The ASUC Senate met Wednesday night to discuss this year’s advocacy agenda, which prompted a debate on abortion.
At the start of the meeting, representatives from the campus Open Computing Facility discussed their student technology fund group, which focuses on finding funding for software and projects after the current referendum expires. Volunteers with the YWCA Berkeley/Oakland also presented on their organization’s activities.
After guest announcements, Lee Place, chief of staff for ASUC President Amma Sarkodee-Adoo, updated the senate on a grab-and-go market proposal for the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, among other things.
Andy Theocharous, the ASUC executive vice president, also presented on his office’s work, which includes pursuing partnerships with the New York Times and BART.
This week, the senators passed three bills, including a resolution written by ASUC Senator Sylvia Targ in support of reducing single-use plastics in the UC system. The senators also passed a finance resolution allocating money to different Registered Student Organizations and ASUC offices.
This academic year’s advocacy agenda was finalized at the meeting after being preliminarily released two weeks earlier. The agenda includes items sponsored by all senators, except for Senator Media Sina, who oversaw the development of the entire agenda as chair of the University and External Affairs Committee, and Senator Milton Zerman.
The 24-page document includes initiatives focused on protecting LGBTQ+ students from discrimination, improving the time-efficiency of the current Nixle emergency reporting system and supporting the campus’s efforts to reach carbon neutrality by 2020. According to the bill’s preface, which was written by Sina, the different goals outlined fit into five categories: diversity, equity and inclusion; academic support and professional development; basic needs; wellness, safety and campus climate; and sustainability.
The bill passed with a vote of 17-0, with Senators Rebecca Soo, Liam Will, and Zerman abstaining. Soo explained that she abstained from voting on the bill because she disagreed with an item written by Senator Romario — who does not use his last name — on increasing campus access to low-cost abortion pills.
“As a Christian senator and the senator that was endorsed by the Christian community … I just couldn’t in good conscience and in respect to my oath vote yes for it,” Soo said at the meeting. “I couldn’t do that just really in recognition of why I was elected and who I was elected by.”
Soo added that she did not vote against the full agenda because she agreed with all other items and recognized the work that the University and External Affairs Committee put into the bill.
Romario said he put the item on the advocacy agenda because it aligns with his values and the values of the community that supported his election.
“My candidacy for Senate was endorsed by Students United for Reproductive Justice,” Romario said. “It is important that women and people who can use abortion services are able to decide when, where and why they use abortion services.”
Contact Kate Finman and Alexandra Feldman at [email protected].