ASUC-sponsored redistricting map raises questions over Northside representation

Stefan Elgstrand/Courtesy
The amended map depicts the creation of a student-majority district.

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After two years of planning, some students are raising concerns about the ASUC-sponsored Berkeley redistricting map because the proposed student district excludes Northside residences, including nine Berkeley student housing cooperatives and three residence halls.

Stefan Elgstrand, a UC Berkeley senior and an intern for Councilmember Kriss Worthington since June, has introduced the United Student District Amendment, a proposal that includes Northside residences.

While both the ASUC map and the USDA aim to create a student-majority district to help elect a student representative to Berkeley City Council, proponents of each disagree on how to best represent interests of students and city residents.

Currently, Elgstrand is rallying support for his amendment prior to the City Council meeting on Sept. 10, when the council will continue discussing redistricting.

The ASUC-sponsored Berkeley Student District Campaign map started as a campaign platform for 2011-12 ASUC external affairs vice president Joey Freeman, a Student Action candidate.

The BSDC map creates a student district that encompasses Southside housing, the Greek community and the residence halls, with a 90 percent student population. The map is detailed in ASUC Senate Bill 65, which passed unanimously in the spring of 2013.

“The fact that this (amendment) was introduced so late is really difficult to deal with,” said ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai of the proposed amendment, which she said the ASUC team has not agreed to. “I wouldn’t be comfortable with it going forward unless the senate endorses it.”

After the BSDC map was submitted in mid-March, Worthington questioned its inclusivity and motivated Elgstrand to draft an amendment.

“The BSDC people mostly live in the fraternities and sororities, so there’s a bit of a bias in that,” Elgstrand said. “From my perspective, since I’m not connected to any of those groups, I can make it more inclusive.”

Proponents say the BSDC map has received support from the Greek community, Cal Berkeley Democrats, Berkeley College Republicans, all 20 ASUC 2012-13 senators and some leaders of the Berkeley Student Cooperative, including ASUC Senator Jorge Pacheco, who is endorsed by the co-ops.

Now, other leaders in the BSC are reconsidering their stances, saying that the BSDC map underrepresents Northside housing. They are giving preference to the USDA proposal, which Elgstrand says includes 87.4 percent of the cooperative population, while the BSDC map only includes 38.1 percent.

“If the intention is to create a unified student district, then not including Northside dorms and co-ops seems to leave out an important population of students,” said Michelle Nacouzi, the 2013-14 president of the BSC.

Nacouzi and other members of the BSC said they were told that it was not feasible to include Northside co-ops in a student-majority district.

Noah Efron, the ASUC redistricting director and local affairs deputy, said the BSDC made several efforts to include the input of student groups by inviting leaders from the BSC, the Greek community and the residence halls to participate in public forums about the plan.

Despite their differences, both Elgstrand and Mecklai said they would prefer to maintain a unified student voice in demanding a student district. However, the ASUC will continue to support the BSDC map without changes to include Northside residences, while Elgstrand plans to push forward his amended plan.

Contact Saachi Makkar at [email protected]

A previous version of this article stated that the district proposed by the ASUC represents 90 percent of the student population, defined as residents between ages 18 to 29. In fact, it represents 86 percent of the student population.