Demanding transparency from the ASUC

New ASUC Senate, executive officials and staff need to take responsibility for their actions

Graham Haught/Staff

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With the passage of SB 160 on April 18, the UC Berkeley campus has been packed with people pointing fingers at their peers for the controversial decision. Even the Daily Cal has been going crazy about the vote, talking about how so-and-so was harassed by so-and-so and is now pointing fingers at so-and-so. Well, I want a turn too. I’m not going to talk much about SB 160, though; that’s been done. I want to point a finger at the ASUC as a whole.

Most senators know, or at least should know, about Article IX, Section 2, Clause A, of the ASUC Constitution. It states: “The ASUC Senate, the Judicial Council, and the Graduate Assembly shall not take action on any main motion unless and until that motion has been publicly posted for at least one week.” But no materials were posted in advance for the SB 160 meeting and, in fact, this lack of public notification has been the standard operating procedure all year. So here’s my question: Why did the ASUC Senate even discuss SB 160 – or SB 158, for that matter – if no agenda was published? In fact, why did the ASUC Senate take action on most things this year if the agendas were hardly ever published on time? Technically, it’s  all unconstitutional… rendering the 10-hour Senate meeting to discuss SB 160 entirely inane.

That’s not the only problem. The ASUC website is a mess: It still, for example, says the Senate meets at Eshleman Hall … last I checked, Eshleman isn’t really accessible. Bills up for consideration aren’t published until after they’re approved. But most importantly, ASUC agendas aren’t being published in advance. In my role as a staff member for a nearby local government, part of my job involves posting city agendas week after week. And sometimes, I admit, it seems like a waste of time. I’ve even asked myself: “Who the hell reads this? Who the hell cares?” But those questions are beside the point. It’s the government’s obligation to serve the people and to follow the guidelines and rules it puts foward in its bylaws. And I believe the people have the right to know what’s going on – especially at UC Berkeley, where students often take pride in their activism and involvement.

About two weeks ago, a day before an ASUC meeting, a friend asked multiple senators about the meeting location. They all replied, “I don’t know.” I understand that Lower Sproul is under development and that many events are being shuffled around, but that’s no excuse for the senate’s failure to communicate properly with the students it claims to serve.

We live in an era of transparency. Everyone cries for it. The senate even passed “A Bill in Support of Transparency, Accountability, and Enforcement” earlier this year. Yet, for some reason, the ASUC fails time and again to follow its own rules. The meeting on SB 160 brought the room to maximum occupancy, so it’s safe to assume that a decent portion of the UC Berkeley community knew about it.

But what about the less controversial topics that may well affect students more than the ASUC striking down foreign policy? Isn’t it our right to know about those issues too?

Surprisingly, only after I casually brought up the notion of taking legal action with ASUC staff members did agendas get posted, and even that took place days after the fact.

The crafters of the ASUC Constitution thought the community should know what the senate is doing. That’s why Article IX, Section 2, exists. I believe the current senate should act in accordance with this founding principle. I call upon the new ASUC Senate, the executive officials and their staff to take responsibility for their actions, and stop hiding behind unpublished agendas. Be transparent and accountable. You care about this school and what happens with it. So have some respect for the rest of us, who care too, and let us know what the ASUC is up to.

Nir Maoz is a freshman at UC Berkeley.

A previous version of this op-ed incorrectly stated that ASUC Senate office manager Jordan Tauber sent no agenda packet on the day of a April 17 ASUC meeting scheduled to discuss SB 160. In fact, Jordan Tauber did send out an agenda packet to ASUC senators and other members of the campus community listing SB 160 as a special order item.