Senate Rejects Reform, Voice of Student Body

Kevin Sabet is an ASUC Senator and chair of the Constitutional and Procedural Review Committee. Respond to him at [email protected]

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Last night, the ASUC Senate missed a unique opportunity to create significant, long-lasting and meaningful change in its policy by voting down a bill that would let students decide if campaign finance reform should be implemented in all student senate elections.

What bothers me about this is not so much that many of the senators are against campaign finance reform. Most disturbing to me, as someone who values student input greatly, is that my colleagues explicitly said no to hearing student opinion on an ASUC matter that affects everyone wanting to implement change in student life. At best, this vote can be viewed as individual senators imposing their personal views on how future student elections should be run. At worst, it is a direct gag on student opinion and sends a clear message that the senate does not care what the electorate has to say. This issue is not simply about campaign finance reform, but about student input on important ASUC procedural matters. The senate made the ASUC less accessible than it already is.

Having successfully won two ASUC elections, I can say with certainty that money was a factor in my triumphs --  but only a part. Granted, it would be naive to say that at a campus as large and diverse as UC Berkeley, it is easy to get your message across to the voters. Indeed, the amount of service groups, Greek houses, and residence halls alone, not to mention the swarm of potential voters walking in Sproul Plaza make it virtually impossible for a candidate to have his message heard by everyone via word of mouth. But picket signs and the treasured fliers that candidates pass out are only some of the components to a winning campaign. I don't pretend to know all the secrets, but I will tell you that one-on- one interactions with students goes much further than a complicated piece of literature that usually gets thrown out.

An important point is that the limits set forth in this initiative are not, by any stretch of the imagination, unreasonable. Two hundred dollars for a senate campaign is precisely what many of my colleagues and I spent on our winning campaigns. Most would also agree that with a little innovation, $1,000 for an executive campaign is a sufficient amount. Do we really need a couple thousand dollars worth of paper to help us choose the right candidate?

The key to the rationale behind campaign finance reform is accessibility. If the ASUC is only accessible to those who can spend a lot of money on a campaign or intimidate others with their grandiose statements of how much money they plan to spend, then how are we really serving all students? It is shameful that the ASUC, one of the largest student governments in the country, continues to obstruct candidates who cannot afford to compete with their opponents' extravagent campaigns.

Now I ask for your help. Since the ASUC Senate rejected putting this on the ballot, there will be a petition circulating around school to collect 1,000 signatures to have it placed on the ballot. The initiative itself is an ASUC constitutional amendment, and locates enforcement power with the judicial council -- a non partisan body of nine appointed students that make up the third branch of ASUC governance.

If you think the ASUC should be more accessible to students (or if you are sick of the fliers being shoved in your face every election season), then I hope you will join me in supporting this initiative. Let's work together to make the ASUC truly "serve students."


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