ASUC cannot neglect sexual violence prevention commission

CAMPUS ISSUES: The ASUC Senate is supposed to approve the commission chair each spring. So why did it wait until late in the fall semester?

Kelly Baird/Staff

Nearly two months into the fall semester, the ASUC sexual violence prevention commission sits abandoned — inactive, because apparently, only one person applied to be its chair.

A topic as important as sexual violence prevention, especially at this campus, cannot be left to sit and rot. It is the job of the ASUC Senate to nominate and approve the commission chair each spring. So why, this year, did it wait until the fall semester — late into the fall semester — to look at the options?

If the problem were a lack of applicants, there should have been more publicizing of the opportunity earlier on. There is no shortage of students in UC Berkeley who care about improving campus sexual violence policy, so there’s no excuse on the ASUC’s part for neglecting this commission.

The ASUC officer in charge of progress and general administration for all ASUC commissions, Evan Cui, told The Daily Californian that he was “urgently working to get it up and running” but couldn’t specify a timeline.

Time and time again, this commission in particular has paused work or lain forgotten.

In September 2015, the ASUC Senate made a last-minute decision to withdraw its nomination of then-UC Berkeley senior Meghan Warner for chair to open up the position to a more diverse array of candidates.

The decision meant the rejection of a leader with extensive knowledge and understanding of the issue and that the work of the commission would be delayed.

In the ensuing months, the commission went through interim leadership and directional change. Now, the commission is in flux again. Getting it back on track will require a lot of focused work.

UC Berkeley students deserve a timeline. At the very least, the status of the commission should be a topic of discussion at the upcoming ASUC Senate meeting.

Former assistant director of the commission Thanh Mai Bercher told The Daily Californian that this commission “wasn’t the only place this work was being done.” And it’s true. Many in the ASUC take it upon themselves to focus on sexual violence and survivor support. But the point of creating a commission with a focus on sexual violence is to ensure that as an institution, the ASUC will always lead the charge and efforts won’t fall by the wayside.

This campus has chronically failed to support survivors of sexual violence, as evidenced by its handling of high profile cases such as those involving former Berkeley Law dean Sujit Choudhry and former astronomy professor Geoffrey Marcy.

In February, The Daily Californian obtained more than 100 cases of sexual misconduct across the UC system; the majority of cases involved students, which means the ASUC must take on this issue with full force to successfully represent its constituents.

On a campus whose recent leadership missed the mark — with awful consequences — in equitably addressing sexual harassment cases, it’s paramount that organized student leadership such as the ASUC do as much as it can to represent the student voice in UC Berkeley discussions on sexual violence policy.

Especially at a time when the federal government is pushing national conversation on sexual harassment backward, UC Berkeley absolutely needs a proactive group of students under the umbrella of the student government working tirelessly to fight for fair and equitable policies.

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