Friday, October 19, 2007
UC Davis Graduate Students Withdraw from UCSA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 19, 2007
This month, the UC Davis Graduate Student Association (UCD GSA) voted to withdraw from the University of California Student Association (UCSA), the coalition of most student governments in the UC system.
"While this may come as a shock to the UCSA, our withdrawal from the coalition is result of longstanding issues with UCSA's staff, board members, and organizational structure," said Brent Laabs, External Chair of UCD GSA. "By representing our constituents independently of UCSA, we can present a more professional image and better work for the needs of all graduate students. Our primary focus for the future will be on legislative campaigns at the state level, where UCSA has committed insufficient resources."
The undergraduate association at UC Davis, ASUCD, withdrew from UCSA in 2006, making Davis the only UC campus with no representatives on UCSA's Board of Directors.
More information is contained within the official withdrawal letter to the UCSA Board of Directors, attached to this email. Additional information and research about UC Davis' relationship with UCSA is available upon request.
Dear UCSA Board of Directors:
On Wednesday, October 3, 2007, the UC Davis Graduate Student Association voted 38-3-3 to withdraw from the University of California Student Association. We feel it is important to explain to the UCSA Board to explain our reasons for dissociation. While we recognize that the decisions made across the UC system affect all students, we of UCD GSA feel that we can better represent our students and contribute to the benefit of all UC student associations by pursuing avenues outside of UCSA.
UCD GSA feels that the most pressing issues facing UC students require legislative action in addition to action with the UC Regents and UC Office of the President: textbook affordability, nonresident tuition, affordable health care (especially for dependents), and the ever increasing student fees problem. These worsening problems on our campuses reflect the lack of support for the University of California in the state legislature. California Treasurer Bill Lockyer has recently stated that UC should be financially independent from the state, so it is imperative that we clarify exactly why UC is an important asset to Californians. Students are among the most economically vulnerable groups, and students must depend on society to invest in education for the well-being of all. In order to effectively represent all students, we need a more continuous and effective presence in Sacramento. As student government, we need to educate the legislature about the issues that affect us and to communicate our vision, which we believe UCSA has not effectively provided for the past 13 years. The emphasis on the politics of protest in UCSA has been counterproductive, and a more balanced approach to lobbying will be of vital importance to UC students in the coming years.
While UCD GSA would have preferred to have worked in solidarity with UCSA on this, it has become apparent that the UCSA organization is too rigid to change. Those who express opinions contrary to the assumed values of the organization, both from Davis and from other campuses, are subject to retaliation. Rather than providing a chance to develop a shared vision, those who go to UCSA Congress are instead inducted into the UCSA vision. UCD GSA sent a letter to UCSA objecting to the UCSA budget; we sincerely hoped that the letter would spur discussion on the direction of UCSA. Instead, we heard no response. Thus becalmed on a sea of silence, the GSA Assembly voted to set a new course of self-representation in order to better represent our constituents.
We hope that UCSA will work out issues that separate graduate and undergraduate interests – at the very least, we hope that voting at the Plenary session of Congress is reformed so that graduate students approve their own action agenda without undergraduate influence. We also hope that UCSA will begin to shift staff and resources towards research and direct communication with those in power, and away from direct action organizing, which should occur at the campus level instead of the statewide level. However, we look forward to partnering with UCSA on consensus issues such as reducing the cost of student fees.
In the coming year, UCD GSA plans to build a lobby corps, modeled from the ASUCD Lobby Corps, that provides students with access to their representatives on a regular basis. We are obliged to use our resources effectively representing graduate student interests; therefore, we are withdrawing from UCSA to directly represent our interests.
