Wellness referendum considered for next ASUC election

Ariel D. Hayat/File

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This year, the ASUC Senate is prioritizing and advocating student health and wellness as one of its main initiatives.

Through a possible referendum for the spring election, a group of student leaders hope to renew the Cal Recreational Sports fee and extend Tang Center hours. If a majority of the senate approves the referendum, it will be put to a student vote during ASUC elections this spring.

The sports fee, approved in 2006, reduced student membership fees to $10 per semester from its original $65 and added an $80 annual fee paid by every student. It is set to expire at the end of next year, but the proposed wellness referendum, if passed, would renew it.

SQUELCH! Senator Madison Gordon, who ran on the platform of prioritizing student health and wellness, said continuing student fees to support Cal Recreational Sports is crucial, because half of its funding comes from such fees.

“We’re not looking to put (the costs) on the backs of students,” Gordon said. “If this passes, we can use it to prove to the administration that this is something students really care about and really pressure them to reinvest in student wellness.”

In terms of campus health facilities, Graduate Assembly delegate Matthew Grigorieff, who co-authored a bill supporting the formation of a wellness initiative and work group last year, called the Tang Center’s hours “counterintuitive.” Most offices in the health center are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but both Gordon and Grigorieff hope to extend availability into the evening and weekends.

Advocates of the referendum, including SQUELCH! Senator Dree Kavoussi and CalSERVE Senator Melissa Hsu, are looking into the possibility of turning portions of Hearst Memorial Gymnasium into a wellness center.

According to Grigorieff, because the building is deemed seismically unsafe, he hopes state tax credits could be used to refit and remodel the gym. Gordon hoped the building could house services such as a rock climbing wall, a kitchen to promote healthy eating and large spaces for yoga or group counseling.

“We’re working off years of work by the ASUC and Graduate Assembly. How do we get better mental health services, and how do we get our facilities to be at least average?” Grigorieff said.

In a preliminary resolution drafted by ASUC senators and Graduate Assembly delegates, the authors said that the campus has “historically prioritized fundraising for capital projects, faculty endowments, and scholarships” and that “there is a severe lack of services that impact the day-to-day experience of (students).”

As part of the larger health and wellness initiative, the ASUC is also planning to establish a peer wellness counseling program.

A survey by the ASUC and Graduate Assembly will be released by mid October to gauge what students want to prioritize and what they are willing to pay.

Heyun Jeong covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @heyunjeong.