At UC San Diego A.S. Council’s Week 2 meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 14, senators discussed the renewed Thrive program, a resolution supporting Armenian students at UCSD, and also condemned the Azeri attack on Artsakh. The body also approved the charter for a new oversight committee that will review A.S. Council stipend reforms and promote accountability.
The A.S. Office of Health and Wellbeing began the meeting with a special presentation on Thrive, a revived student-peer health program that originally began in 2018 under the direction of then AVP of Health and Wellbeing Revati Rashingkar. Professionally trained peer-coaches will host one-on-one sessions with their peers to provide emotional support, connection and interpersonal guidance.
The presentation emphasized the core values of the program as wanting to create empathetic interpersonal spaces among students and prioritizing the needs of the diverse student body. Over the next year, the Office of Health and Wellbeing will develop Thrive’s training modules, expand its brand through campus partnerships, and begin the process of hiring and training the first cohort of peer coaches.
Office of Health and Wellbeing Chief of Staff Jennifer Vu said that the passage of the mental health fee referendum last school year shows that there is a need for an additional health service to help alleviate the demand for UCSD Counseling and Psychological Services.
“As few known resources outside of CAPS are for mental health, we think that there should be another level between students and CAPS,” Vu said in her concluding remarks. “Sometimes, we don’t need treatment, but you might just need someone to talk things out loud with, which is the point of peer health coaching.”
The A.S. Senate then moved to discuss a resolution, co-sponsored by Arts and Humanities Senator Deena Gharibian and Thurgood Marshall College Senator James Terzian, to condemn the attacks on Artsakh and calling for solidarity with the Armenian community at UCSD. The resolution passed after a roll call vote with 27 votes in favor and one abstention.
While nominally a part of Azerbaijan, Artsakh has a mostly Armenian population and has been under de facto Armenian rule after the region declared its independence on Sept. 2, 1991. Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, became the site for renewed hostilities when Azerbaijan launched a military operation against the region on Sept. 27, 2020 in response to alleged Armenian artillery shelling.
The legislative body then passed the proposed charter for a new A.S. Committee on Stipend Transparency, Accountability, and Reform. According to the document, COSTAR is a response to student concerns about an inefficient system of checks and balances, a lack of transparency, and justified compensation of A.S. Council members.
The new committee would be charged with developing recommendations for Standing Rule changes and other items to ensure “fair and equitable” compensation of A.S. Council members. It also pledges to reach out to student constituents and to help implement an efficient checks and balances system in student government.
In the subsequent discussion, Campus Wide Senator Tommy Jung brought up the possibility of including A.S. Judicial Board members in discussions about furthering accountability and reform.
“Last week, when we were discussing the issues of transparency and accountability, we were talking about increasing the role of J-Board in AS functions,” Jung said. “I think the Committee on Stipend Transparency, Accountability, and Reform is a prime example of one way that we can include third-party voices that are not necessarily directly affiliated with [A.S. Senate].”
In response, Sixth College Senator Zaccary Bradt said that there is merit in further inclusion of J-Board in A.S. bodies such as COSTAR and could be explored at a future time.
“I understand the concerns about J-Board and I think that is something that we should look into, so I would be open to… considering [making amendments] in the future as the committee gets going,” Bradt said. “I think the more we involve more parts of our government, the better we can make it.”
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the A.S. Senate had its third meeting to hear about an opportunity for a potential partnership with The New York Times. Additionally, they discussed a new Global Human Rights and Freedom Committee that would focus on global affairs and raising awareness.
The A.S. Senate began with a special presentation by Todd Halvorsen, a higher education manager for the New York Times. He discussed the possibility of UC San Diego and the NY Times creating a subscription partnership that would provide students complimentary electronic access to the newspaper and its archives stretching back to 1851. This would also include all NY Times eligible apps and mobile games.
In the following Q&A, Biological Sciences Senator Mihir Pandya asked Halvorsen about the monetary benefits of this partnership to students as opposed to individually paying the $1 weekly subscription fee. In response, Halvorsen said that the NY Times is offering a low-cost, high-value deal to students.
“We actually take a hit in our revenue [by pursuing the partnership] and we are good with that,” Halovorsen responded. “We are always focused on the greater good and hopefully… students go on and support our journalism later. What we are asking for with this partnership is just to offset our losses, which equates to 65 cents per year per student.”
The A.S. Senate then listened to a presentation by John Muir College Senator Corliss Lam on the newly proposed Global Human Rights and Freedom Committee. According to the document outlining the committee’s charge, it hopes to identify issues relating to international human rights, advocate for the needs of groups who are affected by these issues at UCSD, and make recommendations to campus areas on policies and procedures to better support international students.
In the following discussion section, Campus Wide Senator Ben Lonc asked Lam to provide more detail about what the committee could tangibly do for students and whether its objectives could be fulfilled by an already existing body such as the A.S. Office of Academic Affairs. In response, Lam said that having a separate committee would streamline the legislative process and would be more focused on international issues.
“[The Global Human Rights and Freedom Committee] will be dedicated to spreading information specifically about human rights issues that are affecting our community,” Lam said. “You’re right, external affairs can work on these things, but external affairs is not focused on human rights… it is more focused on [community issues]. This committee is focused on international [affairs].”
Near the end of the Q&A, Social Sciences Senator Jamila Francisco suggested that the committee could instead be a task force. Senator Lam responded that formatting the body into a task force was not an option that she had looked into, but promised to study further before next week’s meeting.
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.
This article was updated on Nov. 8 at 5:09pm to elaborate the original start date of the Thrive program and its founder.