serve as a test trial and possibly combat the lack of transfer student representation within the ASUC. Senator Isabella Chow said during the meeting that although she empathized with transfer students seeking representation, she could not support the referendum because it is in line with a government that is “selected” versus one that is “elected.”

Araujo raised concerns that passing this referendum would inevitably lead to a constitutional amendment and worried that it would be “starting a precedent of reserving seats.”

Senator Nikhil Harish, however, noted that commissioners or appointed officials do not have the same proximity to campus administration that members of the ASUC Senate have and could not work on issues that affect the transfer community as effectively. Wang echoed his sentiment and added that it’s clear this referendum is supported by the transfer student community and that none of the current senators are transfer students.

According to the ASUC Constitution, any resolution passed by vote cannot be repealed or amended by the senate for five years. But, Senator Amma Sarkodee-Adoo said during the meeting that she will be writing a resolution to make the transfer referendum exempt from this specification, so the ASUC can continue refining it in the event that it passes.

“There is a historic lack of representation for transfer students in the ASUC,” said transfer student Ahmad Ali during public comment. “This year there has been zero (senators). In three of the last five years there have been zero.”

Anjali Shrivastava is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @anjalii_shrivas.