2016-17 Year in Review

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Compiled by: Evan Ismail, SSW and Andreas Rauch, SSW

Several events occurred at a local, national and global stage throughout the 2016-17 school year that impacted the UCR community. Below we highlight and recap a few of the major events the News section’s Year in Review.

 

October 2017: Former U.S. Undersecretary of Education comes to campus

Ted Mitchell, now-former U.S. undersecretary of education, spoke at the launch of the Living the Promise campaign. Living the Promise is a $300 million campaign that seeks to raise money for constructing new buildings, providing more financial aid to underprivileged students and fund new research ventures.

Mitchell spoke about the need for improvement in the California education system, especially with the high number of students in need of math remediation when they start in the California State University system, likening remediation to being told, “immediately that you’re not on the starting line but 75 yards back.” Mitchell explained that in order to bridge the “75 yard deficit,” there needs to be more career and college readiness taught to students in high school.

The speech ended with Mitchell imploring communities to continually invest in education and lauded UCR for creating an institution through extensive community work. Mitchell said UCR has shown that through hard work and diversity, “the future is always invented in California, and from where we sit, the future looks pretty bright.”

 

November 2016: Donald Trump is elected the 45th President of the United States

Republican Donald J. Trump was elected as the 45th president of the United States in a historic victory against challenger Democrat Hillary Clinton, the former U.S. secretary of state. Clinton earned 228 electoral college votes to Trump’s 290.

Clinton, however, did win the popular vote with 60,981,118 with Trump winning 60,350,241, a margin of 630,877 votes.  

Trump controversially began his campaign with remarks toward illegal Mexican immigrants, stating, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re bringing rapists and some I assume are good people.”

Trump very quickly emerged as the Republican Party’s frontrunner clinching the Republican nomination in July 2016 unopposed, as all of his challengers had dropped out of the race beforehand.

Trump won key swing states including Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio and Pennsylvania, totalling 83 electoral votes, while Clinton won Democrat stronghold California as well as New York and Illinois with a combined total of 104 electoral votes.

Trump’s victory led to responses from students on campus and a week of protests and demonstrations throughout the Riverside community. The election was arguably the crux of a highly active year for student and community activists.

Trump was inaugurated on January 20th, 2017 and has since been plagued by scandals, including possible collaboration of his campaign with the Russian government on interfering in the U.S. elections.

At time of writing, Trump has a 39 percent approval rating.

In local politics, Jose Medina (D-61st District) was re-elected to the California Assembly, defeating opponent Hector Diaz. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) won the seat representing the 31st district in Riverside County. Mark Takano (D-41st District) retained his seat representing the 41st district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

State elections yielded Kamala Harris as California’s senator who succeeded Barbara Boxer.   

 

November 2016: Students shut down UC Regents meeting to protest tuition increase; Regents approve increase months later

Students from UC campuses traveled to the UC Regents meeting held at the UC San Francisco Mission Bay Conference Center to protest raising tuition at the UC and California State levels by $280 and $270, respectively.

The rise in tuition was meant to address the growing number of students the UC is taking in and to therefore remedy the lack of accommodations the system may have for new students.

This was met with harsh resistance from students who already struggle to meet the record-high tuition rates imposed by the regents.

In January 2017, the regents voted in favor of hiking the tuition to the mentioned rates, launching questions of how sustainable tuition increases are for the future of funding the UC.

 

May 2017:  Potential gender studies requirement gains momentum

A potential gender studies requirement long in the making seems to be approaching implementation this year. Proposed by former ASUCR member and gender studies activist Summer Shafer, the potential requirement would have replaced one of the “other” humanities classes that all UCR undergraduates must take in order to obtain their degree. The requirement would not increase graduation time and is fulfillable through a diverse selection of courses.

The requirement was once again brought before ASUCR and supported through the passing of a resolution. ASUCR’s support was meant to aid in the passing of the requirement by the UCR Academic Senate, a legislative body composed of faculty that has final say over curriculum. As of writing, the requirement is still stuck in the legislative process and under review in the Academic Senate.

