Campus sexual assault committee chair needed now

CAMPUS ISSUES: The ASUC Senate's last-minute decision to reopen applications reflects lack of foresight in selection process

When the ASUC Senate decided last week to withdraw its nomination of UC Berkeley senior Meghan Warner as the sexual assault commission director, the position she held last year, the senate’s intentions of opening the position to a wider variety of candidates reflected a desire to achieve equity and diversity.

But the senate’s decision means denying students much-needed leadership and support in the realm of sexual assault response and prevention. It also prevents the eventual nominee from gaining valuable experience during the first month of the semester.

In the beginning of the fall semester, new students are still adjusting to the alcohol and party culture of college and may not know what affirmative consent means. Now is a crucial time for the student leadership in the commission to work to support survivors and educate peers. Additionally, the campus’s hiring of two new confidential care advocates represents a valuable opportunity for the director of the sexual assault commission to develop relationships with these advocates and work with them to strengthen the support system for students across the campus — but there is no permanent director to take advantage of these circumstances.

The absence of diverse applicants indicates a lack of awareness of the application process among various communities. But if the senate wanted more applicants to consider, it should have actively publicized the position sooner rather than vote to do so on the night of the sole candidate’s confirmation vote. To get this far — with the nomination on the senate floor — only to unanimously delay the process shows a disappointing lack of foresight.

Although the sexual assault commission, based on ASUC bylaws, ought to have nominated a commission chair before spring break and have had the senate approve the nomination before the end of the spring semester, neither of those procedures were followed. Last year’s senate did not sufficiently explain this process to the commission or follow through with the senate’s responsibilities.

The current senate’s solutions — to push back the confirmation by about one month and appoint Senator Sheena Paul as interim director — raise questions of bias and conflicts of interest because of her affiliation with the Cooperative Movement Party. Like the student advocate position, the director of the sexual assault commission position is best filled by a nonpartisan figure who is removed from party politics.

Warner, a leading face and voice of the anti-sexual assault movement on campus, has the qualifications to chair the commission. If there were questions about the individual being appointed or her ability to inclusively represent all students, the senate should have more explicitly used that reasoning as its basis for the nomination withdrawal. In the future, the senate should work to better publicize and reach out to different communities on campus rather than wait until the confirmation vote to fix previous inaction.  

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.