The 2020-21 ASUC senators kicked off the start of their terms Wednesday night with a presentation from UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ and the resignation of James Weichert from the ASUC Elections Council chair position at their first meeting.
Christ opened the meeting after ASUC Executive Vice President Melvin Tangonan read a land acknowledgment.
According to Christ, one of campus’s main priorities has been raising awareness about the COVID-19 pandemic and safety measures. She added that campus is also working to increase its testing capacity and is prepared to offer students living off campus in congregate settings such as fraternities, sororities and co-ops testing options up to twice per week, as is offered to students in residence halls.
“We can’t force students to be tested,” Christ said during the meeting. “But I think our most important tool is testing and contact tracing.”
Christ also discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and the efforts campus administration is making to improve the experiences of marginalized students.
According to Christ, campus is planning to launch a racial justice speaker series, which will explore topics including anti-Blackness and xenophobia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Start-up funding has also been allocated to the “abolition democracy initiative” which will improve the African American studies curriculum on campus, Christ said at the meeting.
“We want to build greater campuswide understanding of systemic racism and social justice,” Christ said at the meeting. “We want to work with campus partners to improve the campus climate for the Black community. We want to identify opportunities to leverage cultural symbols, such as art.”
After Christ spoke, ASUC executive officials and an ASUC appointed official gave updates. Executive officials spent time introducing themselves and their offices, their goals, projects they currently have in the works and meetings with campus administration that they are starting to have.
James Weichert then announced he was resigning “in protest” from his position as elections chair over a controversy about ASUC bylaws and a bill designed to change the election community endorsement process for marginalized communities.
“The elections council for its part tries year after year to do all it can to right the ship and avert a complete collapse of this association’s democratic nature,” Weichert said during the meeting. “But there’s only so much that the council can do.”
The ASUC Senate did not pass any bills at the meeting, with the exception of one resolution regarding internal procedure. Its next meeting will be Sept. 2, when it is scheduled to vote on student appointments to various campus committees.