A.S. Council Brief: Popular Election of International and Out-of-State Senators, Fall 2021 Reopening Update

This edition of the UCSD A.S. Council Brief news updates includes the Week 5 and Week 6 meetings.

Week 5

UC San Diego’s Associated Student Council held their Week 5 meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 4 and discussed two extensive items. Senators first heard a special presentation on the new COVID-19 vaccination site on campus, and later debated an amendment to the UCSD A.S. constitution to allow for popular election of international and out-of-state A.S. senators.

The presentation was led by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Alysson Sutterland and Interim Executive Director for Student Health and Well-Being Angela Sciosia, M.D. They provided information about the vaccination site being implemented at the Recreation, Intramural, and Athletic Complex (RIMAC) arena on campus. 

Sciosia said that the goal was to have the site open and running by Monday, Feb. 8 and to reach 5,000 vaccinations a day. The site will be open 12 hours a day, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m, and open seven days a week.

In response to Sixth College Senator Zaccary Bradt’s question about student employees’ eligibility for vaccines, Sciosia responded that there is a system of prioritization among patients, employees, and students for receiving the vaccine.

“We have to prioritize the call out for the vaccine, because there are many thousands of campus employees which fall into the requirements of [Phase] 1B,” Sciosia said. 

In response to a question posed by Eleanor Roosevelt College Senator Nicole Thompson, Sciosia said that she expects vaccine supplies to gradually increase due to the approval of new vaccines. 

“I think we’re all optimistic supply will grow, and in no way shrink, but actually grow substantially,” Sciosia said.“What will be important to keep an eye on is the FDA approval of other vaccine types, and then the other complexity will be the variants that are emerging, and the effectiveness of the vaccines on the variants.”

International Senator Dakshh Saraf raised concerns about the possibility of the crowds that may form at the vaccine site and that the site may become a “super spreader” event. Sciosia responded that the sites will be dispersed at a safe distance from one another to prevent transmission. 

“There are 24 stations, and there are over a couple hundred observation seats. So it’s not a single site, it’s multi-site vaccination simultaneously happening in that process,” Sciosia said. “We also had Kim Prather, you may have seen her name, she’s one of our really amazing scientists helping the CDC and everybody understand transmission, she looked at our infectious disease site, they had air handlers in, they had everybody in there to optimize and make sure an indoor space is safe.”

A.S. then discussed a motion brought forth by Biological Sciences Senator Mihir Pandya to amend their constitution to open the positions of Out-of-State and International Senator to a student body election rather than by appointment. This was seconded by Sixth College Senator Zaccary Brandt. 

Pandya and Brandt argued that this motion would allow for more democracy by allowing fee-paying undergraduate students to vote for an International Senator in the same way they can vote for their College Presidents and Vice Presidents. 

“I think whenever we can increase the amount of democracy in our system, we should,” Brandt said. “I haven’t personally spoken to Gavin Newsom or Joe Biden or Donald Trump, but I had the opportunity to vote for all of them, and I think we should continue and extend that to our constituents and make sure they have a voice in their government.”

International Senator Dakshh Saraf questioned how the vote for the senators would be facilitated among the student body, and argued that it would not be representative for the whole student body to pick an International Senator for lack of knowing the candidates. 

“If one isn’t aware of the candidate, hasn’t spoken to the candidate specifically, then they shouldn’t vote for the position of the candidate itself,” Saraf said. 

Saraf contrasted this with the current appointment process in which a senator is appointed after rounds of interviews. Afterwards, the applicant is given consideration by A.S. members.

The motion passed with a majority vote, with Senator Saraf being the only member to vote against the amendment. The vote was an open roll, which would leave it open to non-attending members for two days. 

Week 6

The Week 6 A.S. meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 10 included more details about the opening of the vaccination site. Additionally, the Senate discussed senator projects, the planned Fall 2021 campus reopening and continued discussion of the amendment vote from Week 5. 

Out-of-State Senator Abby Rollison announced that she would be holding a virtual informational Q&A event on Tuesday, Feb. 16 through Zoom as part of her project for food security. The project is in collaboration with CalFresh and the International Student and Program Office and focuses on ensuring out-of-state and international students can get access to the food security programs that are available to in-state students. 

“This event is relevant to all students because we will be talking about general qualifications for CalFresh, but it’s going to be specifically relevant to out-of-state students because we’re going to be discussing how California’s benefits can apply to out-of-state residents to students living in San Diego […] and it’s relevant to international students because international students are not eligible for CalFresh because they’re not permanent residents, so ISPO has its own grocery assistance program,” Rollison said. 

A.S. President Kimberly Giangtran updated the Senate on the RIMAC vaccination center. Giangtran stated that the site has only vaccinated around 1,000 people a day, which she attributes to a potential lack of outreach to eligible groups.

“My understanding is that [the site] is having a hard time reaching out to people to come,” Giangtran said. “I don’t think [patients] don’t want to, they just don’t know how to sign up. Probably some technological issues for this group […] but they’re not being reached well.” 

Giangtran also discussed the campus reopening plans for Fall 2021. UCSD hopes to admit 80 to 90 percent of students on campus, while still keeping the hybrid model available to those who need it. 

However, Giangtran recognized that it may be difficult to ensure the hybrid model is only being offered to students that do not have the option to be on campus. 

“The problems we talked about are, how do we differentiate between students who are not able to come in person and have to take online classes versus the students who think it’s just more convenient to take online classes, but in reality are able to come to campus. It’s something we’re trying to figure out,” Giangtran said. 

Giangtran also announced that there may be a possibility that the Fall 2021 UCSD freshmen may have to take a placement exam once admitted. Due to the pandemic, current high school seniors did not have to take standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT to apply to UC schools. 

“This cohort that’s coming in for Fall 2021 is the first class of students coming in who didn’t have to take the SAT and ACT, so I think [scores] are just not included in admissions,” Giangtran said. “There’s discussion of administering an exam when students get here in the fall. It’s not to be critical or punitive in any way, I think it will serve as more of a placement test to see where students are all starting.” 

In regards to the proposed amendment to the A.S. constitution to allow for popular election of out-of-state and international senators, it was announced that Sixth College Council approved the measure. Other college councils have it on their agenda and four colleges need to approve it for it to come into effect

A.S. Council 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.

Artwork courtesy of Yui Kita for The UCSD Guardian