The ASUC Senate chambers were abuzz with excitement Aug. 28 as this year’s new senate class held its first meeting, marked by a visit from Chancellor Carol Christ.
Christ opened the nearly four hour meeting by first addressing the senate and updating them on campus affairs, including the budget, her goals for diversity and plans to seismically retrofit several buildings on campus.
“I think student government is extraordinarily important in making the university better,” Christ said in her opening.
According to Christ, the campus budget is balanced and has a slight surplus, which led ASUC senators and members of the public to applaud. She added that last year, campus set a fundraising record for the second year in a row, raising $635 million. Christ said this is the first year that campus has raised over $600 million in a single fundraising period.
However, Christ mentioned the need to continue to fundraise — especially for specific efforts such as seismic retrofitting and diversity — many times during her announcement at the meeting. Many senators and executives, including ASUC External Affairs Vice President, or EAVP, Varsha Sarveshwar, raised concerns about the foundations of several buildings on campus in the event of an earthquake.
Christ echoed many of their points and introduced her plan to reinforce and rebuild several buildings on campus, including Evans Hall. She added that the funding for this project would have to come from donors and the state, among other places, and that her initiative has a goal of being completed by 2030. According to Christ, part of the effort to seismically retrofit campus buildings will include developing the Tolman Hall location on campus.
“This is like a giant either Rubik’s Cube or chess game,” Christ said. “It’s really a complex planning project, as well as we have to get the funding.”
After the chancellor, Interim Executive Director of the ASUC Student Union Bahar Navab gave an update to the senate and voiced her hopes for the next steps concerning the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union. According to Navab, a one-year contract is almost finalized with the 1951 Coffee Company, located in the student union.
She added that a one-year contract was also finalized with La Cocina, the group of food vendors that operate out of the student union, and that she is working on developing a contract with a company to take over the Bear’s Lair, previously called the Bear’s Lair Tavern, within the next couple of weeks.
Navab said they are also working on developing a safety plan for the fourth floor of the building, where campus community organizations like the Queer Alliance and Resource Center are located.
“How do we keep evolving as our student population continues to evolve?” Navab asked the senate. “What do you all want your student union to be?”
Executive officials also gave their first of many weekly addresses to come, sharing some of their plans at the meeting and updating the senate on what they did over the summer. Some highlights include 176 cases heard from the ASUC Student Advocate’s Office according to Student Advocate Nava Bearson, preparation to rent iClickers to students for a low price from the Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President Aastha Jha and supportive efforts to create new housing in Berkeley from Sarveshwar’s office.
The meeting ended with announcements from senate offices, most of which involved some part of their office’s recruiting process.
“I think this is the most talented group of individuals to ever step through those doors,” ASUC Senator Milton Zerman said in his final announcement. “It’s the first senate meeting, but by the end of the year I’m sure we are going to have accomplished more than any ASUC group in Berkeley history.”