A.S. Council Brief: Week 7 and Week 8

This A.S. Council Brief includes the meetings of Week 7 and 8 for Spring Quarter 2021.

Week 7

In its Week 7 meeting held on May 12, A.S. Council discussed updates to the creation of a senate leadership position and the reallocation of $125,000 in A.S. budget funding to support the Asian Pacific Islander Middle Eastern Desi American Program and Services. The body also debated whether to endorse a letter by the International Student Advisory Council calling for continued remote learning options for Fall 2021 students.

At previous meetings, A.S. Council debated the proposed creation of a senate leadership position as a way of relieving existing tensions between the executive and senatorial bodies. Senator Mihir Pandya announced that he would no longer be pushing for the position, citing difficulties in building consensus for the proposal.

A.S. President Kimberly Giangtran said that she recently met with the UCSD administration and updated A.S. Council on concerns that there were no plans in place to prioritize remote courses for students who are unable to return in the fall. She was informed that WebReg does not allow UCSD to prioritize these students and encouraged students to reach out to their college administrators for accommodations.

Giangtran introduced an amendment to reappropriate $125,000 in A.S. budget funding towards APIMEDA support in the form of dedicated programming and support staff for the next academic year. The Senate approved the amendment and passed the amended budget item thereafter. 

A.S. Senate then discussed the possible endorsement of a letter written by the International Student Advisory Council. The letter calls upon professors to include online options for their classes in Fall 2021. 

ISAC argued that hurdles such as embassy closures and strict mandatory quarantines will make it difficult for international students to attend in-person courses. Concerns were also raised about the Fall Instruction Planning Update, which indicated that UCSD plans to wait until July 1 before allowing academic departments to change classrooms and/or instruction modalities. ISAC argues that late notice on course modality will make it difficult for international students to plan ahead during their May enrollment windows.

The letter ends by asking that remote options for Fall 2021 be kept and requests clearer communication from UCSD administration on these issues. International Senator Daksh Saraf said that these accommodations should be made available, because there are still many barriers to re-entry.

“A lot of international students cannot return back to the United States, [mainly] because of issues like embassy and consulate closures,” Saraf said. “There have been several [closures] in China and in India due to the great rise in the number of the [COVID-19] cases in the second wave, and China because of geopolitical tensions that are going on currently. These are causing a massive backlog of visa issues.”

Giangtran said that she supported the measure, but recommended that the letter be amended to not only address Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Allyson Sutterland, but also members of the Education Continuity Taskforce. She reasoned that members of the taskforce would have more power to grant these recommendations.

Engineering Senator Samir Nomani said that he supported the endorsement and felt that UCSD could have better planned and taken efforts to support these remote accommodations.

“[UCSD] had at least a year to think about what was going on,” Nomani said. “I think that UCSD should be implementing more accommodations and should at least invest in some sort of system that fastracks these [options for remote students].”

With a 31-0-3 vote, the motion passed. With this, A.S. Senate endorsed the ISAC effort calling for professors to include remote learning options in their courses.

Week 8

A.S. Senators held their Week 8 meeting on May 19 and the body heard special presentations by City Council Member Joe LaCava’s office as well as CALPIRG Students. They also discussed reopening the RIMAC gym and planning for the APIMEDA Center.

Kaitlyn Willoughby, a staff representative for San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava, gave a special presentation updating A.S. Council on the councilmember’s activities and issues pertinent to students. LaCava represents City Council District One, which includes UC San Diego and other northwest San Diego communities such as Carmel Valley, University City, and Sorrento Valley.

Willoughby said that LaCava is working to reestablish a San Diego youth council. This council would act as an advisory committee of college students that would report to the Mayor of San Diego’s office and the City Council’s office on youth issues.

Willoughby also noted that the SD City Council held hearings on its $4.6 billion budget allocation. Students and interested organizations were encouraged to reach out to LaCava’s office to provide input on the official budget memo that will be sent out.

Lastly, Willoughby said that University City is working to establish a plan update, which will dictate land-use decisions within that community over the next 50 years. Acknowledging that many off-campus UCSD students live in University City, Willoughby encouraged them to attend the University Community Planning Group’s meetings, which are held virtually every second Tuesday of each month.

