ASUC Senate discusses COVID-19 pandemic relief, several bills during last meeting of spring 2020 semester

ASUC meeting last UC Berkeley Spring 2020
Sunny Shen/File

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The ASUC Senate held its final meeting of the academic year virtually Wednesday to discuss COVID-19 pandemic relief for students along with several other bills.

ASUC External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar said in her weekly reports that she met with various legislative staff at the Student Learning Center, making about 20-30 calls in order to help advocate for student needs during the pandemic.

She added that many UC Berkeley students will be receiving additional financial aid through the Berkeley Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Award, which will help to alleviate financial struggles faced by many students in light of the pandemic. Campus will also be adding in its own funds to offer more aid to undocumented and international students, as they are not eligible for the CARES Award, according to Sarveshwar.

Following this, ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President, or AAVP, Aastha Jha discussed her participation in disassociating the ASUC grants and scholarships office from the office of the AAVP, instead opting for a single person to run the now-independent office to help minimize confusion.

“The grants and scholarships office have a lot of obstacles that make them inaccessible to students,” Jha said during the meeting. “I’ve been in the AAVP’s office for almost as long as the grants and scholarships office, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.”

In addition, Jha said the campus Center for Teaching and Learning will be holding workshops for faculty to create online modules for summer sessions, making courses more online friendly for students and faculty.

ASUC Senator Liam Will then asked Jha about the possible return of furloughs for campus staff given all of UC Berkeley’s recent budget cuts.

Jha said the conversation had not yet come up, but it was not “entirely out of the realm of possibility.”

ASUC Senator Romario, who does not use a last name and serves as chair of the ASUC COVID-19 Financial Relief Committee, passed a bill to ensure that his committee’s funding allocations are carried out. Nine other bills passed during the meeting, including a finance resolution and one in support of reestablishing the housing commission.

“This bill’s aim is to financially empower organizations to provide students with financial relief during this time,” Romario said during the meeting. “It is important we support students.”

As officers gave their last reports of the year, many expressed their gratitude for those they have worked with, as well as the shared experiences.

“It’s been a challenging year, but I’ve loved getting to be a part of your journeys,”said ASUC Student Advocate Nava Bearson at the meeting. “Find ways to not just advocate for students but support each other as well, and we can come out stronger because of it.”

Audry Jeong is a student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @audryjng_dc.