By Emily Gerth
I often hear GSPP students expressing empathy with the Occupy movement, but also feeling unsure or wary about aligning themselves with a movement that (so far) lacks a clear policy goal. If you are one of those students, I would urge you to consider joining Berkeley Common Cause. As a student group, we organize campaigns on specific, policy issues that are very much in the spirit of the Occupy movement including reform of Proposition 13 in California, increasing the representativeness of our government institutions, and taking money out of politics.
Berkeley Common Cause is at the graduate and undergraduate student chapter of California Common Cause (www.commoncause.org/ca*)* at Cal. We work on good government and government reform issues. Your time commitment is up to you, and being a member will put you on our email list so that we can let you know about meetings and events. We usually hold meetings every 2-3 weeks on Wednesdays at 5:30, with some of the campaign subgroups meeting at different times. In the past, this has been a great networking opportunity for students, and a way to have a real world impact. We worked hard last year on Prop. 25 to help California start passing its budget on time and to eliminate the 2/3 requirements for passing a budget.
We currently have two campaigns going:
Reforming Prop. 13: One of our members is working for the ASUC (the student government at Cal) on a multi-year, UC-wide campaign to reform Proposition 13 because of its effects on state funding for higher education. If you’re interested, you can take part in things like planning education events (they just held one with Assemblymember Skinner on the budget), collecting student signatures in a postcard campaign to Gov. Brown to include revenue measures in his budget, and more. The campus-wide group meets regularly Fridays, but you can be involved even if you can’t make the meetings. There are opportunities to organize students at GSPP, Berkeley and across the state with the UCSA (UC Student Association).
Electing Students to Berkeley’s City Council: There hasn’t been a student on the City Council of Berkeley in over 20 years (since Nancy Skinner was elected while a UCB grad student). Currently, the student population is split into 4 districts, diluting our political power. We are working with the ASUC to advocate to redraw district lines to have a majority of students in 1 or 2 districts. This makes whoever is elected to represent that district (hopefully a student) more accountable to student voters. If Actions could include attending Berkeley City Council meetings, writing an OpEd, and more.
Critically for our chapter of Common Cause at Berkeley, we elect new leaders in December and many of us in leadership positions are graduating. If you have any interest in helping to run the club next year, now is a great time to get involved! As a leader, you can shape the group’s agenda for the next year, work to organize and engage the hundreds of students on our list-serv, and leverage the resources of both Cal and Common Cause to work for change.
If any of this appeals to you, I encourage you to write to: info AT berkeleycommoncause.org to join our mailing list or contact me.