UCD GSA External Chair
UCD GSA Chair
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Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Free insurance for SJP
Back in session, the following Resolution, SB 26, as amended in committee, was authored by Mr. Shams and Yaman Salahi:
RESOLUTION AGAINST HATE CRIMES AND FOR SOLIDARITY AT UC BERKELEY
WHEREAS, the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) sign was deliberately attacked on September 17, 2007; and
WHEREAS, this act of vandalism is a hate crime against Students for Justice in Palestine; and
WHEREAS, Students for Justice in Palestine is a student group on campus that actively seeks to inform the student body and community about Palestinian issues in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian dispute and serves both the local community and the general campus population; and
WHEREAS, nationally, Muslims are a highly victimized community and in the United States, post-9/11; and
WHEREAS, issues concerning the Middle East and Islam occupy a very contentious space in US social and political circles; and
WHEREAS, the ASUC Senate recognizes that hate crimes are present in our immediate surroundings and not just a regional and distant issue; and
WHEREAS, every student at UC Berkeley deserves the right to be secure from discrimination and hate crimes;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the ASUC shall support SJP in their attempts to raise funds for and reconstruct their damaged property.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ASUC through public mediums on campus and the Auxiliary, make student organizations aware of proper procedures in event of such hate crimes taking place.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that ASUC President Van Nguyen make the higher administration aware of such incidents now and in the future by notifying the Dean of Students and Vice Chancellor of Equity and Inclusion.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the ASUC, in consultation with the Dean of Students, consider the re-commissioning of the 2003 Chancellor's Task Force on Hate and Bias with the tasks of:
Recommending actions the University of California, Berkeley campus can take to combat incidents of hatred or bias against people based on race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, or political beliefs outside of the academic setting;
Recognizing that the mission of the task force is to prevent and meaningfully respond to incidents of hate on campus and, in the process, create a campus climate that does not tolerate such incidents;
Recommending that this task force be incorporated into the Dean of Student’s Advisory Council.
Mr. Shams moved to amend the bill to add a second Whereas Clause. He asked to withdraw the motion.
Mr. Shams said the essence of the bill was something they all agreed on, and it was the wording and the strength of the bill that was in question. On September 1, the Students for Justice In Palestine’s sign, on the Sather Gate Bridge, was kicked into two pieces. It had been up for two weeks and it was the only sign that was broken in those two weeks. It was made of thick wood and had to be deliberately targeted. This was registered as a crime, vandalism, and initially no investigation was done. He wanted to thank the Finance Committee and the Senate for passing the bill to create funding for a sign.
Mr. Shams said the issue was hate. The 2002 Federal Hate Crime Report stated that a hate crime was against an individual, but was an attack on one’s identity. Mr. Shams said “identity” was a key phrase.
Hate crimes were meant to intimidate and cause fear. A lot of Senators have been to SJP meetings, and the group was much different than what the actual perception of it was on campus. Anybody who’s been in the group a long time could attest to the stereotype. People think it was solely Muslim, or solely Arab, and that it consisted of potential suicide bombers. People come up to the SJP table and ask if they were wearing a suicide belt. People who table for the group had to be trained on how to deal with people who were hostile and aggressive. The support was of the Palestinian nation and focused on human rights abuses.
Mr. Shams said they needed to call this what it was, a hate crime. It was targeted and met the actual definition of a hate crime. They had to separate the nation of Palestine from the state of Palestine. While there may not be a state, the nation, the people, were still there. Kicking the sign in two pieces inspired fear and hindered free speech.
Mr. Shams said opponents to the bill will focus on hate crimes and the strength of the language. The attempt was to tie SJP with nationality, not political beliefs. There were issues with past definitions used by the previous Chancellor, and that was corrected. Mr. Shams said the Senate was not there to be a judge and jury. They had to uphold the ideas they believed in and the communities they represent. Those ideas were freedom and freedom from fear. He wanted to thank Sen. Weiner and everybody who worked on this bill, including Sen. Silver. They’ve had very positive compromises. Hopefully, this could be a progressive bill and a serious statement. Last week the Senate made a positive statement for the Jena 6, for something that happened thousands of miles away, and the Senate should address something that happened right on campus. Hopefully, people will see this as a hate crime.
