ASUC Senate passes bill expressing no confidence in UC Berkeley sexual assault policies

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The ASUC Senate passed a bill expressing no confidence in UC Berkeley’s policies in handling sexual assault cases following heated discussion at Wednesday night’s meeting.

The bill, SB 130, states that policies implemented by campus bodies such as the Center for Student Conduct and the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination strip sexual assault victims of their rights in the reporting process.

The bill was authored by Aryle Butler, CalSERVE Party Chair Anais LaVoie, along with CalSERVE senators Klein Lieu, Megan Majd, and DeeJay Pepito, who is running for ASUC president in the upcoming elections.

“The reason we did the bill is we independently had negative experiences with the offices and policies,” LaVoie said. “We found ourselves without the aid of the offices to support our experience.”

Present at the meeting was Title IX Officer with the Office for the Prevention of Harassment and Discrimination Denise Oldham and Student Conduct Specialist Erin Niebylski in the Center for Student Conduct. Both offices are specifically named in the bill as campus entities with ineffective policies.

“Our concern is that misinformation about how these cases are handled might deter students from coming forward with complaints or, at the very least, cause confusion about how these cases are handled,” Oldham said in an email.

CalSERVE senator and co-author of the bill Klein Lieu rebuffed implications that there were mistakes in the bill and said that the authors of the bill had it reviewed by the ASUC lawyer for any inaccuracies.

“Literally there are over 10 documents you have to go (through) to understand sexual assault on this campus. I think that’s egregious,” Lieu said at the meeting. “I hope with this bill we can start streamlining this and start having it make sense for students.”

Student Action Senator Rosemary Hua was one of several senators concerned with the language of the bill, particularly the clause stating that the ASUC holds “no confidence in the University’s current sexual assault policies and disciplinary procedures.”

“We should tell them what they’re doing wrong, but there is a fine balance — we also need to work with them,” Hua said during the meeting.

In a later email Hua said senators should sit down with campus officials and start amending policies instead of condemning them. She added that she believed the bill should be sent back to committee to rework its language.

Supporters maintained that the bill was not an attack on campus bodies, but instead a way to bring the ASUC into the discussion of assault on campus.

Other Student Action senators echoed Hua’s concerns, including senator Mihir Deo, who said in an email that this was not a CalSERVE against Student Action issue.

“The prime reason I voted against the bill was that this bill was not clearly vetted,” Deo said. “The Student Advocate wasn’t even consulted about the bill and it creates a new wing in her office. She also stated that there was miscommunication on both sides.”

CalSERVE senator Nolan Pack spoke passionately in favor of the bill during the meeting, saying that it was the ASUC’s job to protect students.

“Though the ASUC’s legal counsel confirmed that the bill accurately reflects university policies, several senators disregarded this advice and supported the notion that there was a ‘misunderstanding,’ in spite of the fact that nobody who criticized the bill could identify or articulate the alleged misunderstanding,” Pack said in an email.

Student Action senators Chen-Chen Huo, Rafi Lurie, Rosemary Hua, Mihir Deo and Ryan Kang voted against the bill. Student Action senator Nils Gilberston abstained and Student Action senators Emily Chen and Tom Seung Kyun Lee were absent from the vote. All other senators voted in support.

Ally Rondoni is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected].