A.S. Council Brief: $1 Million to be Distributed to Students Vulnerable due to Pandemic

Associated Student Senators discussed Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget cuts for the UC System, heard a special presentation regarding the Return to Learn Program, and approved a $1 million fund to support students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic during their May 20 meeting.

A.S. president Eleanor Grudin discussed her support for the UC Davis letter objecting to the proposed budget cuts by Governor Gavin Newsom. Newsom announced the budget cuts on May 14, which would result in a $338 million cut to the University of California budget. Grudin and A.S Vice-President of External Affairs Kamron Williams encouraged senators to research and support the UC Davis letter opposing the budget cuts.  

The senate also passed two financial bills that would distribute $1 million to help vulnerable students during the COVID-19 pandemic. The money would provide funds for undocumented students, international students, mental health initiative funds, and COVID-19 Emergency relief grants. Each of these four groups will be allocated $250,000.. 

Financial Controller, Ethan Christensen explained that the funds are coming from the fees collected for Spring Quarter programs and events that were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He emphasized that the funds are a one-time occurence and will aid “students who were left in the cracks by the federal and state government.”

Additionally, A.S. stated that the Undocumented Student Services Center requested to be included in this fund due to the fact that undocumented students were ineligible for CARES Act funding. Grants for international students will be available to help them with acquiring basic needs such as airfare and housing.

Senators also heard a presentation by the Interim Executive Director of Health & Wellness Angela Scioscia about the implementation of the Return to Learn Program on campus. The Return to Learn program will undertake mass screening of students for COVID-19 and plans to have all students, faculty, and staff self-swab for testing. 

There was also a question and answer session with UC San Diego Health infectious disease specialist Doctor Robert Turner Schooley which allowed senators to ask questions about the present state of UC San Diego in regards to the pandemic. Schooley explained the research and modelling that is occurring to assess the capacity for students’ return in the Fall Quarter. He also explained that instructors who don’t feel comfortable coming back for Fall Quarter will have the option not to do so.

“For professors and TAs there’s a process in place to ask people if they feel comfortable coming back to teach. For those who don’t, they will not have to come back and teach physically, they can teach virtually,” said Schooley.

Schooley and Scioscia emphasized that UCSD researchers are working diligently to prepare for students and faculty to return to campus for Fall Quarter 2020. 

Artwork by Allyson Llacuna for the UCSD Guardian.

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