Mr. Weiner said he e-mailed out the California State law definition of a hate crime. He wanted to thank Sen. Shams. This was a good bill to absolutely and as strongly as possible go against what happened with the vandalism. Everyone agreed it was wrong and that nothing like this should happen again. The problem with the bill was it declared what happened as a hate crime. Calling it a “hate crime” meant it was a violation of actual law. A political belief was not included in that definition. So he would suggest changing the language, to have strong wording, but to remove the language that called this a hate crime. The University and External Affairs Committee originally worked from an incorrect definition of a hate crime. He thought all Committee members now actually realize the correct definition. Only three states and the District or Columbia include political belief as a hate crime, and California wasn't one of them. So technically, this wasn't a hate crime in the State of California. It was brought up that this could be against a nationality. That was a possibility, but on the facts that they had, the Senate couldn't say that. All they knew was that a sign was damaged. It was a political sign for a political group. The SJP mission statement says it's a diverse group students, faculty, staff, and community members. It was not on its face a group of Palestinians. So damaging this group’s sign could not, without more evidence, automatically considered be a hate crime.
Mr. Weiner said this had important implications for the Senate taking action as a body in response to future incidents that were known to be hate crimes. Taking the action that they should in such cases would be limited if, without looking at the law, they declared something a hate crime just because they wanted to make a strong statement. They could still do that, as they should, but they couldn't use “hate crime” in the bill to do that. That would not be in accordance with State law.
Ms. Winston yielded time to Husam Samir Khalil Zakharia. Mr. Zakharia said he would like to thank them for giving time and energy to the bill. It was disturbing that to have the Senate get caught up in very technical definitions of what a hate crime was. They forget there's a context, a climate of hostility, especially post 9-11, and the climate that existed for Arabs and Muslims. When people table for the group, they're taught that people will come up who were hostile and will assume people at the table were Palestinian. They weren't looking at State law and legal definitions. The person who kicked the sign in two was not asking about definitions.
Mr. Zakharia said they had to understand what a hostile climate was, a climate that was hostile to Arabs and Muslims. People ask if they have suicide bombs on them. It was hurtful when their own student government got bogged down in technicalities of what was and wasn't a hate crime. He would ask the Senate to please help the group send a message, and to not dilute that message. They should just say what this was, and what people were familiar with. What happened was people were assaulted politically. (Applause)
Mr. Shams asked what his relationship was in SJP. Mr. Zakharia said he was just a concerned, active member, and was proud to be Palestinian.
Mr. Weiner said he would like to thank Mr. Zakharia for speaking out against the serious crimes that have occurred all over the US, as he mentioned. He asked if it would be a good idea to have a line between those crimes that were explicitly against a national group, religion, or ethnicity, versus something that might just because political in nature. Mr. Zakharia said hypothetically he agreed that it would be ideal if they knew the exact intentions of the person who did this vandalism. But they didn't. But they do know what the political context was and how people in the group feel. That’s what the Senate should base its decision on.
Mr. Shams moved to recess for two minutes. The motion was seconded by Ms. Patel and passed with no objection. This meeting was recessed.
Back in session, Mr. Weiner moved to amend the bill, replacing “hate crimes,” everywhere it appeared in the bill, with “acts of hate.” The motion was seconded by Mr. Osmeña.
Mr. Weiner yielded time to Jeremy Anapol. Mr. Anapol the best way to support an argument that something was bad was not to call it something it wasn't. Introducing fallacy wasn't a way to strengthen an argument. If they wanted to make this a strong bill, they should call state that there was “a malicious act of hate,” or “the ASUC unequivocally condemned” this. But they shouldn't call this something it wasn't, according to campus definition, per CL&L, and according to State and federal law.
Mr. Anapol said the first Resolved Clause stated that the ASUC will support SJP in its attempts to raise funds for and reconstruct the sign. That seemed good on its face, but he believed that would be a violation of the principle of equal protection, because other groups that might not enjoy as much political support as SJP would have no guarantee the Senate would act and give them the same support as SJP. He would suggest striking that, or replacing it with wording saying the ASUC would support victims of vandalism or censorship.
Mr. Anapol said that when they call something a hate crime when it wasn't, then they undermine the purpose of having a hate crimes category.
Mr. Weiner said the Dean of Students has talked about civility, and calling something a hate crime when it wasn't didn't help civility, which was about being fair, in accordance with the law, and not being biased.
For that reason, and for purposes of healthy political debate on campus, he hoped the Senate didn't call something a hate crime when it wasn't, according to any definition in the State of California.
