Wednesday night’s ASUC Senate meeting erupted in controversy for the first time this year, as the ASUC’s responsibility to comment on foreign issues and the truth behind India’s government relations with Kashmir were called into question.
The meeting started out relatively calmly, as Oscar Dubón, Jr., campus vice chancellor for the Division of Equity and Inclusion, opened the meeting with a general overview of his division.
Dubón gave the ASUC senators information about the Division of Equity and Inclusion’s goals for this year. He said the division will prioritize making the campus a certified Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI. It will also work on space issues, especially for disabled and indigenous communities, as well as release data and make recommendations on campus diversity efforts based on the results from last year’s My Experience survey.
“The best solutions to society don’t happen when we are all coming from the same experience,” Dubón said. “They happen when diverse inputs and views come in to address a challenge.”
UCPD Chief Margo Bennett also addressed the senate for the first time this year. ASUC senators asked Bennett about increased community service officer, or CSO, patrols of residence halls and Lower Sproul Plaza, among other locations. She said the department recently received funding to increase the number of CSOs it is currently hiring.
Nicole Anyanwu, an ASUC senator, asked Bennett about an update on an incident involving two minors who were handcuffed by UCPD officers in University Village in July. According to Bennett, an independent investigation is currently being conducted, and findings will be made public when the report is finalized.
The ASUC Senate broke out in controversy when Milton Zerman, an ASUC senator, motioned to table the senate resolution “Condemning the Government of India for the Revocation of Articles 370 and 35a,” which involves Kashmir’s autonomy from India. During public comment, Rudra Reddy, a campus senior with ties to India and Kashmir and a former columnist for The Daily Californian, criticized the senate’s fact-finding and intention behind the bill, which led to a 30-minute discussion.
Zerman also argued that the bill, if passed, was purely symbolic and would make no difference, adding that he felt the senate should focus on issues closer to campus.
“You can pass symbolic bills, but what is the symbolism about?” Reddy said.
Senators Sumrit Grewal, Haazim Amirali and Sitara Bellam as well as External Affairs Vice President Varsha Sarveshwar agreed that the bill was symbolic but argued that it was important to different communities on campus and family members who might see the resolution.
Amirali added that extensive research went into the bill, rebutting Reddy’s claims that the information was false. Rebecca Soo, an ASUC senator, also said the senate’s External Affairs Committee, of which she is a member, fact-checked each item of the bill.
“I’m not going to stand here and let this let our communities be silenced by a political disagreement,” Amirali said. “We are going to stand up for our communities.”
Despite these claims, Reddy still said he believed the information was false, adding that this troubled him.
The bill passed the senate with a vote of 19-1 with Zerman in the minority. While it doesn’t have any official action items, the bill suggests the ASUC further investigate possible ties between the campus and the government of India.
“It means a lot to the Kashmiris on this campus and actually around the world,” Grewal said. “We are passing the symbolic bill, because it recognizes that there are human rights violations going on in Kashmir. Staying silent as the (Middle Eastern, Muslim, Sikh, South Asian) senator, that’s not going to do me any good.”