ASUC Senate passes bill supporting student supermajority district

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The ASUC Senate voted Wednesday to support the creation of a student supermajority district in Berkeley, despite concerns that a student city council member might not be able to adequately represent all students.

The bill endorsed the idea of altering the city charter to eliminate its current restrictions against a student supermajority district and allow a student or student representative to be elected to the Berkeley City Council.

The bill was authored by Student Action Senator Shahryar Abbasi, External Affairs Vice President Joey Freeman and External Affairs Vice President Redistricting Director Noah Efron.

The city is currently divided into eight council districts, and each district is represented by an elected city council member. The city council already plans to place a charter amendment on the November ballot. If passed, the amendment would change the 1986 city district boundaries many say were put in place to disenfranchise the student vote in Berkeley by preventing the creation of a student supermajority district.

Debate at the senate meeting centered around the impact a student representative could have on the City Council.

Senior John Nguyen said he felt that a supermajority district would place students at a higher priority than other Berkeley communities and that a student council member would have a “very minimal voice.”

“What I’m afraid of is other council members not listening,” he said.

Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein said the supermajority idea puts a lot of weight on one individual’s ability to represent students and added that there are already council members supportive of students.

However, Freeman said that creating the supermajority district would allow students to have at least one powerful voice on the council.

A draft of the bill pointed out that one in three students are Asian, but only one Asian city council member has ever been elected.

However, CalSERVE Senator Sydney Fang said at the meeting that the information should be taken out of the bill, because “given that (the supermajority district) is not a true Asian district, taking it in that direction is tokenizing to that community.”

Senators present approved the bill without the information on Asian students with only two abstaining votes from Goldstein and CalSERVE Senator Anthony Galace.

Freeman said the student council member position could turn into a race between student political parties like CalSERVE and Student Action.

“(I hope) Student Action and CalSERVE enter into an agreement that they endorse the same candidate, much like they do with student advocate,” Freeman said.

Chloe Hunt is the lead student government reporter.