Ms. Winston said the Senate should respect all individuals, and it was problematic to show disrespect for their constituents. She was fairly neutral, with no obvious ties to issues in that region. But talking about the climate of hostility, she has seen people at the SJP table attacked and harassed. The campus climate did not support them. It would be an important statement for the ASUC to say it was not okay for these things to happen, regardless of who it happened to. In this case it happened to SJP, and the Senate would support the group. The Senate should call this a hate crime, because that’s what it was. They shouldn't limit themselves to State and federal definitions. There were hate crimes before there was a legal definition. People should consider context, and State and federal law was not always right. Simply because something wasn't delineated by law didn't mean it was any less detrimental to students on campus. They shouldn't let their biases affect the way they vote on this.
The floor was yielded to Mr. Zakharia. Mr. Zakharia said he thought the ASUC could make statements it wanted to, and asked if they could make statements on their own, and on SJP’s behalf. Ms. Winston said they pride themselves on being autonomous. They didn't have to let other’s definitions define what they did. They could say this was a hate crime by their own definition. Ms. Allbright said speaking time had expired. A motion to extend speaking time by two minutes was made and seconded by Mr. Jackson and Ms. Patel and passed with no objection.
Mr. Weiner asked if she would be willing to call it a hate crime if other signs were broken. Ms. Winston said she would be willing to listen to that argument. SJP was a political group and a group of individuals, many of whom were affected by events that took place in Palestine. So this was a valid argument for a hate crime. The Cal Dems, e.g., wouldn't have such strong support for damage to its sign being a hate crime. Mr. Weiner said that based on its mission statement and membership, the SJP was not a national group but a political group. Ms. Winston said they were a political group that supported a nationality.
Yaman Salahi said the definition of a hate crime included what was real or what people perceived. SJP didn't represent any ethnicity, nationality, or religion, although that was how they were perceived. People in the group who table, no matter what background, have experienced a hostile climate.
The floor was yielded. Mr. Anapol asked if he would agree to dealing with hate crimes against all nationalities, to have a more general statement condemning hate crime. Ms. Allbright said speaking time had expired. Mr. Shams moved to extend by two minutes. The motion was seconded by Mr. Jackson and passed with no objection. Ms. Winston said they were combating what happened. If another group brought something to the Senate, they'd give it equal consideration. This bill would not prevent the Senate from supporting other groups as well. The bill wasn't against another group, but was to support a group. That didn't mean opposition to any other group. Hate crimes were not defined by pen and ink, but the affect they had on the unlucky recipients.
Mr. Silver said that when they started, they wanted to have the External Affairs Committee pass legislation that was strong and would move them forward, and not pass BS legislation that didn't really do anything. He wasn't against the bill, but was worried about the free and liberal use of definitions, and making their own definitions. He feared that with the guidelines the Senate was setting up that evening, people will write legislation on whatever they wanted, and the Senate would move away from its goal of passing legislation that had weight. They should make sure they're really accomplishing something. It was important that what the Senate have legal merit and justification, and that they have sound bills. He thought this bill was sound, but that was something for the Senate to consider. People were concerned that this wasn't a hate crime, but as a leader of the Jewish community, he was deeply offended over what happened to SJP’s sign. At the same time, that didn't mean he couldn't disagree with the language of the bill. If the Senate wanted its bills to have clout outside the room, they had to make sure that what they said was sound, and to be critical with the words they use. He would ask people to understand the legal repercussions to passing the bill.
Mr. Shams asked what the legal repercussions were. Mr. Silver said it was setting up a situation where their legislation would be questioned. This wasn't just about passing the bill among the 20 Senators, but what happened outside Eshleman, and having it mean something to people.
Mr. Shams said he wanted to thank Mr. Anapol for being civil and for the Jewish caucus for working on this. Ms. Coleman said there was no “Jewish caucus,” and not all Jewish members of the Senate felt the same way. Mr. Shams said he thought they met. Ms. Coleman said there was no meeting.
Mr. Shams said the Senate met for two hours discussing what they expected from external bills. It was important to look at the legal connection to bills, but they didn't have to look outside the ASUC. He took pseudo offense to bringing up the Dean of Students’ comments on civility. A stance of neutrality favored the dominant ideology or person. There was a crime against the sign, so civility was standing up for what one thought was right. People should make decisions on what they felt was right, and not just on legalities. They were dealing with perceptions. It wasn't that SJP had more weight. Ms. Allbright said speaking time had expired. Mr. Weiner moved to extend speaking time and total time by a minute and a half. The motion was seconded by Ms. Patel and passed by voice-vote.
