UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly discusses diversity, COVID-19 support at April meeting

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The campus Graduate Assembly met Thursday to discuss graduate student diversity, support during the COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, pandemic and gender-neutral restrooms in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

The campus Graduate Student Diversity Task Force opened the meeting, presenting that the demographics of graduate student applicants to UC Berkeley have remained the same over the past five admissions cycles despite the changing demographics of undergraduate classes. In response to this, the task force recommended that the various departments that conduct graduate student admissions be aware of “unintended barriers to access,” including the GRE.

“I don’t have the authority to say that departments cannot use the GRE,” said Dean of the Graduate Division and Vice Provost for Graduate Studies Lisa García Bedolla, who sits on the task force, at the meeting. “It doesn’t predict success; it’s not an accurate metric.”

A resolution on disarming and increasing the transparency of UCPD, or resolution 2003A, was also discussed at the meeting. Project lead Max Hare said he wanted more time, adding that COVID-19 and the move to online meetings complicated things, and this resolution was tabled indefinitely. Hare, however, said the project is still important, and he hopes this resolution will lead UCPD to conduct more safety training for officers.  

A resolution in support of making the bathrooms on the fourth floor of the student union gender-neutral, or resolution 2003C, passed at the meeting unanimously, claiming that making a restroom gender-neutral is part of a larger, national movement

The resolution cites the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey, which indicates that, in 2015, 59% of transgender survey respondents avoided using public restrooms in the past year because they were “afraid of having problems.”

Resolution 2003C further claimed that, if the restrooms on the fourth floor of the student union remain gendered, the “transgender or gender non-conforming cannot feel entirely safe at their public meeting space.”

Graduate Assembly delegate Rafael Avila said at the meeting that there should be at least one one gender-neutral restroom and gendered restrooms on each floor of the student union. Graduate Assembly Sexual Orientation and Gender Advocacy Director Ari Chivukula said, however, that another restroom would have to be built to fulfill this. Adam Orford, Graduate Assembly president, added that there would be gendered restrooms on the floors above and below in the student union.

The resolution to create a COVID-19 Financial Response Fund, or resolution 2004B, passed unanimously with 37 votes and is a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is putting a greater financial burden on graduate students, according to the resolution.

Resolution 2004B resolves to contribute $200,000 of the Graduate Assembly budget to campus programs that directly assist graduate students, including the Basic Needs Center and the University Village food pantry.

During the meeting, several graduate students voiced other concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a bizarre situation, and I don’t think it’s fair of me to hold my undergraduates to the same standards of productivity that I would if things were going business as usual, said Emily Mullin, classics graduate student and Graduate Assembly delegate, at the meeting.“I turn around and sign in to my three-hour seminar conducted by my professors, and I feel like they are still expecting me to have that same level of productivity and the same level of engagement, and it’s just not happening.”

Contact Eric Rogers at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @eric_rogers_dc.