ASUC discusses Graduate Assembly independence, international students

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The Graduate Assembly, or GA, expressed its desire to become independent from the ASUC, citing equitable representation of graduate students and access to student union facilities as some of the reasons for the desired split. In order to maintain communication with the ASUC, GA members proposed a potential committee consisting of members from each respective group.

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During its meeting Wednesday, the ASUC discussed the Graduate Assembly, or GA, push for independence, the ongoing struggles international students face from remote learning and the rise in xenophobia.

Several members of the GA presented their four main reasons for seeking independence from the ASUC. The reasons were namely equitable representation of graduate students, assessment of student fees, independent legal counsel and access to student union facilities.

“As a result of members of the GA doing an in-depth analysis of those issues, they came to the conclusion that independence would be the best way of addressing all those four pain points in a sufficient manner,” said GA member Emily Mullin during the meeting.

The GA began its campaign for independence in 2018 and in last year’s election passed a referendum, which was overwhelmingly supported by graduate students with a 487% increase in overall voter turnout from 2019.

ASUC Senators Julia Castro and Ellis Spickermann both expressed concerns regarding the higher turnover rate of undergraduate student senators compared to graduate students. They noted that if the GA were to become independent, senators and the GA would have to do a lot of work to rekindle their relationship after each round of ASUC elections.

GA members encouraged the creation of a group composed of members from both the GA and ASUC for the sole purpose of addressing and maintaining their relationship through communication with various senators.

After the public comment portion of the meeting, ASUC Senators Rex Zhang and Samuel Peng expressed sorrow at the news of the death of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute international freshman Kaijie Zhang, who died following bouts of irregular sleep while attending classes in a different time zone.

Rex Zhang said after sharing the news on social media, he was inundated with stories from other international students who shared experiences of taking tests in the middle of the night, having abnormal sleep routines and struggling with their health in order to do well in school.

“There’s never a time like now, where this sacrifice of health is taken for granted,” Rex Zhang said during the meeting. “That somehow international students or literally any student who is abroad right now, must take on those unhealthy times and lifestyles to be a well functioning student at UC Berkeley.”

He urged campus administration to take further action in making classes more accessible by ensuring they can all be taken asynchronously and instituting larger windows of time to take tests.

Peng also expressed his concerns and frustrations with the increase in xenophobia, anti-Asian rhetoric and violence toward Asian Americans in recent months. He also urged UC Berkeley to take action against these issues.

“I want to call on the campus administration as well as all the members of the Berkeley community to recognize the anti-Asian sentiments that are currently in this country,” Peng said during the meeting. “I also want to call on the campus to take actual, tangible action to prevent xenophobia.”

Mela Seyoum is a student government reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @melaseyoum.