In fall 2018, over 30 percent of new students were transfer students, breaking the record for the highest number of transfer admissions. As the UC system moves toward its goal of having a ratio of two California resident freshmen students to one transfer student, the number of transfer students on our campus will only increase. Transfer students, however, often feel like they’re pushed outside the campus climate, fostering pervasive imposter syndrome among those from the community college system. Certain organizations and clubs are less receptive to transfer students, contributing to the negative campus environment for some transfer students. Currently, there are no transfer students in any of the 25 ASUC elected positions.
Whereas the transfer logistical experience fundamentally shapes transfer students’ time here at UC Berkeley, there are no representatives to speak on their behalf. The number of transfer students in elected offices is consistently either one or zero, despite an incoming enrollment of nearly one-third of all undergraduate students. In the last six years, only six of the last 150 elected representatives were transfer students. With zero representation, the transfer voice is lost, and thus an entire academic experience is absent — one which intersects and certainly impacts all communities at UC Berkeley.
The T.R.A.N.S.F.E.R. (Transfer Remedy Act — Necessary Standards for Equitable Representation) Referendum, which the ASUC Senate is set to determine whether or not it is placed on the official ballot, will establish an Office of the Transfer Representative within the ASUC. This referendum does not reserve one of the 20 senate seats — it instead creates a new office. The representative would act as an ex officio voting member of the ASUC Senate. Although the elected representative would not be a senator nor an executive, the transfer representative would certainly still hold fiduciary duties. In other words, they would be representing the interests of the student body as an ASUC official and be liable to the ramifications of irresponsible decision-making in governance and finance.
Because of its unique and separate role, the representative would be elected through a separate voting category on the election ballot; this is our means of reaffirming that we do not wish to reserve space that could have otherwise gone to a specific community. The goal of T.R.A.N.S.F.E.R is to ensure consistent representation and provide equitable access, as legally mandated in the current ASUC Constitution. To provide equal access by ensuring that transfer students across all corners of campus have the ability to pursue an elected leadership position — currently not the case due to limitations of a two-year timely graduation within the context of a rigorous party-controlled system and hypercompetitive elections.
Imagine being a brand-new junior transfer and being told immediately that you should begin preparing for grad school during your Golden Bear Orientation. A month from there, you should probably get acclimated to the ASUC, and expect to be slated by the end of the semester. From there, you might spend the rest of your academic year running, and then your final year focusing on your ASUC senatorial duties. As a whole this represents a fairly undesirable and difficult path, where access is determined by your ability to instantaneously navigate complex shaky relationships and institutions.
In the ASUC, most of the transfer-related work is being completed under the transfer advocacy department within the Office of the President. The transfer director acts as the transfer voice for the ASUC, rather than being a representative of the undergraduate student body, where 20 percent are transfer students, failing to properly solve the lack of transfer student representation in the ASUC, as the transfer director does not have voting powers or speaking abilities during Senate meetings. Simply placing a position in another office does not provide the same platform and resources as elected officials, therefore limiting the scope of outreach and ability of the entire transfer department.
In regards to the issue of whether other marginalized communities will try to create a designated representative positions, federal laws prohibit the creation of any such positions on the basis of religious, racial or ethnic groups. In contrast, the creation of the transfer representative position is based on an academic admissions basis, which can best be summarized as a logistical and cross-cutting student identity. We are certainly not dictating to communities that they also do not deserve representation; however, this is not the purpose of guaranteed transfer representation. Just as the UC distinguishes between transfer and freshman applicants, using vastly different admissions criteria — even to the point of reserving and guaranteeing seats — the ASUC must also recognize the need to install measures which better fit the narrative and realistic expectations of a UC transfer student.
The transfer representative position is necessary to ensure proper representation for the transfer community. Despite publications proclaiming the campus is a welcoming space for transfer students, it doesn’t take a long time to realize that this is not always the case. Campus officials want students to complete their undergraduate studies in either four years or two years; however, transfer students entering UC Berkeley in the fall semester are 32 percent less likely to graduate on time, a discrepancy that can be attributed to a lack of resources. With no transfer student representation in ASUC elected offices, the transfer voice is often lost. By having a transfer representative position, it would shine a spotlight on transfer students within every community on campus, appropriately recognizing that transfer students hold a logistical identity wrapped within all broader communities.
By implementing this position, we can move this campus forward into a future that recognizes that transfer visibility cannot just happen in the classroom — it must also happen in governing institutions.
Neil McClintick is the transfer student director in the office of the ASUC president, a former Daily Californian opinion columnist and a UC Berkeley transfer student. Carolyn Le is a transfer student at UC Berkeley and an ASUC transfer advocate. Fares Alharazy is a transfer student at UC Berkeley and an ASUC transfer advocate.