Free lab coats and no more week 10 finals? ASUCR debates spring agenda

ASUCR held their first senate meeting of spring quarter on Wednesday, April 4, beginning at 6:38 p.m.

The Associated Students Program Board (ASPB) led the meeting’s order of business, as board leadership Amanda Sanchez, Avit Patel and Ivy Son presented recent amendments to their constitution. Once the ratifications were covered, the members went on to announce that their new leaders had been selected and are awaiting approval, which will be voted on by the senate in next week’s meeting.

Following ASPB, the Student Voice Committee, represented by Committee Chair Jeffrey Ramos, Operations Director Malcolm Tran and Personnel Director Denis Turan, took the podium to present their progress with student opinion research. Having been active since the March of 2017, the committee is relatively new, but currently consists of 12 members and has the goal of using the data from both conducted and in-progress student surveys for campus applications.

The three reported on four surveys carried out during winter quarter of this year. One, which concerned students’ eating habits and opinions on campus food, surveyed 237 students and found that only 27 percent of those students believed they made healthy eating choices. The committee determined expensive prices attached to healthier food options to be one cause. Tran supported this point when he referenced a visit to Scotty’s that same day, where he bought a banana and “The banana (cost) three dollars, and a bag of chips (was only one) dollar.”

Another survey examined campus safety, where 68 percent of 142 students found the campus was safe, even though 89 percent had never used safety services. Another looked into textbook prices and found that 77 percent of 116 students believed them to be overpriced and 21 percent paid more than $200 a quarter for them. Academic advisors were the subject of the last survey, where 242 students collectively complained about low availability, time delays to the point of missed deadlines and no email responses. Currently, the committee is conducting a survey about student opinions on ASUCR.

During the presentation, the group was interrupted when California Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon entered the room to give a few words of appreciation to the senate for planning out his meet-and-greet with students at the Alumni and Visitors Center, which ended up being a full-house event. “(There were) incredible questions from the students, on all kinds of issues, as related to the American body of politics, what’s happening today and other issues,” Leon said, “whether it’s energy, whether it’s environment, whether it’s climate, whether it’s an issue of immigration.”

After the committee’s presentation, the senate went on to discuss their plans for the quarter and their progress in current projects. Notable points of discussion included CHASS Senator Mariam Alkhalili’s proposition of a “Dead Week,” where finals and exams cannot be issued during week 10 and Patrick Le’s idea of a free lab coat giveaway during the currently postponed CNAS Research Expo, initially brought up by Alkhalili in meetings last quarter.

In an email, Alkhalili elaborated on the origins of her Dead Week proposal but also pointed out that implementing it may not be entirely beneficial. “The idea of incorporating a dead week at UCR came from a friend that attends UCSB. It’s commonplace, however most dead weeks are not limited to normal class meetings and cause extreme levels of stress for some students,” Alkhalili explained. “This idea was not one that I officially decided to pursue because I believe that there could be logistical issues that may impact some students.”

Alkhalili went on to conclude that implementing a Dead Week will require thorough discussion among the senate. “This will be a difficult idea to incorporate, but I will only move forward with it if I believe that it will generally be helpful to the majority of students. As of now, I hope to continue conversations with other Senators to fully weigh the pros and cons of this idea,” wrote Alkhalili.

Concerning the lab coat giveaway, Senator Le elaborated on the source and amount of funding the coats would need in an email interview. “Jose (VP of finance) and I have agreed to use the contingency funds as our source of funding. We shall be investing roughly $3.5K to $5K for the lab coats.” ASUCR’s contingency funds refer to money that has not yet been allocated in a particular budget.

During the meeting, Le announced that the senate will hold a vote on purchasing 250-300 lab coats, but in the email stated that he doesn’t plan to give them out all at once. “We plan on purchasing 250 – 300 lab coats in total,” Le responded. “Although, I plan to only give out 150 coats for the CNAS research expo.” The CNAS Research Expo will be Monday, May 21 in HUB 302 beginning at 10 a.m.

Le went on to say that a graduation gown giveaway is also in the works and that he also plans on instituting a “Highlander Pride Scholarship,” with further information on both to be released at a later date.

In the meeting, Orozco raised a counter argument to Le’s proposal, stating that because it is already spring quarter, a majority of students have already purchased lab coats due to labs from the previous quarters. CNAS Senator Matt Shashaty brought up a potential unintended consequence of the giveaway, citing the possibility of lab coat winners scalping their coats for profit in the following quarters. The date of the vote for the proposal and the giveaway is to be announced.

ASUCR’s next senate meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 11 in HUB 221 beginning at 6:30 p.m.

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