Two bills regarding the implementation of town hall meetings, which could help ASUC senators increase accountability for their communities, are on the next ASUC Senate meeting agenda for later this month.
The town halls — which are meant to provide an open space for students to hold their elected officials accountable — were first introduced to the ASUC in August 2018, according to ASUC Senator Haazim Amirali, the primary sponsor for both bills.
If passed, the resolutions will add measures to increase senator accountability into the ASUC’s operational policies. Every senator would be required to hold one town hall meeting a semester and failure to do so would result in a 5% stipend reduction, according to the bill.
“The bills are written as a sort of civic enforcement,” Amirali said. “One of the bylaws enforces a stipend reduction for senators failing to hold a town hall in a semester, which then holds us all accountable for making sure that we are responsible for the community we represent.”
In addition to the 5% decrease, senators’ semesterly stipend disbursements would be reduced by 15% for every failure to attend an ASUC-wide town hall, according to the bill.
According to Amirali, the town halls are important because they provide the opportunity for students to voice their concerns to campus administrators and their representatives in student government.
“We’ve had really strong student turnout,” Amirali said. “We’ve had really strong administrator turnout. It seems that administrators are very, very receptive to this feedback; it’s really fantastic. I think, at the end of the day, the ASUC is seen as a bridge between students and administration.”
To help increase student turnout, the bill would require town halls to be advertised at least two weeks in advance.
This year, previous town halls have catered to certain communities, including the queer and transgender community, the East Asian community, prelaw students and the Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh and South Asian Coalition. Others catered to general themes, including basic needs and residential life.
The senator hosting the town hall selects the topic, which is typically based on one of their platforms, according to Amirali. They can also elect to run a town hall specific to their office.
Town halls give students a “centralized space” to hold their leaders accountable, according to Amirali. He also said many students “are disillusioned with the ASUC as a body” and added that more town halls could help fix that and increase accountability.
“I think that town halls provide an important opportunity for Senators to really connect with their constituents in a setting that allows people to brainstorm and really bring forth any concern,” said ASUC Senator Rebecca Soo, who hosted a town hall this year, in an email. “I think that for the sake of transparency and accessibility, it’s important to have these spaces, especially as a community leader.”