ASUC meeting devolves into partisan conflict

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Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting dissolved into a discussion of party divisions and deficient communication after debate on a standard finance bill sparked controversy among senators.

SB 19 planned to allot funds from the Contingency Fund — a procedure the ASUC Senate routinely goes through — to the campus group Volunteers Around the World. But this bill, sponsored by Senators Ryan Kang, George Kadifa and Emily Chen, all of the Student Action party, prompted a debate on financial negotiations that was split between party lines.

“I’m so concerned that after this meeting that you aren’t going to be able to do anything together,” said Office of Executive Vice President Justin Sayarath at the meeting.

The student government — made up of 20 senate seats and five executive offices — is dominated by Student Action, which holds 11 senate seats as well as four of the five executive seats. The fifth executive seat is the Student Advocate, which is a traditionally nonpartisan position. CalSERVE, the second-largest party, holds six senate seats. Third parties SQUELCH! and the Cooperative Movement each have one senator representing it, and one independent senator was elected last year.

Senators from the various student parties and independents disagreed on the amount of money being allocated to the student group and the procedure through which the ASUC was distributing funds.

CalSERVE Senator Daley Vertiz pulled the bill from the consent calendar for discussion on the senate floor after two weeks of debate within the Finance Committee, which is made up of four Student Action senators, two CalSERVE senators and one independent.

CalSERVE Senator Nolan Pack said the bill was brought to the senate floor as a last resort and as a response to what he called the Student Action senators’ inability to compromise.

“I can’t speak for everyone, but partisanship had little impact on my decision to vote yes on the bill,” Student Action Senator Rosemary Hua said in an email. “I chose to vote yes on SB 19 based on content-neutral scrutiny of the budget.”

Discussion eventually led the senate to a compromise and vote to allocate $450 to Volunteers Around the World — the bill originally requested $875.85 — but the negotiation only came after significant debate on the ASUC’s management of finances.

After SB 19 was resolved, the senate ended the meeting in a discussion about bettering communication among senators beyond party lines.

“Party lines are there,” said Student Action Senator Mihir Deo to the senators. “If you know someone is interested in a bill, don’t just stick to your party.”

Deo further mentioned the importance of open communication between senators.

“This party bullshit isn’t appropriate, and I’m saying this as a third party,” said Senator Jorge Pacheco of Cooperative Movement Party. “What (the two major parties) are doing is damaging to our communities.”

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Student Action holds all five executive seats. In fact, it holds four of the executive seats. The fifth position is the Student Advocate, a traditionally nonpartisan position filled by Stacy Suh, who was endorsed by both CalServe and Student Action and serves independently.