Implementation of the requirement drew much criticism by students who view the requirement as ideologically-informed and unfair in that it attempts to promote such a controversial field as integral to one’s education. Defenders of the resolution argued that it would help improve students’ knowledge of the gender issues which pervade modern society.

If implemented, the requirement would only apply to incoming freshmen across all colleges, the year after it was passed. Criticism was levelled at this aspect too, as it was seen as implementing a controversial motion without subjecting one’s self to the same requirement.

 

May 2017: Governor Jerry Brown releases new budget plan; withholds $50 million from UC

On May 11, Governor Jerry Brown released his new budget plan for the state of California. According to the plan, the UC system would lose out on $50 million, now allocated towards other state institutions. This funding cut is allegedly in response to revelations that the UC Office of the President (UCOP) withheld approximately $175 million in a “reserve fund.”

Brown expressed concerns that UC administrator salaries are currently “way too high.” UC officials, however, claim that they are not worried about cuts, stating that they are fully prepared to meet the requirements set out by the state government for the release of these funds.

The UC budget cuts come amid budget increases in most other sectors of the state government. It is thought that cutting the UC budget while increasing others sends a signal that Governor Brown intends to curb out-of-control spending on UC projects.

The budget, which has been signed by the governor, will be released in the summer of 2017.

 

May 2017: ASUCR completes another year marked by a myriad of both achievements and marring scandals

The 2016-2017 year began with appointments of a variety of staff by the new ASUCR government. Of particular note was President Shafi Karim’s attempt to remove justice Samantha Fuentes due to her appointment not meeting proper criteria according to ASUCR rules.

The next major event involving ASUCR was an attempt from the Chancellor’s Office to place the ASUCR executive director (ED) under the oversight of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandoval. After initial delay, ASUCR began resisting the motion, citing its undermining of student oversight of ASUCR.  This resistance culminated in a senate resolution officially condemning these attempts.

ASUCR also expressed interest in greater transparency in the upcoming demolition of UCR family housing. Criticism was levelled at the UCR administration for lack of accountability to students as a whole, and thus ASUCR called for student representatives to sit on transitional housing councils and for the administration to send frequent reports to ASUCR in the interests of transparency and accountability. The according resolution passed unanimously.

In late January 2017, ASUCR voted in support to oust Sabra hummus from being sold at all retail locations on campus. The bill was brought to the senate’s attention by UCR’s chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine who alleged that the parent company of Sabra had financial ties with the Israeli military. The bill was hotly disputed mainly by UCR’s chapter of Hillel, a Jewish collegiate activism organization. The vote, which passed unanimously, was rejected by UCR’s administration who refused to take Sabra off the shelves.

Controversy became the defining aspect of ASUCR as the winter quarter began. President Karim was placed on leave for the remainder of the quarter, and his open position was now under challenge by the apparent next-in-line, 2015-16 runner-up Arturo Gomez. Gomez had been backed by the Judicial Council, but Karim’s challenge to this motion took the form of initiating action against Chief Justice Jo Gbujama and Vice Chief Justice Hayden Jackson. Gbujama and Jackson were vindicated as charges were dropped, and Gomez eventually was offered, and accepted, the position of president.

The controversy continued during election season, as the [YOUR]side political party was disbanded amid allegations of distributing non-binding non-compete agreements to their members. President Arturo Gomez then filed several cases against ASUCR members he believed to have engaged in corrupt and unethical practices. Among the targets of his campaign were former President Shafi Karim, Vice President of External Affairs Oscar Loera, Director of Personnel Alan Alcantara and seven ASUCR senators. The three executive staff were found not guilty, but the seven senators were each assigned a variety of penalties for their guilt in unethical practices.

Elections Director Marcy Kuo also brought a suit against now-former President Karim, citing a hostile environment during elections season, and multiple abuses of power in which Karim allegedly attempted to manipulate the election. Kuo also brought cases against various candidates, citing various violations which reduced the competitiveness of the elections.

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