ASUC Senate questions lack of students on strategic planning working groups

Priya Sundaresan/Staff

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ASUC External Affairs Vice President Rigel Robinson criticized UC Berkeley for a lack of “holistic” student representation on the campus’s strategic planning process at an ASUC Senate regular Wednesday meeting.

UC Berkeley’s strategic planning process currently involves four students — three graduate students and Robinson, an undergraduate student — as revealed by representatives from the Strategic Planning Steering Committee at the meeting.

The campus strategic planning process consists of the steering committee and four working groups, which concentrate on various topics including grand challenges, student experiences, enrollment and financial strategies.

In addition to discussion about the working groups, third-year UC Berkeley School of Law student and UC Student Regent Paul Monge spoke about the UC Board of Regents’ discussion of possible tuition hikes.

While all of the working groups have a single student member, none have both graduate and undergraduate representatives. According to the campus’s strategic planning website, three of the working groups — the grand challenges, student experiences and financial strategies working groups — have one graduate student representative each, while the undergraduate student, Robinson, is on the working group focused on enrollment.

Robinson said there is no valid excuse for the lack of student representation.

“Unfortunately, I’m not only the undergraduate on the working group, I’m the student on the working group,” Robinson said. “I’m representing the holistic student voice: undergraduates, graduate students (and) professional students.”

Haas School of Business Dean Richard Lyons and Academic Senate Berkeley Division chair Lisa Alvarez-Cohen — the co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee and the representatives who came to the meeting — dismissed the senators’ concerns about the lack of student presence, saying it was not feasible to add more students to the working groups at this point in the strategic planning process.

ASUC President Zaynab AbdulQadir-Morris was unimpressed by Lyons and Alvarez-Cohen’s response to the senate’s call for increased student representation, claiming that if they need students to “engage at that level,” the student body can provide them.

“There’s one graduate student on the financial committee, and he’s in Haas, but I don’t understand why we can’t have an undergraduate as well,” AbdulQadir-Morris said. “If we need to produce someone to work that level, we can, very easily. I don’t think ‘it’s started already’ is a valid excuse.”

By May, the steering committee will submit a guiding document to the chancellor, which will also be made public.

Also at the meeting, Monge gave a presentation in which he discussed the university’s campaign to get a $105 million increase in the lowest annual amount of funding the university can receive from the state legislature. He also urged non-California residents to voice their personal stories to the regents in protest of the regents’ planned vote to increase tuition for non-California residents.

“There’s an underlying belief that’s it’s more palatable to raise fees solely on nonresident students,” Monge said. “This is a trend that’s been seen in the past years across the UCs. This can be seen by the growing disparity in tuition paid by residents and nonresidents.”

Chancellor Carol Christ was also scheduled to speak at Wednesday’s meeting but canceled last minute. She has been rescheduled for April 25, according to AbdulQadir-Morris.

Contact Alexandra Stassinopoulos at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AE_Stass.