Next, members of CALPIRG Students gave a special presentation to A.S. Council summarizing their organization’s accomplishments in the past year. The student-led organization touted its high levels of volunteer participation and said that it educated over 10,000 people through class presentations and informational campaigns.

CALPIRG Students are currently working on an initiative to call upon Governor Gavin Newsom to make California run entirely on 100 percent clean energy by 2030. Additionally, they have been lobbying the UC Regents to pass an open textbooks grant to incentivize faculty usage of open-access resources.

“Students spend an average of $1,000 each year on [textbooks],” CALPIRG Students member Aanvi Jhaveri said regarding the latter initiative. “A lot of people cannot afford these additional costs and they are sacrificing their wellbeing by working multiple jobs and even skipping meals in order to pay for textbooks. That is just not a decision that students should have to make to succeed in their college classes.”

CALPIRG Students said that its lead campaign in the fall will be the “100 Percent Clean Energy by 2030” campaign. The organization is looking into potentially taking on new projects on issues of textbooks, voter registration, plastics and waste in fashion, and homelessness.

Vice President of Campus Affairs Hannah Kreitman said that $100,000 in A.S. budget funding was officially allocated to support summer transitional housing for graduating students. Graduating students who have previously requested basic needs assistance will be contacted to inform them of the availability of the housing program. 

Kreitman also announced that the RIMAC gym will be reopening this summer after graduation. The vaccination superstation currently hosted at RIMAC will eventually be moved to Price Center.

Giangtran then updated A.S. Senate on her second meeting with Vice Chancellor for EDI Becky Petitt and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Alysson Satterlund regarding an APIMEDA Center. Giangtran said that there seemed to be miscommunication about the location of the proposed center, which led to their rejection of the idea during their first meeting.

“They framed [the earlier conversation] as a disconnect in information and that we may have been on different pages in regards to which physical space we were seeking out [for the APIMEDA Center],” Giangtran said. “I said it was the space above Blue Pepper that we were seeking out and they thought that I meant the center that they had originally looked at above Taco Villa.”

After clarifying, Giangtran said that Petitt and Satterlund offered to continue conversations about building an APIMEDA Center. Giangtran added that she is hopeful that the next A.S. administration and Senate will continue to make an effort to push for the center.

Giangtran then updated A.S. Senate on information she received on Fall 2021 course scheduling. She reiterated that class schedules are subject to change until July 1, meaning that classes still have the option of changing their method of instruction. Courses can only switch from an in-person format to remote but are unable to switch from remote to in-person.

Finally, Giangtran said that the International Students and Programs Office is working to create a list of students who can and can not return to take classes in person. 

“[The ISPO] said that the mechanisms are clunky, meaning that they do not have a good solution at the moment,” Giangtran said. “They are working on it and that is the best they can offer, they said.”

Vice President of External Affairs Becca Paskowitz acknowledged the recent May 14 incident in which officers from the San Diego Police Department forcibly beat homeless community member Jesse Evans for alleged public urination. In response, Paskowitz said that her office has compiled resources on how to assist the San Diego houseless community and to take action against police brutality. Furthermore, her office is mobilizing to support AB-988, a proposed piece of state legislation that would create a statewide 988 crisis hotline for those facing mental health emergencies.

Next, Paskowitz said that the Federal Communications Commission is offering a new program to assist families with affordable internet access during the pandemic. The Emergency Broadband Benefit provides discounts to eligible households of up to $50 per month towards broadband service, including households with a college student who has received a Federal Pell Grant.

Paskowitz announced that the leadership of the University of California Student Associated has succeeded in restoring an $800,000 cut to undocumented financial aid and student programs made by the UC Office of the President. Governor Newsom’s recently proposed budget is expected to provide an $957 million increase in funding to the UC, including a restoration of $302 million that had been lost due to the pandemic-related budget cuts.

Finally, Giangtran introduced a motion to again reallocate $125,000 in A.S. funding to support APIMEDA programming, support staff, as well as other expenses related to the establishment of an APIMEDA Center. The item was unanimously approved by A.S. Senate.

A.S. Council meetings take place every Wednesday and are open to students. Students can participate in these meetings by joining their Zoom link or tuning in on Facebook Live.

Artwork courtesy of Yui Kita for The UCSD Guardian.