ASUC Chief Communications Officer, or CCO, and transfer student Ryan Barba resigned from his position in the communications office along with the rest of his team at an ASUC Senate meeting Nov. 30, citing a lack of sense of belonging within the organization and feelings of alleged anti-transfer sentiment from senators.
Barba’s resignation was prompted by alleged criticisms of his work ethic and character made by Senators Tyler Mahomes and Manuel Cisneros during a senate meeting Nov. 16 after Barba left, according to Barba.
Responding to the allegations, Cisneros said he did not say anything anti-transfer, but rather expressed his dissatisfaction with the communication team’s work at the time and said he did not want Barba to be confirmed as CCO, since Barba was interim at the time.
“The only thing I brought up about transfers was the fact that Ryan did the transfer week which was not in his role,” Cisneros said in an email. “I thought it was a great event- but as the CCO, he should not be doing events for specific communities, this is in our bylaw 1401.”
During his time in office, Barba increased the ASUC’s Instagram followers and engagement, began revamping the organization’s website to make it more user friendly and helped design ASUC-branded merchandise, according to Giancarlo Fernandez, the ASUC executive vice president and a transfer student.
Additionally, Alfonso Marquez, chief of staff for the ASUC Office of the President and Executive Vice President and campus transfer student caucus chair, said Barba hired re-entry, system-impacted, formerly incarcerated, veteran and disabled students as part of his time and collaborated with the Transfer Student Center and the campus Center for Educational Equity and Excellence to promote student equity.
ASUC President Chaka Tellem and Senator Stephanie Wong stated that Barba was one of the best CCOs they’d seen in their years in the association during the Nov. 16 senate meeting, according to Marquez.
Following Barba’s resignation speech at the Nov. 30 senate meeting, Mahomes and Cisneros alleged that Barba was exaggerating his decision to leave. The two senators allegedly said at the meeting that transfer students are not recognized as marginalized and cannot be compared to racial minority groups.
“This is a horrible statement because racial/ethnic minority groups are significant parts of the transfer student community and so many others,” Barba said in an email. “This isn’t a race issue, a party issue, this is an anti-transfer student issue.”
Cisneros said he felt his original thoughts were miscommunicated as he understood Barba as trying to connect being a transfer student to a minority group, which is what Cisneros and Mahomes had a problem with.
Additionally, Cisneros expressed agreement that transfer students are a marginalized group but remained firm on there being a disconnect between transfer students and other minorities.
“(Transfer students) do have their share of harmful experiences. However, to make that connection with a cultural minority or sexuality cannot be made,” Cisneros said in an email. “People of BIPOC and Queer identities get hate crimed, profiled, and experience many levels of harassment.”
In response to Barba’s resignation and the events that followed, Fernandez posted a letter to his Instagram on Dec. 5 in support of Barba, addressing anti-transfer sentiment within the ASUC.
The letter was written in collaboration with the three other transfer student members in ASUC: transfer student representative Aileen Sanchez, Senator Yasamin Hatefi and Marquez, with signatures from current and former ASUC members.
“Ryan’s experience as a transfer student working in the ASUC is an anomaly in itself, given the fact that the ASUC has never been friendly towards transfer students, or minority students for that matter, or students who come from different backgrounds,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she feels that transfer students face a unique set of challenges due to their diverse ethnic, socioeconomic and academic backgrounds.
Identifying transfer students as an exclusively academic status diminishes the struggles transfer students went through to get into a four-year university, Sanchez added.
“I don’t have that same accessibility and socioeconomic and historical background like traditional students who enter into this university,” Sanchez said. “The fact that my personal experience is also being belittled … is just simply disrespectful and it’s just diminishing people’s experiences.”
Barba’s struggle with anti-transfer sentiment is one experienced by transfer students systemwide, according to Hatefi.
Transfer students struggle to get involved in student life, typically being older than traditional four-year students or coming to campus as juniors, Sanchez said. Furthermore, it can be difficult to gain acceptance into clubs due to a preference for first years and inequitable recruitment timelines.
“There’s this internal bias, given that most of the senators elected in the senate are traditional incoming students from high school,” Sanchez said. “It’s very uncommon for someone as a transfer student to have the opportunity to run in the senate or work in the senate itself, given the short time that we have (at UC Berkeley).”
Since the Nov. 30 meeting, Mahomes has drafted a bill titled “Promoting the Inclusion of Transfer Students in RSOs” in response to the raised concerns of anti-transfer sentiment.
However, Marquez alleged that Mahomes did not consult Sanchez, Hatefi or Fernandez while writing the resolution, only asking for their signatures in support.
“Historically, the ASUC has gone to the communities of a bill and asked them, ‘How can we support you? Is this bill good enough? Can we make it stronger?’ ” Marquez said.
Mahomes was unable to comment on the matter due to illness.
Fernandez, Hatefi, Marquez and Sanchez are now working to add a Transfer Advocacy Department to attract more transfer student leadership, according to Fernandez. The four of them, along with Barba, hope to shine a new light on transfer student issues and advocate for inclusion.
“The statement that we made was just to say that we will continue to fight for real equity and inclusion,” Sanchez said. “Not only in the senate, but also in school, and we’re just trying to change the culture starting from us, starting now.”