Mr. Salahi people have made assumptions about wording, and at stophate.berkeley.edu, the wording was good enough for the campus and was considered by the Committee at its meeting. The ASUC wasn't obligated to limit itself with how the law read. They could go forward in response to what they believed was a hate crime, and can extend the definition and call something a hate crime if that’s what they felt it was. Ms. Allbright said speaking time had expired. Ms. Winston moved to extend speaking time and total time by 15 minutes. The motion was seconded and passed with no objection.
Mr. Rhoads moved to amend the amendment, to amend “acts” of hate” back to “hate crimes,” and to replace the second Whereas Clause with the following:
“Whereas, this act of vandalism was a criminal hate act against Students for Justice In Palestine and may legally constitute a ‘hate crime.’”
Mr. Shams moved to recess for two minutes. The motion was seconded and passed with no objection. This meeting was recessed. Back in session, Mr. Silver moved to extend the recess by three minutes. The motion was seconded by Ms. Patel and passed with no objection. This meeting was recessed.
Back in session, Mr. Shams seconded Mr. Rhoads’ motion to amend.
Mr. Rhoads said the amendment would retain the possibility that the act was a hate crime and would keep hate-crime language in the bill that a lot of people felt was so important in order to send a strong message. The amendment stated that the act may legally constitute a hate crime.
Ms. Coleman said California Penal Code states that context was important whether something was a hate crime. In a message from the State Attorney General, he noted that the community could determine if something was or wasn't a hate crime. Mr. Weiner said this didn't weaken the Senate’s opposition to the vandalism. They didn't know the motivation of the offender in order to declare whether or not this was a hate crime.
Mr. Zakharia asked if the ASUC scrutinized every bill in minute detail in terms of its exact legal language and ramifications. Mr. Weiner said he would reject the notion that this was a “minute detail.” It was an obvious detail they'd be making a mistake on. A hate crime was a act that violated hate crime law, and this incident didn't fit that definition. It would be wrong to say it was a hate crime. Ms. Patel moved to extend speaking time by two minutes. The motion was seconded and passed with no objection.
The floor was yielded. Mr. Apanol asked if the last speaker’s question showed the bias the bill was trying to combat. Mr. Apanol said he has been the victim of a hate crime, and that was why he was scrutinizing this as closely as he was.
Ms. Winston said she felt personal attacks were being made, and she didn't think they were appropriate. Ms. Allbright said she was doing the best she could to facilitate the meeting to allow guests to speak. Guests didn't have the opportunity to participate in the training that Senators received, so she was giving them some leeway. She would ask Senators to please be patient. If they felt that decorum was being violated, they could raise that point, and she would ask them to do so politely and to not attack speakers. And Ms. Allbright said she would ask guests to understand that this was a debate about the issues. She knew it was personal, but they had to refrain from personal attacks and focus at the issue at hand. She noted that her statements were not directed towards any individuals.
Mr. Weiner said he was not opposed to the bill saying the act was wrong. This was a simple matter of what the law did and didn't say.
Ms. Coleman asked if he thought that people felt this incident was a hate crime. Mr. Weiner said that perception was just one consideration. They didn't know the motivation of the perpetrator.
Ms. Winston said she would ask to remove the quotation marks around the term “hate crime” in the amended Whereas Clause. She felt that devalued the language and made it seem less valid.
Mr. Silver moved to call the question. The motion to end debate failed by hand-vote 9-6-1.
Mr. Shams said that Mr. Salahi raised the question as to whether to include political beliefs as a part of hate crimes. Crimes against people based on their political beliefs could be prosecuted. The question was not about motivations, but whether the Senate wanted to push forward with the law and assert their voice in the public discourse.
A speaker said he would reprimand both guest speakers for their personal attacks. That was experienced in committee. The amendment to the Whereas Clause weakened everything concerning a hate crime. It puts conditions on hate crimes and weakened all motions on hate crimes.
