Bill expresses ASUC Senate’s support for students affected by Sept. 30 explosion

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The ASUC Senate passed a bill Wednesday night expressing support for students affected by the Sept. 30 explosion and power outage on campus.

The amended bill, SB 27 — which initially criticized the campus about the length of its decision-making process regarding class cancellations after the power outage — was stripped of its policy recommendations and now expresses only the ASUC Senate’s support for students adversely affected by the explosion.

Although Independent Campaign for Common Sense Senator Solomon Nwoche authored the bill, he said he was dismayed by the dramatic changes thrust upon the bill.

“I really wanted to make some tangible changes in policy,” Nwoche said in an email. “I usually don’t like to write symbolic bills. However, I had to respect the will of my fellow senators.”

The amended version of the bill was authored by Nwoche and Student Action Senator Pavan Upadhyayula.

The initial version made specific policy suggestions for campus administrators, such as requiring class syllabi to acknowledge the effects of a crisis on class work and asking campus officials to notify students of class cancellations by 1 a.m. in circumstances of emergency.

The bill was amended significantly during an Oct. 14 external committee meeting, and the new version does not include these suggestions. Instead, it only urges the administration “to institutionalize a policy to communicate to students in a timely, effective, and consistent manner following emergency incidents or incidents where the campus has to be evacuated.”

Many members of the ASUC said they did not feel they had the authority to impose policy changes on campus administrators.

“We’re going to look like we’re not acknowledging the work being done (by the administration),” said ASUC President DeeJay Pepito of the bill’s original language during the meeting.

The bill was tabled for revisions until it was voted on at Wednesday’s senate meeting, where it passed with 19 votes in favor and one abstention.

“The ASUC may not have the ability to directly change policies for emergency situations, but the administration and the student government are able to work closely to ensure the safety of students on this campus,” Upadhyayula said in an email.

During the meeting, representatives from the UC Berkeley Office of Emergency Management presented a special order to the senators to discuss initiatives by the campus to improve its emergency response.

The campus is developing a strategic plan for emergencies, including an initiative to maintain a campus stockpile of food and water and create an emergency management advisory committee that will review and monitor the campus’s emergency measures, according to Amina Assefa, a manager in the Office of Emergency Management.

“There’s been quite a focus on emergency management, and I think the power outage was a perfect example of showing what works and what needs improvement,” said Mark Freiberg, executive director of the emergency management office. “And I think the bill puts the students’ perspective in writing.”

Jennie Yoon is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @jennieyoon_.