The UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Senate discussed a bill that would create a position to facilitate community among executive offices at their May 11 meeting. The bill — titled “Supporting the Creation of the Executive Commission” — is scheduled for a vote in their upcoming meeting on May 18.
Senator and third-year political science and philosophy double major Abigail Merkel authored the bill to create a new position, Commissioner of Community and Climate (C.C. Commissioner), in Associated Students (A.S.) executive offices. According to the legislation, the C.C. Commissioner would foster community between executive offices by hosting bonding events and evaluating morale in an attempt to rid A.S. of internal conflict.
“The idea is that if we’re all friends with each other, and we all hang out with each other, then we’ll be less likely to have A.S. toxicity,” Merkel said during the Senate meeting.
If passed, the bill will go into effect January 2023 and allocates $900 honoraria total per quarter to create new positions in the Office of the President, Office of the External Vice President of Local Affairs and Office of the Student Advocate (OSA) respectively.
The position would not be implemented in the Office of the Internal Vice President (IVP) and Office of the External Vice President of Statewide Affairs. Instead, the positions’ responsibilities would be absorbed by the deputy head of staff in both offices rather than exist as a new position. This happened “at the request of the executives,” according to Merkel.
According to the legislation, the primary responsibilities of the role would be sending quarterly evaluations to “analyze staff climate,” and facilitating bonding events within and across executive offices.
Merkel said much of the bill’s conceptualization came from incoming A.S. President Gurleen Pabla, a student sponsor of the bill. Pabla spoke at the Senate meeting about how her experience within Senate informed the bill and what she hopes it will achieve.
“A lot of the inspiration for this came from something that everyone in the Senate can say that they’ve experienced, which is a lot of disillusionment and a lot of division,” Pabla said. “Everybody in every [executive] office really works on something completely different, but I think that they could all really use a little bit more collaboration.”
The legislation describes “an overwhelming sense of dissatisfaction throughout the
Association regarding the turbulent climate within A.S.” and the need for “greater solidarity, friendship, and community within A.S.” Pabla said the bill — originally named the “Friends Commission” in its initial conception — works toward a goal of unity among members of A.S.
“A lot of the pushback was difficult to deal with, because honestly we saw this as the most uncontroversial bill of all time,” Pabla said. “We just want to create friends, that is Associated Students.”
After the Senate voted to table the bill and vote during its next meeting, IVP and fourth-year biology major Bee Schaefer said she previously had concerns with the legislation regarding its purview — for example, her belief that the positions’ duties could be carried out by an existing position in her office — that were resolved in meetings with Pabla.
“When an office writes legislation and bylaw changes for another executive office, it’s important that that executive is on the same page,” Schaefer said.
The legislation states that the C.C. Commissioners may “create plans to alleviate any grievances a member may have within the office” after holding quarterly evaluations. Some senators voiced confusion with the reporting role of the position.
Merkel said that the C.C. Commissioner does not engage in any actual conflict resolution, but is required to report abusive conduct or bullying to the Conduct and Ethics Committee. Additionally, they may recommend people to resources such as the OSA, Title IX and C.A.R.E. offices when receiving any concerning feedback such as one inflicting harm upon themselves.
“This person does not do any reprimanding,” Merkel said.
Merkel said in an interview with the Nexus that the ultimate goal is fostering a better environment, and she’s optimistic the bill can create a better A.S. as a whole, not just limited to its executive offices.
“I’m really hopeful that we start the change, and it has a ripple effect,” Merkel said.
The results of this vote will be posted online at dailynexus.com
A version of this article appeared on p. 7 of the May 19, 2022, print edition of the Daily Nexus.