ASUCR condemns ‘discriminatory’ Riverside housing policy

Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER
Aaron Lai/HIGHLANDER

The first ASUCR senate meeting on Oct. 7 witnessed the passage of a resolution to condemn a Riverside city ordinance, which may lead to the possible termination of student renters. President Sai Patadia also released a public statement opposing the final contract between the UC and the service workers’ union, AFSCME 3299, accusing the contract of offering unfair wages. Other notable initiatives included the “Sustaining the C” project and finalization of ASUCR’s Bear Den within the former Exchange store.

During the public forum session, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jim Sandoval gave his welcoming remarks to the newly-appointed senate of 2013-2014. “I said it at the end of last year, that ASUCR, over the last several years, has continued to elevate itself to a new level … I am genuinely looking forward to working with each and every one of you as we continue through this journey to really enable the entire campus to more fully meet the needs of our students,” said Sandoval.

Back in mid-February, senators discovered that the golden C — built back in 1957 — atop of the Box Springs Mountains was expected to disintegrate and eventually erode into the earth. As a result, Patadia is starting the “Sustaining the C” project, which aims to encourage student organizations to partake in preserving the C through bi-monthly community service.

“Over the last five years, there’s been a lot of environmentalists that are concerned … in regards to people hiking, leaving trash, broken bottles and hurting the environment around the C,” said Patadia. “The idea is students can create a campaign through a project to essentially sustain the C.” Patadia is currently holding close collaborations with Interim Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Chuck Rowley, Vice Chancellor Sandoval, Dean of Students Susan Allen Ortega and various campus departments in order to push through this initiative.

Patadia turned to another project — approved by ASUCR in December 2012 — entitled the Bear Den resolution, which permitted student organizations to rent out the allocated space within the former Exchange store. “Right now, we’re working on the logistics of how we’re going to work on the space (and design) … so it’s going to have a more homey feeling.” Patadia is currently collaborating with the Highlander Union Building (HUB) directors to finalize all plans and the expected grand opening is slated for winter quarter.

A common thread throughout the senate meeting involved the passage of a previously-approved Riverside city ordinance back on Aug. 13, which requires homeowners to obtain a permit when leasing to more than two unrelated residents in single-family housing; city law mandates a maximum of four unrelated residents per household. Immense opposition arose from senators, including Senator Fernando Echeverria, who condemned the ordinance as creating a penalty system toward homeowners who rent out to students.

“Regardless with all of the people who stood out there — students and members of the community who stood and spoke to the city council and said ‘do not pass this’ — the city council still passed this ordinance 4-2 and it is a damn shame,” said Vice President of External Affairs Kareem Aref. “You should all be upset about this, if you’re not already.”

In discussions with the Fair Housing Association, Patadia said “Legally, students cannot be kicked out of their houses, in the event that a permit is implemented on a certain household.”

According to Alyssa Gray, a fifth-year public policy major with concentrations in environmental policy and international law, “You will be subject to dismissal or put on academic probation, if you are found guilty of violating any ordinances or codes that the city has passed.” This led her to author, “A Resolution to Condemn the Riverside Municipal Codes Targeting University Students,” which was later put up for a vote through the senate.

Gray argued that homeowners and renters found in violation of the city ordinance may also be dealt additional fines to pay for the number of officers who were dispatched at the scene of the crime. “Not only will your landlord be subject to these fines … but also you as a tenant and anyone who is been deemed to have been responsible for gathering.”

ASUCR Chair of the Legislative Review Committee Aaron Johnson doled out the housing resolution with unanimous senate approval. The resolution cites, “Whereas, on Sept. 28, 2013, a small gathering of around 20 friends who were convened in a private residence for a movie night after Block Party when the police arrived because of a noise complaint.” The event led to the dispatchment of over 10 police officers who blocked the streets and subjected under-aged students to a sobriety test without permission from their parents — for a duration of three hours.

“Therefore, be it resolved that ASUCR officially condemned ordinances targeting the university community specifically students renting homes in neighborhoods surrounding the University of California, Riverside. Be it further resolved that in order to foster law-abiding students … ASUCR stands in solidarity with students by recognizing the need for an educational campaign on ordinances in light of the events on (that day),” reads the resolution.

Another notable action taken by the senate involved President Patadia releasing a public statement condemning the contract between the UC and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees 3299 — the largest service workers’ union in the UC, representing 20,000 systemwide workers at the 10 campuses and five medical centers.

“The UC has a mission about affordability and accessibility in obtaining a higher education and yet its administrations are imposing cuts on the lowest paid employees in the UC system,” said Patadia. “Because of the course of the university’s decision to implement an unfair contract onto its workers, I, as president of ASUCR, would like to publicly ask the university administration to return to the bargaining table and to negotiate a contract that fairly represents the needs of the workers that are so vital to our students and to our university.”

Weekly senate meetings are on Mondays at 6:30, located in the Senate Chambers.

Senate Highlights:

  • President Sai Patadia hopes to create a UCR mobile app, which will integrate campus activities into one central network and allow commuters to stay in the loop.

  • Executive Vice President Armando Saldana expressed his aim to finalize a senator bylaw, in order to “build direction” for each position, but stated it was “one of the most difficult” tasks.

  • Vice President of External Affairs and UCSA President Kareem Aref expanded the external branch into three components: legislative, action-oriented and the Student Organized Voter Access Committee (SOVAC) branch.

  • Over 20 positions were approved during the senate meeting, with notable ones including Jackie Jacoby becoming ASUCR Executive Assistant to Chief of Staff.

  • Amid student protests over her recent appointment, senators discussed UC President Janet Napolitano’s systemwide tour with an expected visit to UCR in mid-November.

  • Vice President of External Affairs Kareem Aref reported that the Students of Color Conference is slated for Nov. 15-17 and will take place at UCLA.
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