UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly will vote on adding ‘independence proposition’ to 2020 ballot

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For decades, tensions between the Graduate Assembly, or GA, and the ASUC have resulted in repeated efforts from the GA to separate from the ASUC.

During the GA meeting Feb. 6, delegates will vote on whether to pass a resolution to formally add an “independence proposition” to the 2020 ballot, according to ASUC Elections Council Chair James Weichert. The proposition will determine whether the GA should move forward in seeking legal and financial autonomy.

Thursday’s vote is only the latest in a series of efforts by the GA to separate from the ASUC. Almost three years ago, the GA unanimously voted to separate from the ASUC, according to GA President Adam Orford.

“Over the last couple of years we have attempted to work with the ASUC to effect a friendly separation,” Orford said in an email. “We’ve made some marginal progress, but it has been very slow.”

Written by the GA, the proposed resolution states that if the GA and ASUC were to separate, the GA’s power would gradually be transferred to the Graduate Student Association, or GSA, a nonprofit that would serve as the new governing body for graduate students. There would be few policy changes between the GA and GSA overall, according to GA Governance Workgroup Chair Emily Mullin.

“Ultimately the GA would cease operations, but since the GSA stands ready to take over the same operations, graduate and professional students will not be without their own student government at any time,” Mullin said in an email.

For this change to be made, however, multiple agreements between the campus, GA and ASUC need to be altered. Some of the newer agreements between these groups have taken this into consideration.

The separation could present an obstacle to current ASUC projects, according to ASUC Executive Vice President Andy Theocharous.

“If we’re going to move down this avenue, it’s going to remove a lot of attention from real advocacy work that affects real student issues,” Theocharous said. “We’ll have to focus on the GA split because it’s going to be a very painful logistical and legal process.”

Before the GA can continue with the separation process, the ASUC Senate must first approve a proposition to change the constitution that the entire student body can vote on, according to ASUC Chief Legal Officer Jedidiah Tsang.

GA members have cited inadequate funding and a general lack of representation as reasons for the separation efforts.

“Under the current system, graduate and professional student interests are represented by a legislative body that is legally and financially subordinate to the undergraduate student government. This system is illogical,” Mullin said in the email. “With an independent graduate student government, graduate and professional students will continue to benefit from a legislative body dedicated solely to their interests, now unencumbered by potentially-disruptive legal and financial ties.”

Contact Emma Rooholfada at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @erooholfada_dc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Graduate Assembly voted to add the proposition on Feb. 13. In fact, the Graduate Assembly voted to add the proposition on Feb. 6.