A.S. Council Brief: Election Day Off, Wellness Kits and Voting Procedures

In UC San Diego Associated Student Council’s Week 1 meeting, senators discussed a variety of issues including making election day a non-instructional day, distributing wellness kits and creating an initiative to restructure the student council voting procedure.

UC Berkeley student Miyako Iwata made a special presentation to the UCSD A.S. Council and proposed the resolution to make the coming election day a non-instructional day at UCSD. The resolution passed in the meeting on Wednesday evening.

According to Iwata, this initiative will benefit the out-of-state students who do not have the ability to vote by mail.

“Maybe [out-of-state students] are still back at home but taking zoom lectures,” Iwata told The UCSD Guardian. “We know that in some states, for example Georgia, people have to wait in five or six hour lines [to vote]. If they were stressing about attending their zoom lecture because of attendance, and standing in line to be able to exercise [their] right to vote, then that actually becomes the deciding factor. We need to be mindful and aware that not everyone has the luxury of having their ballot automatically mailed to them.” 

In the year 2018–19, there were 5.8 percent, 1,745 out-of-state undergraduate students at UCSD. A roughly same amount of students this year may currently be at their home state due to the pandemic, where voting by mail is not necessarily available. In states including Indiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, the request to vote by mail needs an excuse beyond COVID-19 fears.  

Besides UCSD, UC Berkeley Associated Students Council passed the resolution unanimously last Wednesday. Other University of California campuses, including UC Irvine, UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, and UC Merced, have all been reached out to or have made progress to endorse the proposal.

“In my ideal universe, this policy will hold for every single midterm election, every single primary, and every single general election,” Iwata said. “But it’s understandable why professors, faculties, administrators preserve precious class time. So I would want to try to start by having this be recurring for at least general and midterm elections cycles.” 

The A.S. Office of Health and Well-Being and the Office of Food and Housing have decided to proceed on a project to distribute wellness kits — through the Triton Food Pantry — to all students who request it. Each kit will contain COVID-19 related items such as face masks, bandaids, hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, information brochures, and toothbrushes.

The project piloted during spring quarter 2020 and distributed 250 kits. Due to positive feedback, the Office of Health and Well-Being decided to distribute 800 kits this Fall quarter and aim for 1000 kits each for Winter and Spring Quarter 2021. 

Kits will be delivered to students both on and off campus through a collaboration with the UCSD Triton Food Pantry Mobile Clinic. On-campus students may request a kit through the Triton Food Pantry Student Center A’s request system. Off-campus students may request a kit through the Triton Food Pantry Mobile Clinic and the new Triton Food Pantry delivery program.

The wellness kits will be ready after Week 5, and relevant information will also be posted on their social media when the kits are ready.  

According to Associated Vice President of Health and Wellbeing Issac Lara, the office is also looking for ways to ship to international and out-of-state students, although they are currently still in the process of seeing how this could be carried out. 

Sixth College Senator Zacchary Bradt proposed an initiative to reform the A.S. student meetings so that the executive board will be separated from the senate. He argues that this change will improve the efficiency of senate meetings, as well as reduce the influence of executive members on the senate’s decision making process.  

“The A.S. student council meetings regularly go over midnight and the budget meeting this year lasted over two nights for over 14 hours,” A.S. Senator Bradt told The UCSD Guardian. 

Bradt argued that removing the executive board members from the discussion of the senate will streamline the meeting by reducing the number of people in the meeting. 

“Our time is spent rephrasing the same points over and over again in a way that is unproductive for the sake of our own meeting times and in our goal of best serving our students” Bradt said. “My idea to help curb this issue is to first of all reduce the amount of people present for debate in the Senate by removing the executive board, who, especially in years past, have been some of the most vocal and repeat contributors to the conversation. Additionally, by establishing an internal Senate Leadership position as outlined in my presentation on Wednesday, we can attempt to streamline the communication and internal processes among Senators in order to facilitate a more productive, less recursive debate.”

According to reports from Bradt and other senators heading the initiative, this reform is also motivated by their observation that executive members are able to sway the senator’s decision making. 

“People who run for executive members usually have more influence power by virtue of their position because they carry the weight of inherent trust,” Bradt said.  

“The way it works right now is, at least in my opinion, the executive board members of Associated Students are de facto figure heads of the senate, which I think is a problem because the senate writes the rules and directs executive action,” Campus-Wide A.S. Senator Ben Lonc told The UCSD Guardian. “I am not fond of the fact that they essentially get to govern themselves, which is why the package of reform is labeled as a separation of power.” 

In the meeting on Wednesday, there has also been suggestions to ask the A.S. Judicial Board to act as the role of supervision. 

“I like the suggestion that came up [on Wednesday] regarding the Judicial Board,” Lonc said. “I don’t think we use their knowledge and their experience, and their impartiality, most valuable of all, to its full potential, which is why I gravitate towards using the Judicial Board to provide some level of oversight more to the executive than to the senate. Because I think the senate already has a pretty good oversight mechanism in the form of the senate leadership position.”

Moreover, both Senators Lonc and Bradt expressed that the reform is not meant to sever the communication between the executive board and the senate. 

“Senators really don’t put in the same kind of face time with Associated Students as executives do,” Lonc said. “We put in 10-20 hours per week, but the executive members can put in 40 hours with high level university personnel and administrators. They vouch on the senate’s behalf with the chancellor, with different vice chancellors, associated vice chancellors, with the regents, with UC Student Association.” 

The A.S. meetings employ Robert’s Rule of Order. During a roll-call voting procedure, each member in the senate and the executive board will be called upon and announce their vote in front of all members. Last year, the A.S. Senate passed a resolution to move the votes of executive members in a roll-call voting procedure to the end so that they do not sway the opinions of other senators. 

“That was one of the first steps we’ve taken,” Lonc said. “When you have these three or four executives who take a certain stance on something, it can be really hard for less experienced senators to want to break the mold and say ‘I disagree.’ Even in their presence, it creates informal leadership of the senate that I dont think is healthy for any legislative institution. My hope is that we can separate the  executive and the senate so that there are more initiatives in the senate. There is more confidence in saying that between the senators, this is the consensus, this is what we’ve decided, and we will hand this to the executives to get done. The decision lies with the senate because that is what we are elected to do.”

With regards to changes on campus, Lonc told us that there will be some adjustments to the student centers vendors: Shogun, Bombay Coast, and Kaplan decided not to renew their leases with the university. The vendor that will replace Bombay Coast is in the last stage of negotiation and while there is still no information on what this vendor will be, the university center advisory board will be hearing from the coordinators of the pilot about the project in Week 4.

The space currently occupied by Shogun will likely be replaced with a parcel locker similar to the Amazon Locker. This new location will accept parcels for students from any college and thereby reduce the workload of parcel centres in each college.

A.S. Meetings take place every week and are open to the public. Students can be a part of these meetings by joining with the Zoom link posted on the A.S. website.

Art courtesy of Allyson Llacuna for the UCSD Guardian.

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