State Assembly member Das Williams signed a pledge to vote against future cuts to the University of California’s state funding last week after students protested his vote in support of the $650 million decrease in UC funding last June.
The agreement, negotiated between Williams and the Associated Students External Vice President of Statewide Affairs office, stipulates that Williams will no longer vote in favor of cuts to education funding and will work to compose legislation that creates more student regent positions on the UC Board of Regents. The movement began with a petition drafted early this quarter that expressed disapproval of Williams’ legislative choices and garnered almost 200 signatures within its first hour of circulation.
EVPSA Campus Action Liaison Alex Choate, a second-year political science major, said Williams responded to students’ concerns by requesting a meeting with A.S. EVPSA Ahmed Mostafa in an attempt to make amends with his largest constituency.
“Once he caught wind of [plans for the petition], he felt that his re-election might be jeopardized because we basically voted him into office,” Choate said. “He immediately contacted Ahmed and wanted to talk to him to feel things out.”
Mostafa said Williams’ vote for decreased education spending came as a surprise, as he has historically been a strong advocate for student interests. However, Mostafa said the pledge will hold Williams — who represents the 35th Assembly District — accountable to the UCSB students who comprise a large portion of his voters.
“Due to the fact that we’re number one in the nation when it comes to voter registration, we are the ones that elect Das Williams,” Mostafa said. “It’s important for him to keep students in mind.”
According to Williams, the assembly introduced the cut as a means of stalling an impending budget deficit, causing him to cast his vote with mixed feelings.
“No Republican was willing to vote even for the extension of the tax rate and we felt like that didn’t make any sense,” Williams said. “We had to fix something that had been going on for five or six years. Republicans were cutting too many taxes and some Democrats were spending too much.”
Executive pay raises and other poor funding decisions within the university system also contribute to the state’s inclination to sacrifice UC funding, Williams said.
“It makes us look bad — like we don’t need the money,” Williams said. “When money is misallocated, it doesn’t help us advocate for money for higher education.”
Although Mostafa said Williams’ vote disregarded the views of his constituents in Isla Vista, he agreed that partisan conflict and poor handling of state funds were also to blame.
“[His vote] definitely [did] not reflect student interests, but we understand the bind he was in trying to close the $26 billion deficit,” Mostafa said.
According to Choate, students’ lobbying efforts are an effective way to show Williams that students plan to hold him accountable for his policy decisions.
“I think he will think twice before voting for something that increases tuition twice for the UC student,” Choate said. “Initially, I think he was supporting [the decreased funding] because he doesn’t think we’re paying attention to what he’s doing. Obviously that petition disproves that theory to him and I think now he’ll be more conscious of what he’s supporting.”
Despite the success of the resolution and other resistance efforts on campus, Williams said students must follow through with their demands by taking their grievances to the Regents as well as the state government.
“I reminded the people who did the petition [that] no one from the UC system was against the cuts,” Williams said. “As a matter of fact, a lot of people from the UC were saying, ‘We’re going to suck it up and take the cut along with everyone else.’”