During Wednesday night’s Associated Students Senate meeting, students came to public forum to voice opposition against a bill that would restrict food budgets, while senators unanimously passed an update to the A.S. elections code and adopted a new official logo.
Last week, senators passed a bill that restricts the amount of money Boards, Committees and Commissions (BCCs) can spend on food during the quarter to $500 or less. Senators Andrew Neiman and Jimmy Villarreal authored the bill in order to combat “excessive expenditures on food at meetings,” and stipulated that groups will only be able to spend money on food for events or programs, quarterly banquets and meetings with attendance exceeding 75 people.
Third-year sociology major Navkiran Kaur, who sat on the senate last year, was the first student to present at public forum in opposition to the bill. According to Kaur, restricting food budgets will hurt low-income students who depend on free food from the organizations.
“A lot of students, with their meetings and classes and all the things that they do, don’t even have time for meals and I think it’s the least A.S. can do with their own student fees to provide a couple of snacks for students during meetings,” Kaur said.
While saying it is “really inappropriate” to limit food, particularly for low-income students, Kaur called the bill “classist” and said it “definitely screwed over a lot of students who depend on these meals.” She also brought up the question of whether or not the bill would affect the A.S. Food Bank, whose specific goal is to provide food for those who cannot afford it otherwise.
Several members of A.S. Community Affairs Board (C.A.B.) also came to public forum in order to contest the bill. One member discussed the bi-quarterly dinner that C.A.B. provides for children of UCSB students, saying they wondered if the organization would still be able to provide it with the restriction. PR Coordinator Kari Newman said 75 to 90 percent of new members come to meetings for the food, and that C.A.B. even uses the hook “great food, great friends” while tabling to attract participation.
Co-chair Kaitlyn Christianson, who also sat on the senate last year, echoed the idea that food was a main attraction for participation at meetings. She said although students may initially come for the food, they oftentimes find opportunities for community involvement and actually take part in campus organizations. Additionally, Christianson made the argument that since C.A.B. uses the Isla Vista Food Co-op for food, the money they spend goes back towards the community.
Senators did not devote much time to discussing the food bill, however they did establish an ad hoc committee to look into the concerns that were presented at public forum. Senator Arezu Hashemi said she acknowledged the necessity of discussing the bill.
“I think that this is a good discussion to have,” Hashemi said. “If we want to talk about it on our own, I think that we should make an ad hoc for it — that way the BCCs can get involved.”
During the Bills and Resolutions portion of the meeting, senators passed changes to the A.S. Elections code. Last year, changes to elections code consumed the senate for weeks, resulting in meetings that lasted 10 to 12 hours, during which senators debated, voted, were vetoed by the A.S. President and then voted to overturn the presidential veto. This year, elections code passed by consent, meaning that not a single senator objected to the changes.
The most significant changes to the elections code include allowing independent candidates to spend an additional $100 on their campaigns as compared with last year, and extending the recruitment period for elections from two weeks to three weeks. Otherwise, the code remains relatively unchanged.
Also at the meeting, Executive Officers delivered reports during which External Vice President of Statewide Affairs Alex Choate reported on the progress being made towards establishing more online courses, and Senators passed a bill establishing an official A.S. logo.
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.