ASUC Senate discusses UC Berkeley financial situation in light of COVID-19

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At a meeting Wednesday, the ASUC Senate discussed the financial situation of UC Berkeley, particularly in terms of the budget deficits that have been caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. According to Rosemarie Rae, UC Berkeley vice chancellor of finance and chief financial officer, the budget shortfall will amount to about $200 million.

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The ASUC Senate received an update on UC Berkeley’s financial situation and continued to table a bill on community engagement at its meeting Wednesday.

Rosemarie Rae, campus vice chancellor of finance and chief financial officer, opened the meeting by presenting to the senate and sharing information on how COVID-19 has impacted campus’s budget. Because of reductions in income from housing, tuition and other revenue sources, campus is facing a financial predicament, which Rae said has caused it to make “very painful” decisions, including a salary increase freeze for nonunion faculty and staff.

“This is a moving target, and what we thought was going to be happening in the spring in terms of planning radically shifted in the fall,” Rae said during the meeting.

Another barrier for campus, according to Rae, has been the decrease in state funding since the 2008 recession, which has been accounted for by increases in tuition and student fees. Rae added that she would like to form a working group to collaborate on advocacy in the state capitol for more funding.

Despite a decreased budget, campus is also experiencing increased expenses in certain areas during the pandemic, including between $17 and $60 million on testing, depending on how the pandemic progresses, and about $15 million for increased cleaning.

“We’re still dealing with great uncertainty as to the length and severity of the pandemic, and we don’t know what the lasting effects of the pandemic are,” Rae said during the meeting.

In total, with mitigating steps taken, Rae projects campus’s budget shortfall will be about $200 million, which she called “the largest deficit we’ve had in our recent history.”

Later in the meeting, the ASUC senators passed two financial packages and nominated Kevin Yi as a representative to the ASUC Student Union Board

They initially passed a controversial bill about community endorsements, proposed by ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu, who intended to make the process of certain groups endorsing ASUC candidates easier, after weeks of tabling it. ASUC Senator Ruchi Shah reversed this decision by motioning to rescind its passage and table it for two more weeks later in the meeting.

There were no objections to the motion. Shah was contacted for comment, but did not respond as of press time.

The bill, which was initially sent by ASUC Executive Vice President Melvin Tangonan to the ASUC Governance and Internal Affairs Committee on Sept. 2, is not on the committee’s agenda this week and has not been discussed there since it was passed by the committee Sept. 17.

It has been consistently tabled at full ASUC senate meetings by several senators since Sept. 23.

Kate Finman is the lead student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KateFinman_DC.