ASUC Senate discusses off-campus housing, technology grant

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The ASUC Senate passed a resolution that will establish the Student Technology Grant, authorizing $20,000 for student-initiated technology projects. The senate also discussed improving accessibility to housing resources, among other discussion topics.

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Amid internet and housing issues, the ASUC Senate discussed improving accessibility to housing resources and funding for student technology Wednesday.

The senate discussed and passed a resolution sponsored by ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert that will establish the Student Technology Grant and grant committee. The ASUC will authorize $20,000 for the grant to provide funding for “student-initiated technology projects” with a focus on decreasing gaps in access to technology.

“This is particularly important in light of the lack of grant funding because there is no Student Technology Fund this year,” Weichert said during the meeting. “It is a great way for the ASUC to step up and identify a need and actually put resources significantly toward addressing that need in an appropriate way.”

Weichert added that the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Student Services and Fees voted to recommend policy changes that would increase student accountability when it comes to campus-based student fees. Both recommendations, Weichert said, will help prevent “exorbitant” increases in campus-based student fees and increase the weight of student votes.

Beyond technological issues, ASUC President Chaka Tellem spoke on efforts to help students find off-campus housing more effectively and to increase the accessibility of resources for renters. According to Tellem, some features of Cal Rentals — campus’s current tool to help students find off-campus housing — are outdated and inaccessible.

“(Cal Rentals) is supposed to be a site that students can use to find off-campus housing and also have renter’s education,” Tellem said during the meeting. “However, that has not been the case, and right now, we’re in a situation where the site has very low student engagement and the resources are pretty inaccessible, embedded in 20-page PDFs.”

To resolve these issues along with the lack of protection against “predatory” landlord behavior, Tellem discussed working with College Pads, a program used at universities including Columbia University and UC Davis. The program would increase student engagement, help improve landlord accountability and protect students against predatory leasing, according to Tellem.

Some senators urged the ASUC to remain cautious, and ASUC Senator Stephanie Wong emphasized the need for more data before making a large transition on something “as important as student housing.”

“Before we speak for the student body and speak for their housing wants and needs, we (should) take a look at that contract,” Wong said during the meeting. “If we could get a copy of the current contract that we are on that the university is trying to sign, it would be worthwhile to take a look at that as well.”

Multiple commissions, including the ASUC Sustainability Team, then provided updates on various initiatives. According to Annie Mitchell, co-chair of the Sustainability Commission, the group is working to increase environmental education for middle school and high school students and rate Berkeley restaurants’ sustainability.

Carlos Vázquez, co-chair of the ASUC Disabled Students Commission, detailed efforts to make remote learning more accessible for students with disabilities. In addition, Vázquez outlined the commission’s Immigrant Accommodation project, which would push for international and immigrant students to receive the same accommodations as students in the Disabled Students’ Program.

Contact Aditya Katewa at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter at @adkatewa1.