Avoid putting the student district on the ballot

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On Feb. 25, Berkeley City Council will have the chance to do the right thing. The referendum campaign that has advocated a more fair and inclusive student district has succeeded in placing the issue back in front of the council, which will have two choices: compromise with the community and have a student district in place for the fall election or place the issue of a student district up for a citywide vote, leaving in flux the districts that will be in place for the election.

For those who have been fighting hard for a student district and fighting for students to have a seat at the table, this really is where the rubber meets the road and we must be clear to the council: Don’t throw students under the bus!

Should the council decide to place their redistricting map on the ballot, not only would there likely be no student district in place for students to exercise their voice this fall, but the referendum risks losing a student district completely if voters reject the council’s map. Even ASUC External Affairs Vice President Safeena Mecklai, who has overseen the Berkeley Student District Campaign, admits putting the student district on the ballot could spell disaster for students.

Though this issue has been about a divide between the Berkeley Student District Campaign map and the United Student District Amendment, which includes more student housing and the Northside co-ops, we’re actually not that far apart, and compromise can be reached. A compromise is the only way to ensure a student district can be a reality.

As the youngest person ever elected to the City Council and the youngest council member by more than 20 years (I am currently 29), it would be great if more students and young people were serving on the council to make sure our needs are being heard. I look forward to working with Safeena and the Berkeley Student District Campaign in reaching out to the student community in the coming weeks to see if we can come up with a consensus map that makes all of our hard work become a reality.

The Berkeley Student District Campaign, the United Student District Amendment and all students are in the same boat now. It’s in our best interest to come up with a compromise to ensure we have an inclusive district in time for the fall election. If we let the council reject a compromise and play Russian roulette with a student district, we could all lose.

Jesse Arreguin is a Berkeley city council member.

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