ASUC Senate discusses air quality, power outages, campus culture initiatives

Brianna Luna/Staff

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Updated 11/16/2019: this article has been updated to include more information from Patrick Goff, executive director of environment, health and safety.

The ASUC Senate held a spooky Halloween eve meeting Wednesday night, discussing the recent power outages and poor air quality situations as well as campus culture initiatives, while wearing costumes.

Marc Fisher, the vice chancellor of administration, and Patrick Goff, the executive director of environment, health and safety, opened the meeting, discussing last week’s switch to limited campus cogeneration plants after PG&E turned off power.

Campus will further experiment with the capabilities of campus’ self-sufficient energy generation, while still prioritizing residential and dining halls, outdoor lighting and research needs for future outages, according to Fisher. He added that he also wants to meet with the leadership of PG&E to discuss reporting times for power outages and reliability, among other things.

“Our confidence level in PG&E is pretty low, frankly, and we definitely need to work on that relationship,” Fisher said at the meeting. “It is frustrating for us as well.”

They also discussed campus’ plans for predicted high air quality indexes, or AQI, within the next few days. According to Goff, campus recently purchased 40,000 N95 masks, in addition to the 18,000 they already had.

Fisher said campus will be prioritizing online content and alternative lesson plans instead of canceling class in the future, as outlined in the “Resilience Week” plan. Campus also recently bought 3,000 Zoom licenses for faculty to help with this effort, according to Fisher.

“There is a lot of discussions on making masks available to everybody on a regular basis,” Goff said at the meeting.

Goff also noted that there is ongoing debate among medical professionals about the masks’ benefits and suggested at the meeting that people with respiratory conditions such as asthma consult their physicians.

Chair Ivan Hernandez and Vice Chair Melyssa Oviedo from the ASUC Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI, Community Advisory Committee also addressed the Senate, discussing their initiatives to make UC Berkeley qualify for HSI status within the next 10 years. In order to qualify, campus must have over 25% Hispanic and Latinx enrollment.

According to Oviedo, higher education institutions with HSI status are eligible for special grants. She added that UC Berkeley is the only UC campus without HSI status or emerging HSI status.

“HSI is not a zero sum game,” Oviedo said at the meeting. “Becoming an HSI means moving towards a UC Berkeley where all students of color can grow.”

According to Oviedo, campus already admits over 25% Latinx and Hispanic students, but the yield rate of students is lower. Former ASUC Senator Nick Araujo, who also attended the meeting, added that only about three out of every 10 Latinx students admitted choose to attend the school.

Araujo added that the commission considers the pathway to becoming an HSI a campus climate issue rather than an admissions issue.

“Berkeley is falling short for these communities, so they choose (to go to college) elsewhere,” Araujo said. “This is not a Latinx-centered initiative but an opportunity for the ASUC to reflect on its own advocacy agenda.”

The senate did not pass any resolutions but sent three bills — one financial package, one resolution on space allocations and one resolution on a formal bereavement policy — to its committees to be heard early next week.

Kate Finman is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.