ASUC updates bylaws to increase accessibility to grants

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In an attempt to improve clarity for applicants and ASUC officials, the ASUC Senate passed a bill Wednesday updating bylaws that define grants offered through the Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President.

SB 51, the AAVP Grants Update Act, renames and redefines several grants offered by the ASUC through the AAVP office, intending to simplify language and improve the policymakers’ ability to manage the grants more efficiently.

“The changes are really part of that common-sense, streamlining simplification process,” said Denim Ohmit, a UC Berkeley junior and AAVP chief of staff. He added that the changes can be understood as a “reorganization” of the grants rather than a rewriting, as the bill does not change the grants’ funding or application process.

The attempts are part of an ongoing student government “bylaw overhaul” that began in the first semester with scholarship rules, Ohmit said, in an effort to increase the bylaws’ transparency and flexibility. The changes are also intended to help raise student awareness of the grants, which Ohmit said sometimes go underutilized.

“We have a lot of money set aside for this grant that could be going to a lot more groups and projects,” he said.

Last semester, the AAVP office received no applications for the Disabled Students Accommodation Fund.

Under the new bill, the fund was renamed the Accessibility Grant to demonstrate its goal of improving accessibility to campus events rather than exclusively seeking students with disabilties as applicants. The Educational Enhancement Fund was similarly shortened to the DeCal Grant for a simpler meaning.

“The name change will help…there would be no misunderstandings,” said CalSERVE Senator Melissa Hsu, who directed the DeCal Grant and was a previous officer of the DeCal board, in an email.

The bill also stipulates the renaming and broadening of the grant formerly known as the Transfer and Re-Entry Endowment Fund. Now the Educational Equity and Excellence Grant, or EEEG, the fund will be available to student-parents, student-veterans, students with disabilities and Educational Opportunity Program students, in addition to its original constituents, transfer and re-entry students.

Through the AAVP office, student groups can apply for grants in eight specialized categories, including community service and campus diversity.

The new bylaws require minimum funding amounts for each grant, but Ohmit added that in case grants such as the EEEG receive more applicants, additional funding could be allotted to avoid “squeezing out” qualified groups.

The Academic Opportunity Grant was the most popular grant last semester, with $10,000 of allotted funding, but Ohmit said there was still money available for more projects.

According to Ohmit, the bill helps the AAVP more effectively manage the grant process. Often, he said, past ASUC administrations outlined very specific procedural requirements, such as outdated timetables that have been replaced with more efficient means.

“It’s not a blank check of accountability,” Ohmit said, adding that different parts of ASUC still oversee the AAVP office. “We have our way of doing things, through experience and historical precedent and best practices passed on from one year to the next.”

This week, the AAVP office will open applications for the grants, due April 24. The applications can be found here.

Contact Alex Barreira at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @abarreira_dc.sue

An earlier version of this article stated that the Academic Opportunity Fund was allotted $5,000 last semester. In fact, it was allotted $10,000 this year.