In a nearly unanimous vote, the ASUC Senate has voted to close out all existing accounts at Bank of America and move those accounts to Union Bank.
The bill states that all accounts the ASUC had with Bank of America be moved to Union Bank, citing reasons such as Bank of America’s “failed investment practices” and lack of community investment. Moving the accounts to Union Bank is intended to show support for a bank which “has shown outstanding reinvestment into Alameda County” and “a commitment to social justice and environmental sustainability,” according to the bill.
The bill was authored by outgoing CalSERVE Senator Andrew Albright and sponsored by Albright, outgoing Student Action Senator Tiffany Chia and incoming Executive Vice President Justin Sayarath.
The senate was unable to vote on the resolution during the semester, since the ASUC submitted their request proposals to several banks in the spring but did not hear back from the banks until early summer. The senate approved Tuesday’s online vote before the end of the semester.
The bill was developed by senators concerned that continued investment in Bank of America was in direct opposition to the fundamental beliefs and values of the ASUC.
“We as the ASUC encourage students to divest from big banks that practice risky loans and it was hypocritical of us to tell students that but not divest ourselves,” Sayarath said. “Students don’t approve of the way the big banks have been doing what they’re doing, so we are finally switching to a bank that is socially and ethically responsible.”
Albright first initiated the process in January when a committee was created to research taking money out of Bank of America. In the press release, the ASUC states that the pervasiveness of the subprime mortgage market — which it says was created by large financial institutions such as Bank of America — directly resulted in the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed.
“We don’t want student government money, which is from our student fees, to go to those banks,” Albright said.
These ideas compelled the ASUC to make a direct and immediate change. Albright hopes the decision will be able to extend beyond the campus community to other student governments.
The bill also calls on the UC Office of the President to begin a formal evaluation of all banking arrangements in which the UC is currently involved.
“It’s a really tangible way that individuals and organizations can realign their investments with their ethics,” said outgoing Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein. “This is the ASUC taking leadership in the UC and calling for the regents to start divesting as well.”
Additionally, the partnership with Union Bank opens up new opportunities for UC Berkeley students. The ASUC is currently looking into developing a debit card program through Union Bank for student groups, instead of the reimbursement system that is currently in place.
The ASUC Auxiliary will be working with a Union Bank account manager in the upcoming weeks to manage the transition. Union Bank has already agreed to pay $2,500 to the ASUC to cover conversion costs.
“Union Bank will be a great provider for us,” said ASUC Auxiliary Financial Services Manager Marilyn Stager. “We’ll be working with the relationship manager to outline what our needs are, and he’ll then suggest projects and services that meet those needs.”
New ASUC committees will also be created to explore debit card options and look into community investment.
“I’m hoping, with our money in Union Bank, they will in turn be able to do more reinvestment into Berkeley and Alameda County,” Albright said.