Class Pass Referendum
The Class Pass provides an invaluable service for students and must continue. If it is renewed in this election, students will maintain unlimited access to AC Transit buses for the next seven years. This amenity cannot disappear.
The pass provides necessary accessibility for students who live far from campus and unfettered commuting access for all students. Of course, not everyone takes advantage of the pass every day or every semester, but many do. The greater good served to the students who need the pass outweighs criticisms that it is not used by all.
This is the second year in a row that students have been asked to vote on the pass’s renewal. Last year, the results of the Class Pass referendum were invalidated after misinformation was put before student voters. And students were voting on the pass one year before the AC Transit contract was set to expire, so it seemed ASUC leaders had time to negotiate a better deal.
Now, the price of the pass is set to decrease to $74 from about $78 per semester for the first three years. With the contract set to expire this year, it’s imperative that students renew it now.
Yet reapproval of the Class Pass should not indicate that students are completely satisfied with AC Transit services. Buses are often late, and in general, the service is very inefficient. If students vote yes on the pass, ASUC officials should pressure AC Transit to see how it can operate more smoothly.
Despite AC Transit’s flaws, however, the Class Pass is simply too valuable to give up.
Vote yes on the Class Pass referendum.
Students are being asked to vote on an amendment to the ASUC Constitution that, for all its technical language, would allow the student government to contribute to the UC Berkeley community more efficiently. If students want to see the ASUC more effectively implement certain actions, they should pass the amendment.
The amendment would change the way the ASUC handles its advocacy agenda, which, according to the ballot language, “symbolizes the collective demands and concerns of the student body, which are surveyed by the ASUC Senate at the start of its new term.” Historically, the 20-member senate has been responsible not only for creating the agenda, but also for implementing it as well. However, that has proved unrealistic due to “infrastructural demands,” so the amendment intends to shift implementation responsibility to the office of the ASUC president.
It makes sense to have a singular office in charge of putting the advocacy agenda into action as opposed to diluting responsibility among 20 senators. But if the amendment passes, the senate must be very clear when it establishes the agenda so there’s no confusion about what the president needs to do.
Changing the agenda procedure will make the ASUC more efficient
Vote yes on the constitutional amendment to improve the ASUC advocacy agenda.
Fitness & Wellness Referendum
The fitness and wellness referendum is too flawed to pass this year. It comes from an understandable place — certain campus facilities are insufficient to meet student demands — but the referendum needs work.
First of all, students should not finance the construction of new facilities — the university should. This referendum would make more sense if the campus had held an extensive open discussion about what services students should pay for and what the campus could provide, but that didn’t happen.
This plan necessitates further discussion on how the campus should contribute to the financing of programs proposed by the referendum. The fact that students voted in 2010 to finance the majority of the Lower Sproul renovations should not set a precedent for all major capital projects.
The referendum’s language is also unclear. The fee, which would start at $40 per semester, is intended to fund another “fitness center” at Memorial Stadium and a new “wellness center.” Though proponents of the fee tout the mental health benefits its services would provide, the referendum does not say how it would do so.
Additionally, the process through which the referendum appeared on the ballot was itself unsound. ASUC President Connor Landgraf did not get the necessary approval from the senate before the filing deadline, so he had to issue an executive order to get this referendum and the Class Pass on the ballot. An order makes sense for the Class Pass because the current pass expires this year, but the wellness fee is not so urgent. The senate deserved more time to vet the referendum.
Vote no on the fitness and wellness referendum.
Fossil Fuel Divestment
Divesting from fossil fuels is a good idea for the University of California. The university should not be financially linked to an industry that tarnishes the environment and compounds climate change. But the fossil fuel divestment referendum that students are voting on in this ASUC election could be more responsible.
The referendum asks students to support the “immediate divestment of UC Berkeley endowment assets from the fossil fuel industry” and the same for the entire UC system. On both fronts, the referendum would demand environmental justice over fiscal responsibility, but it needs to acknowledge that the two are not incompatible. The UC Board of Regents is highly unlikely to listen to students insisting immediate action on what would have to be a carefully thought-out decision.
In order to actually get the university to sever fiscal ties with the fossil fuel industry, students would have to prove that they understand how prudent the undertaking would need to be.
Chances are that the divestment this referendum seeks would involve millions of dollars — the university can’t reinvest that much money too hastily. Rather than setting up a tense tone by insisting on “immediate” divestment, the referendum should invest more time in considering how that would actually happen. The regents would be much more inclined to listen that way.
A better version of this referendum should appear before students next year.
This time, vote no on the fossil fuel divestment referendum.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s infamous majority opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission has transformed our democracy for the worse. Investing businesses with the same free speech rights as individuals, the decision allows for unlimited political campaign contributions from corporations.
As voters, students have a vested interest in keeping all elections fair. Therefore, they should support a referendum on the ASUC election ballot that would signal support for a constitutional “people’s rights” amendment to reverse the effects of Citizens United. At first, approval of this referendum would be little more than a symbolic stance. But the surest way to get federal legislators to even consider such an amendment is to build public pressure in support of one.
Perhaps if students at other universities see the success of a people’s rights referendum here, they will be inspired to launch campaigns at their own schools. If the effect continues successfully in enough places, it could very well influence the national conversation about how to overturn Citizens United.
The referendum would have the ASUC and Graduate Assembly presidents send a letter to “give written notice” of its passage to the U.S. president and California’s delegation to Congress every year until an amendment is passed and ratified. Such a notice should be clear about the intent of the referendum and not leave federal officials confused about its vague language regarding corporations’ free speech rights.
Students should take a stand against unrestricted monetary influence over the country’s political process.
Vote yes on the referendum in support of a people’s rights amendment.