Kalan K. Birnie
Still in session virtually this semester, ASUSF Senate, the undergraduate student government, continues to consider resolutions to enact.
Over the summer, Senate passed the Resolution 20-21-01: “First Steps to Change Resolution,” allocating $1,000 each to the Bay Area Anti-Repression Committee and the USF Black Student Union. The resolution also affirmed a Senate commitment to increased engagement and outreach with ethnically focused groups at USF.
In their Sept. 16 meeting, Senate passed Resolutions 20-21-02, -03, and -04. These resolutions cover student emergency funds, Public Safety reform, and student representation on the Board of Trustees.
Resolution 20-21-02: “Resolution for the Regulation of Public Safety Rounds in Residence Halls,” submitted by Senior Class Representative Rebecca Muñoz and former freshman representative D’Vine Riley, encourages reform of Public Safety practices. The resolution cites anecdotes of Public Safety officers frequently patrolling the halls of the Marshall-Riley Living Learning Community (LLC), a LLC for Black students to learn about Black history and community engagement.
ASUSF Senate does not have authority over the Department of Public Safety, but Muñoz emphasized that this resolution is still an important step and pointed out that Senate works to highlight concerns of the community.
“The point of this resolution is to institutionalize the changes already made, along with the changes we are advocating for,” Muñoz added. “That way, future senators or administrators have a paper trail regarding the policies that we have agreed to.” She also emphasized that in some instances, it is important to assert that public safety reforms are supported by the student body.
Brianna Johnson, president of the Black Student Union, which was listed as a supporter of the resolution, declined to comment for this story.
According to Dan Lawson, senior director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS), the department has enacted a number of reforms internally over the past few years. Lawson worked with Riley and BSU last school year to help craft this resolution.
“We understood that it needs to be done,” Lawson said. “Public Safety, and law enforcement nationwide, needed to acknowledge the history of racism in the country.”
Lawson explained that the DPS has also changed policy regarding where officers patrol. In the past, officers would regularly patrol residence halls. This was done with community policing in mind, Lawson said. He acknowledged that it had an adverse effect on the comfort of some students. Now, officers on their standard rounds will check in with the front desk of a residence hall and will only enter hallways when responding to a call.
Due to COVID-19, those standard procedures have been modified again. When the University sent students home in March, “SHaRE staffing went way down,” Lawson said. “They didn’t have CAs, they didn’t have RAs. But we still had students on campus.”
While the students on campus are limited to essential housing, Public Safety was asked to pick up some of the slack left by a decrease in SHaRE student staff. Lawson emphasized that officers are not heavily policing the halls. He described officer roles as making sure public walkways and stairways are well-lit and clear of obstructions or other safety hazards.
The third resolution of the year, “Increased Support for the Dons Emergency Fund,” was co-submitted by all five ASUSF Senate executives: President John Iosefo, and Vice Presidents Diammyra Cruz, Sarah Ali, Tanya Sanjay, and Brooke Perry. The resolution commits $15,000 from the ASUSF reserves to bolster the Dean’s Emergency Fund. Students facing financial hardship during the pandemic can apply for a one-time grant of up to $600 from the fund.
“I believe that the Emergency Fund is a great way to support students at a time like this, but it is not the only way we are helping students,” Iosefo wrote in a statement. “We are trying our best to help students in every way possible- whether it be through the Emergency Fund or through the financing of student organizations or even by helping address their concerns with the administration.”
The idea arose after an informational meeting between Senate and the Dean of Students’ office.
“Senate contacted us with questions about the Emergency Fund,” Dean of Students Shannon Gary said in an email. “After that conversation the members of Senate who participated offered to put forth a resolution to support the Emergency Fund financially.”
As of Sept. 14, the Dean’s Emergency Fund had dispensed approximately $177,000 to 436 students, Gary told the Foghorn.
Fourth is a resolution based primarily in Senate bureaucracy. Resolution 20-21-04: “ASUSF President Advisory Committee for the Board of Trustees,” introduced by Iosefo, creates a committee of students, primarily ASUSF executives and senators, for the ASUSF President to consult. The student body president sits as a non-voting student representative on the Board of Trustees, which meets once per semester.
A common refrain among student protestors over the past few years has involved increased student representation on the Board of Trustees. Beginning this year, a second student position was added to the Board. “Being a student representative, especially to a body like the Board of Trustees, is an extremely difficult job,” Iosefo said. “By nature of the position, there are very few people who know what you are going through and discussing in these committees. A committee like this would help students get more comfortable in their positions and would make a difficult job a bit easier.”