Liaw Asks For End to Divisive Politics





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Repeating last year's rhetoric of toning down on divisive partisan politics, ASUC President Teddy Liaw exhorted senators in their first meeting Wednesday to work together "regardless of party."

In first campus speech as president, Liaw touted the budget surplus, voiced support for increased funding of student groups and pledged to enact 40 student projects before his term ends.

"It is our turn to drop the party banners and replace them with the mantle of leadership," Liaw said. "We should no longer be divided by partisanship, but rather we must be unified by a desire to serve the students."

His comments come after a bitter partisan election last spring marred by questions of the ethical conduct of several candidates and parties.

Liaw detailed a plan that would expand the functions of student identification cards to include that of a debit card. His plan would allow cards to be swiped at local businesses and students would be charged on their university bill.

He also promised new programs on campus such as the opening of a 24-hour computer facility in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union building and the reopening and renovation of The Bear's Lair.

In addition, Liaw vowed to keep and restore the Cal Lodge, an ASUC-owned ski resort near Lake Tahoe that has been losing $30,000 annually.

"As long as I am in office, we will not sell the last symbol of our independence," Liaw said.

For the first time in recent memory, the student government has a financial surplus, having paid off its $6 million debt to the university, Liaw said. He noted a 20 percent budget increase for funding student groups, giving them a total of $100,000, and lauded the increased funding for popular programs such as SUPERB, the ASUC's entertainment wing.

During its first session of the year, the ASUC Senate allocated annual stipends to several staff members, including $2,000 to the executive vice president's chief of staff, $1,000 to the senate's communications director, $1,000 to the senate finance officer and $1,000 to the editor of the ASUC Monthly.

But not all present shared Liaw's optimism for the coming year and his faith in the ASUC's ability to overcome party politics.

Independent Senator Joanne Liu, who received the most votes of any senate candidate in the spring elections, said she has already seen evidence of party politics in the infancy of her term. She referred to party officials conferring with senators throughout the meeting.

"I can already see a divisiveness," Liu said. "Party people are already talking amongst themselves in their parties, determining the outcome of votes before the vote. Hopefully we can still work together."

Tel Cary-Sadler, a Cal-SERVE party senator, said it would be impossible to erase the intense party politicking that has affected the senate in previous years, although he said he looks forward to a less tense, less partisan year.

Squelch! Senator Richard Schulman said senators have committed to be nonpartisan and goal-oriented, but said he still sees an ideological difference between the two dominant parties, Cal-SERVE, which controls five seats in the 20-member senate, and Student Action, which occupies all five executive positions and seven senate seats.

One former senator who was at the center of last year's party schism said that the senate has a difficult task before it.

"It's up to the ASUC to gain the trust of the students this year," said Chris Wendt, chair of the APPLE Party. "When 70 percent of students in a poll say they think the ASUC doesn't do anything, we see there's a lack of faith (in the student government)."

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