Pavan Upadhyayula kicked off his ASUC presidency with the State of the Association on Wednesday during the second senate meeting.
In his opening speech, Uphadyayula outlined his vision of collaboration for the ASUC in the upcoming school year. He focused on campus issues of mental health and transparency. These issues tie back to his campaign platforms, which centered on improving student life, bringing a culture of collaboration and establishing transparency.
“Our sexual assault policies, as they stand, do not reflect the ‘caring culture’ required for every student to feel safe on our campus,” he said in his address. “Rising tuition costs and disinvestment by the state strain our ability to maintain our public character and diversity. These pressures threaten the very identity of UC Berkeley itself.”
To address mental health, Upadhyayula expressed the need for creative solutions and resources such as peer support and counseling, mental health awareness and residential-hall wellness programming.
But he emphasized that such widespread campus issues need collective action and support from students, administrators, staff and faculty.
“There’s an increasing idea that speed is necessary to make change — we just need to get the key players in the room and make the decision,” Upadhyayula said. “This isn’t the case; (we should) bring all of the players together.”
SQUELCH! Senator Madison Gordon echoed the sentiment for increasing transparency and accountability. She hopes the senate’s efforts to obtain more information from the administration and to increase student accessibility through blogs and office hours will allow information to more effectively “trickle down” to students.
Upadhyayula paralleled Lower Sproul redevelopment to the ASUC’s goal of providing a “space for students to come together, develop ideas and maximize their Berkeley experience.”
In his executive report, Executive Vice President Justin Kong said that this year, his main goal is to communicate with the student body and “bring the ASUC back to the students.”
At the meeting, External Affairs Vice President Caitlin Quinn also emphasized that the ASUC’s unique autonomy should not be taken for granted. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement, Quinn reminded senators to exercise free speech and “have hard conversations” for the communities that voted for them.
“I have seen student governments that are reminiscent of a high school (student government) … that are never in the same rooms as their administration and student governments that have to fight for pennies from their universities,” Quinn said.
Student Advocate Rishi Ahuja said he will work on projects to address financial literacy and implement a new grievance procedure to better address student complaints and disputes.
He also plans to add more resources for sexual violence survivors by providing one-on-one casework services and building a campus resource center.
Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Joseph Greenwell — who was a guest speaker at the meeting — emphasized the need for students, ASUC members and administrators to work together. He added that he looks forward to connecting with and listening to students, both in person and through social media.
The next senate meeting will be Wednesday.