The ASUC Senate voted Wednesday to pass a bill supporting a Feb. 13 Day of Action in favor of overturning Proposition 209, a 1996 bill that prohibits affirmative action in admissions to public institutions.
Under the bill, the senate will withdraw about $400 from its Contingency Fund to support the Day of Action at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which will consider arguments in favor of overturning the proposition, according to ASUC Finance Officer Victor Chen.
The bill — which overwhelmingly passed 15 to 1 with four senators abstaining — also asks instructors to be lenient on class attendance that day.
“I felt it was a really important opportunity for the ASUC and the state of California to advance social justice,” said CalSERVE Senator Sydney Fang, co-author of the bill. “Prop 209 is really hindering the communities that I represent — it’s important for all of us to understand each other’s experiences, and for people to learn more about underserved communities and what it means to have the experiences that students of color do.”
The protesters will demonstrate in favor of overturning the proposition outside the courthouse as part of a long struggle to determine the fate of affirmative action in California.
“(Affirmative action) is a solution to systematic inequalities in the American education system,” said Student Action Senator Safeena Mecklai. “Diversity is in the best interest of students — (the proposition) is clearly decreasing the number of minority students on our campus.”
Debates over affirmative action last erupted over SB 185, a controversial state senate bill that would have allowed public universities to consider nonacademic factors such as race, gender and nationality in the admissions process.
That bill, which was vetoed in October by Gov. Jerry Brown, elicited much contention on campus, with the Berkeley College Republicans holding a satirical “Increase Diversity Bake Sale” on Sproul Plaza in September that garnered national media attention.
Members of the club were present at the meeting Wednesday and spoke in opposition to the ASUC bill.
“The ASUC bill passed last night reflects an increasingly irresponsible student government which claims to represent the views of the student body, but continues to sponsor one-sided views, particularly when it comes to the issue of Affirmative Action,” said Shawn Lewis, president of the Berkeley College Republicans, in an email.
Lewis said in the email that the club opposes the senate bill because it misrepresents students and misuses student fees for political purposes.
Some senators remained ambivalent about the bill’s passage and decided to abstain as a result.
“The reason I abstained was to show … that although I support affirmative action, I am opposed to the funding of buses for one specific political goal,” said SQUELCH! Senator Noah Ickowitz.
Ickowitz said while the campus is almost completely unified over opposing state budget cuts, this is not the case for affirmative action.
The majority of senators stressed the need for outreach to the community to draw support for the day of action.
“This is a big moment in California history,” Fang said at the meeting. “Students from all over California, from UCLA, Davis, Irvine, are coming out to join us — please tell your communities to come out and support.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the senate allocated $400 to only buses. In fact, the money went to buses and other supplies for the Day of Action.