AS Beat Reporter
Tensions ran high at the Wed., Oct. 28 meeting of the Associated Students Senate, as senators voted on a number of complex and controversial issues. Senators deliberated on the recent presidential vetoes of two bills, and voted on bills regarding elections reform.
Students enrolled in the College of Creative Studies filled the audience in support of overriding AS President Jimmy Villarreal’s vetoes of A Bill to Establish AS Commissions for the CCS Student Council and the CoE Student Council and A Bill to Redefine the AS STARK Fund. A Bill to Establish AS Commissions for the CCS Student Council and the CoE Student Council creates a space within the Association for the two groups to gather and receive funding for individual or group research projects. Both student councils, which currently exist in a non-financial state, would receive thousands of dollars to allocate toward student research as they see fit. Members of any of the three colleges on campus would be able to receive the funds, so long as they attend an open meeting hosted by either CCS or CoE and present a proposal for funding. The passage of the bill would not have allocated funds directly to the councils, but would have established a space to discuss the technicalities of doing so.
A Bill to Redefine the AS STARK Fund would have done something similar, in a broader sense. Former AS Internal Vice President Angela Lau established the AS Science, Technology, Aerospace, Research and Kapital (STARK) fund in 2013 while serving as off-campus senator to give UCSB students the chance to receive Association-funded grants for their science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) projects. The fund — which was not to exceed $10,000 — was established to allow students to request funding from AS; however, due to a lack of publicity, the fund is little-known and has never been used. Bill author and CCS Senator Dustin Larrazolo hoped to redefine the bill to allocate these funds to members of both the CCS and CoE student councils.
During public forum, CCS students and student council members spoke in support of overriding the vetoes. During deliberation of the vetoes, over a dozen CCS students stood up in the Flying A Room for over an hour, in solidarity with the push to override the vetoes.
“CCS has existed since 1967,” first year CCS biology major Katie Feerst said. “We’ve been at UCSB for a very long time and we’ve yet to get student representation and funding. It takes away from what it means to be a collective college. We’re smaller than the College of Letters and Science, which creates a divide that really shouldn’t be there because we should be able to integrate with the rest of the [university].”
During his executive report, Villarreal further clarified his reasons for vetoing the bill. Villarreal stated that he could not pull much from prior knowledge, as a bill like this had never been introduced during his two terms as senator. In his interpretation of AS Legal Code, he believed that the job of the Association was to supplement extracurricular activity for UCSB students, rather than provide funding for academia, as that was the job of the various departments on campus.
“This shifts the mission of the Associated Students,” Villarreal said. “We are the extracurricular, but what is the minimal thing that the university provides? An education. Turning us into an academic body changes what we do.”
Villarreal also shared his concern that AS already houses over 30 boards, commissions, committees and units, and adding another two would be overwhelming. In the veto statements released on Mon., Oct. 26, Villarreal also stated his concerns that this shifts the responsibility and power of financial matters away from the Senate Finance and Business Committee, to delegate to various groups. As president, Villarreal has vetoed more bills and resolutions from the Senate than his past four predecessors combined.
In the ensuing hour-and-a-half-long debate, various senators brought up what they believed could potentially go wrong with the bill. While the consensus was that most, if not all, members of the Senate were in favor of funding academia in addition to enriching student experiences, some worried about the logistics of doing so.
“[CCS and CoE] know how to spend the money better than we spend the money, so if they recommend that things should be spent on this grant, then yeah, I would go with them,” Off-Campus Senator Louis Mariano said. “I trust their judgment more than I trust mine.” Mariano stated that it is within the right of the Senate to strike commission minutes, which list funding requests, should they disagree with something that the student councils would theoretically approve.
Senate failed to override both vetoes, in a 10-12-0 secret ballot vote on A Bill to Establish AS Commissions for the CCS Student Council and the CoE Student Council, and a 10-11-1 hand vote on A Bill to Redefine the AS STARK Fund. Both bills were reintroduced at Senate the same night, with different language and premises, and have been sent to the Senate Campus Affairs Committee.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Larrazolo expressed his disappointment with the Senate’s decision.
“Essentially what happened tonight was that two colleges who are underserved and underrepresented in the body of ASUCSB were silenced,” Larrazolo wrote in a message. “The Faculty Executive Committee of CCS, our Dean, and the students of CCS and engineering sought out a platform in AS in which their voices and concerns can be heard. A few senators chose to fulfill political obligations due to personal interests and went on an unwarranted attack on the CCS and Engineering Student Councils. Unfortunately, Senate chose not to do its job today.”
The reintroduced version of the vetoed bills have been sent to the Senate Campus Affairs Committee, where they will be further discussed. Senate will vote on the new bills in an upcoming meeting.