ASUC Senate lifts restrictions on campaigning in study spaces, approves referendums

Ariel Hayat/File

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The ASUC Senate voted to amend its election bylaws at its weekly meeting Wednesday and removed restrictions on campaigning in campus study spaces.

While deliberating SB 66, a bill to amend new ASUC election bylaws that passed unanimously, a majority of the senate decided to remove campaigning restrictions on campus-owned study spaces from the bill. Candidates are allowed to campaign in any space within a campus-run building — including hallways — wear clothing indicating political affiliation and send electronic messages.

Yvette Felarca, a leader of activist group BAMN and a former ASUC senator, spoke during public comment in opposition to the campaigning restrictions initially in the bill.

“The elections bylaws of the ASUC are some of the most draconian and undemocratic bylaws that probably exist,” she said at the meeting, adding that the proposed restrictions on campaigning limited free speech.

Student Action Senator Hannah Frankl was one of few who defended restrictions, arguing that students should not be pestered while trying to study. Similarly, SQUELCH! party chair Casey Berkovitz said in an email that the senate’s decision to allow campaigning in academic spaces is an “absolute travesty.”

“By doing so, the Senate is allowing campaigning to infringe on students’ ability to learn,” Berkovitz said, adding that he hopes this year’s candidates “will not abuse their newly-granted ability to interfere with the world-class education available at Cal.”

Senate vice chair Alek Klimek said the removal of restrictions was “forced upon the senate.” Several senators said BAMN members had told them they could face personal legal action for supporting the restrictions.

CalSERVE senator and Cooperative Movement Party chair Austin Pritzkat, who also supported lifting the restrictions, said in an email that while well intended, the restrictions “created enforcement hurdles.”

He added that despite some senators’ discomfort with the possibility of legal action, he did not believe that “the Senate ever considered any legally indefensible positions.” Additionally, the ASUC is a nonprofit entity that operates independently of the campus, recognized by the UC regents as autonomous.

With the passage of SB 66, ASUC spaces and university-owned dining halls are the only places on campus where any form of campaigning is prohibited without exceptions.

The senate also approved four referendums to be placed on the ballot, including the Bringing Life to the UC Berkeley Experience (B.L.U.E.) Fee Referendum, which would increase the ASUC student activity fee by $40, and the Wellness Referendum fee, which would turn an optional $10 membership fee into a mandatory $8.50 fee and add an additional $54 fee to promote student health and wellness services.

The Giving Opportunities and Leadership Development (G.O.L.D.) Fee Referendum would establish a $38 annual fee to fund the “Centers for Educational Equity and Excellence,” which aims to empower nontraditional, underserved and/or underrepresented students. Finally, the Solar Energy Reinvestment Referendum would express the student body’s support of solar energy use on campus to administration.

The 2015-16 ASUC general elections will take place April 7, 8 and 9.

Contact Ishaan Srivastava at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ishaansriv.

A previous version of this article may have implied that the referendum would increase student fees by a total of $62.50 without removing any other fees. In fact, the referendum would turn an optional $10 RSF membership fee into a mandatory $8.50 fee and add an additional $54 fee to promote student health and wellness services.