From April 6-8, the 2020 ASUC elections will provide students with the opportunity to vote for candidates and two propositions: the Class Pass Student Fee Renewal and Graduate Student Government Independence referendums.
These referendums impact different student bodies. The graduate independence referendum will only be on the graduate ballot, while the Class Pass referendum applies to all students, except for those in online-only, self-supporting degree programs.
A proposition or referendum poses a question about student government policy or programs to voters, according to an email from ASUC Elections Council Chair James Weichert.
“In the context of the ASUC, propositions can involve Constitutional amendments, creations or renewals of UC Berkeley student fees, or non-binding questions about the policy of the Association,” Weichert said in an email.
In order to become part of the ballot, a proposition must either be a petition signed by at least 10% of the student body or referred by the ASUC Senate or the Graduate Assembly. This year, the latter was the case for both propositions.
The first referendum on the Class Pass program renews the student fee that ensures unlimited access for students on AC Transit and supports the operation of campus shuttles. It establishes a campus shuttle in the reverse direction of the existing Perimeter line for three years starting in the fall. These services also offer local and transbay transport, including transport to San Francisco.
This year’s proposed version of the program increases the semesterly fees from the 2019 level of $80 to $95, with one-third of the total fees allocated to financial aid. If the referendum is not passed, students will need to purchase AC Transit fare at full price and campus shuttle services will be “severely reduced,” according to the proposition.
Members of the ASUC began working on this referendum in the summer of 2019, according to ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar, who advised the “long, but not too difficult” process. The work was led by Josh Lewis, ASUC Office of the President policy director, and ASUC Senator Omotara Oloye.
“I certainly hope it passes — previous renewals have passed with 85%+ support!” Sarveshwar said in an email.
The second proposition asks graduate students for their opinion on the Graduate Assembly, or GA, pursuing legal and financial independence from the ASUC and establishing an independent campus graduate student government.
Adam Orford, president of the GA, said the GA has spent several years trying to separate itself from the ASUC, following ASUC bylaws and creating a resolution that was then forwarded to the ASUC Elections Council.
“The separation has been a point of contention by the ASUC in the past, as they question whether the GA’s desire to separate is reflective of the graduate student body,” Orford said. “We decided to ask them directly through the ballots.”
After conducting studies, Orford said the GA concluded it would be better able to advocate for the needs and interests of graduate students as an independent government. As a subsidiary of the ASUC, the GA is not able to sign independent contracts or advocate independently on the behalf of graduate students without obtaining the ASUC’s consent, according to Orford.
Orford said he expects the referendum to pass, citing his experience that graduate students are usually under the belief that the two organizations are separate, and agree with the arguments for separation.
“We work together very well with ASUC, and separating financially and legally does not mean we will stop working together entirely,” Orford said.
The primary concern for the GA is the turnout of graduate students, who Orford said often do not realize they are able to vote in the ASUC elections. After informing more graduate students of this opportunity, he hopes more will participate and support this referendum.