Mr. Seaty moved to recess for five minutes. The motion was seconded and passed by voice-vote. This meeting was recessed. Back in session, Mr. Shams moved to extend the recess by three minutes. The motion was seconded and passed with no objection.
Back in session, Mr. Shams asked if a straw poll could be taken on the bill itself, not the amendments under discussion. An objection was raised. Ms. Allbright said straw polls were to determine the will of the Senate regarding the motion at hand, and a straw poll had to be roughly constrained to the bill. Mr. Weiner moved to overrule the Chair, and said they should not have a straw poll on the bill when an amendment was on the floor. Ms. Allbright said straw polls determine the will of the Senate for matters at hand, although they could be used with flexibility. Mr. Weiner said by Robert's Rules, it was out of order to move away from what was before the body in order to consider something else. Ms. Allbright said that under Robert's Rules, a straw poll was out of order at any time, and rules regarding straw polls were in the By-laws only.
The motion to overrule the Chair’s decision to allow a straw poll failed unanimously by voice-vote.
Mr. Shams asked for a straw poll SB 26, as amended by the University and External Affairs Committee. A straw poll was taken. Ms. Allbright said the result was 8-5-1 and the motion would pass.
Ms. Allbright said the time for debate on the amendment to the amendment had expired and the question was automatically called. The motion to approve Mr. Rhoads’ amendment to the Whereas Clause failed by hand-vote 8-9-0.
Ms. Allbright said they were under consideration of Mr. Weiner’s amendment, to replace “hate crimes” with “acts of hate.”
Mr. Weiner moved to recess for one minute. The motion was seconded by Mr. Rhoads and failed by voice-vote. Mr. Shams moved the question on the amendment. Mr. Osmeña moved to recess for one minute and 15 seconds. The motion was seconded by Ms. Patel and passed by voice-vote. This meeting was recessed. Back in session, Mr. Shams moved to extend the recess by five minutes. The motion was seconded by Ms. Patel and passed by hand-vote 8-1-5. Back in session, Mr. Shams moved to extend the recess by five minutes. The motion was seconded by Mr. Rhoads and passed with no objection. This meeting was recessed.
Back in session, Mr. Rhoads moved to amend. Ms. Allbright said that was out of order since they were under consideration of Mr. Weiner’s amendment. Mr. Shams moved to call the question. The motion to end debate was seconded and passed by hand-vote 8-1-1.
The motion to approve the amendment to replace “hate crimes” with “acts of hate” failed by voice-vote.
Mr. Rhoads moved to update the wording and amend the bill to have the second Resolved Clause read:
“Whereas, this act of vandalism is a criminal hate act against Students for Justice in Palestine and may legally constitute a hate crime.”
Mr. Rhoads said his amendment would also strike the first Whereas Clause, “Whereas, the… SJP sign was deliberately attacked….” The motion to amend was seconded.
THE MOTION TO APPROVE THE AMENDMENTS PASSED WITH NO OBJECTION.
Mr. Osmeña yielded time to Mr. Anapol. Mr. Anapol said that in a last-ditch effort to ensure equal protection for groups that encounter this in the future, he would ask the Senate to consider the following
Resolved Clause: “Resolved, that in future cases of bias or hate-motivated crimes against any student group, the ASUC Senate will provide appropriate support, both monetary and rhetorical, to the targeted group, regardless of its membership.”
Mr. Anapol said the idea was that even if a group didn't have the same support politically that SJP had in the Senate, the Senate will have committed itself to giving it the same treatment. He thought this would be good step in combating hate crimes and bias on campus in general.
Mr. Silver moved to call the question on SB 26, as amended. The motion to end debate was seconded by Mr. Jackson and passed with no objection.
Mr. Shams requested a roll call vote. The request was seconded by Ms. Ureña.
Roll call was taken on the motion to approve SB 26, as amended in committee and on the floor:
A motion to close the rolls was made and seconded by Mr. Jackson and Ms. Patel and passed with no objection. THE MOTION TO APPROVE SB 26, AS AMENDED IN COMMITTEE AND ON THE FLOOR, PASSED 14-2-1, RESOLUTION AGAINST HATE CRIMES AND FOR SOLIDARITY AT UC BERKELEY. [Voting comments were heard.]
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