The Graduate Assembly has no other choice but to leave the ASUC.
Both undergraduate and graduate students deserve adequate representation in the ASUC, but many graduate students — who represent more than a fourth of the student population — are not receiving the financial or legal resources they need. The GA has already unanimously voted to add the independence proposition to the 2020 ballot, but its members will need to ensure that the proposition comes to fruition.
Once the GA secedes, graduate students will work to revitalize the Graduate Student Association as the official graduate student government. The GSA currently exists as a nonprofit, but UC Berkeley does not currently recognize it as the primary governing body for graduate students. Although it will be a long road toward garnering recognition for the GSA, the need for a student body cognizant of graduate student needs is worth it.
The long-standing relationship between the GA and the ASUC has been fraught with tension. For example, from 1973-74, graduate students contributed more than $200,000 in ASUC student fees, but they were only allocated a $10,000 budget, well short of the $55,000 the GA requested. To make matters worse, over about the past 15 years, $500,000 of graduate student fees didn’t even make it to the GA. The ASUC has been underfunding the GA for years, and the absence of proper funding reflects a lack of commitment to securing resources for graduate students.
Although graduate students can serve in ASUC positions, many choose not to, considering most are inundated with academic responsibilities. On top of that, graduate students may be unaware of the ASUC’s impact on them, as graduate student voter turnout for ASUC elections has been historically low.
The ASUC has garnered a reputation for primarily serving undergraduate students. Without any graduate students currently serving on the ASUC Senate, nearly a third of the student population lacks a significant voice when advocating for proper policies.
Graduate students have become a marginalized student population because their needs are often sidelined in favor of improving policies for undergraduate students. Although some ASUC officials may believe that continuing on a path of secession would potentially remove time from more pressing advocacy work, this notion suggests that graduate students are not worthy of these same time commitments and resources.
Since the 1970s, graduate students have not received their fair share of representation, so it is finally time for them to move forward and seek legal and financial autonomy. Graduate students must lobby for this bill to pass for a better, unencumbered future without the ASUC.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the spring 2020 opinion editor, Simmy Khetpal.