General Patterns of ASUC Activity
Fall 1960 -- Spring 1963
The Associated Students of the University of California,
like any political system, can be analyzed by four variables: the political
culture in which the system is embedded; the power structure
within the system; the pattern of interests of the system's
groups and members; and the pattern of policies that emerges from
the interplay of power and interests.
Such a study in the present case demonstrates that the
overwhelming power of the administration has rendered the ASUC both passive and
apolitical. This passivity is the result not only of overt threats of administrative veto
but also of the narrow view that the ASUC has come to have of its own purpose.
I. The Political Culture of the ASUC: Restriction
Although the timidity of ASUC policy is due in part to
the power structure of the University and to the suffocation of certain kinds of
interests, it must be seen as stemming largely from the Procrustean bed in which the
Association has placed itself. All groups in the University community--administration,
faculty, students, and Association leaders--see the ASUC as a body of very limited scope
and accept this narrow scope as either proper or inevitable.
A. The Preamble. The Preamble of the
ASUC Constitution states: "We, the students on the Berkeley Campus of the University
of California, by authority of the President of the President of the University of
California and the Chancellor of this campus, in order to provide for the promotion,
maintenance and regulation of such matters as are delegated by them to the
student government, do ordain and establish this constitution." (Italics added.)
In December, 1961, Representatives Ken Cloke and Mike
Tigar proposed that this preamble be changed as follows: "We, the students at the
Berkeley campus of the University of California, in order to provide for the
representation of our common interests and the conduct of our common affairs, and, in
addition to insure effective conduct of such University activities as are administered by
students, do ordain and establish this Constitution." (Minutes, 12-5-61) As
stipulated in the ASUC Constitution, Article III, Section 5, a petition asking for a
referendum on the measure was signed by five per cent of the undergraduate student body.
The Constitution requires that a referendum be held in such circumstances.
Significantly, this proposed alteration of the
Constitution was not defeated by administration veto or even by the overt threat of veto.
Instead, ASUC President Brian Van Camp, the symbol and holder of ASUC power and authority,
refused to place the measure on the ballot. His explanation points up the narrow view that
the ASUC holds of its own authority.
"The Chair stated that the preamble to the ASUC
Constitution is not a matter over which students have jurisdiction. The preamble as it now
reads is required by the Kerr Directives and must be included in the constitution of each
student government at the University of California. He stated further that the amendment
contained in the petition, in light of the Kerr Directives, is illegal, and that he,
therefore, would not place it on the ballot." (Minutes, 12-5-61, p. 2) Van Camp's
view was upheld by a majority of the Executive Committee.
B. Because its authority to direct its
own affairs is seen as slender, the ASUC sees its instruments of protest as plea and
petition -- not demand. The self-imposed limits on authority show in the ends to which
ASUC policies are directed.
The Executive Committee meeting of March 6, 1962, offers
an example of the "humble petitioner" role. At this meeting, Representatives
Roger Hollander and Ken Cloke proposed adoption of a resolution, prompted by the
difficulties encountered in holding a rally against nuclear testing four days earlier:
"Be it resolved that the Executive Committee express its desire for a more open rally
policy...and that it express this desire to the Chancellor of the Berkeley campus and the
President of the University." (Minutes, March 6, 1962, p. 15) An amendment was
proposed by Representative Bill Storey that would have recommended reducing the required
prior notification from 72 to 24 hours. Dean Towle spoke, saying in effect that a reduction
in the time of notification was not possible. Mr. Storey then withdrew his amendment; the
final resolution called only for "a subcommittee to discuss with the Chancellor of
the University the possibility of instituting a more open rally policy." (Ibid.,
p. 19) It is possible that Dean Towle's intimation that no change would be made encouraged
the retraction of the amendment; significantly, however, there was little discussion of
it, and even the motion which was finally passed was criticized for its boldness.
These examples of the refusal of the Association to push
beyond an accepted narrow sphere of authority indicates a deeply ingrained awe of
administration authority. This awe reinforces the objective power position of the
administration. It is not necessary for administrators to restrain or restrict in such a
situation. This voluntary self-restriction to a narrow, ineffective sphere is certainly as
significant as administration power. The above are not instances of repression; they
indicate instead the long-term effects of benevolent guidance from above: timidity, narrow
perception of one's goals, and, consequently, immobility.
A comparison of the power of the University
administration and the ASUC leads to distinctly one-sided results. The ASUC's power is
solely delegated: it appoints student officials, sponsors some of the clubs that the
administration recognizes, and approves the budget. Other matters within its purview are
merely internal administrative details. The ASUC lacks sanctions: it can petition the
administration and exhort the students, but it cannot compel either on any matter. On the
other hand, the administration has the power to punish students with the ultimate sanction
of exclusion from the system itself.
This power relation is clear and explicit and has never
been successfully challenged by the students, although the faculty has exacted some
procedural guarantees of hearing and appeal for itself. The Preamble to the ASUC
Constitution, quoted above, states this relation. A case taken from the minutes of the
ASUC Senate will show it in action.
On October 31, 1961, Representative Ken Cloke proposed a
resolution of sympathy for an impending vigil protesting the resumption of nuclear testing
by the United States. Some discussion arose as to whether an Executive Committee's vote on
this resolution would be beyond its scope. In this instance, the self-stifling tendencies
of the ASUC were powerfully reinforced by Dean Towle's statement, as the Chancellor's
representative, that she would interpret approval of the resolution as a violation of the
University's Policy on Privileges of Student Organizations (Kerr Directives). (Minutes,
10-31-61, p. 10) The resolution was defeated.
This example shows the University's overwhelmingly
superior power. Approval of the resolution would have rendered the Executive Committee
liable to disciplinary action. In this case, the appearance of democratic discussion was
dropped. When it appeared that the Executive Committee would not automatically confine
itself to a very narrow view of its role, the authority of the University was invoked to
require them to do so.
An unfortunate effect of such exertion of power is that
it is demonstrably arbitrary and selective. An endorsement of the Berkeley Fair Housing
Ordinance in March of 1963 was not ruled inappropriate political and social action, while
an expression of sympathy for a group of students was.
III. The Pattern of Interests
Political interests are the ends sought by groups acting
within a political system. In the ASUC these interests range from the establishment of
folk dance clubs to the advocacy of political and social action.
A. Student interest groups. Power
determines how successfully a group's interests can be forwarded. In the case of the ASUC,
the power of the administration acts against the expression of the interests of those
student groups committed to political and social action. The University policy of
recognition of student groups discriminates between political or religious and
nonpolitical (or religious) groups. It permits the direct subsidy of groups whose goals
are noncontroversial and apolitical by allowing them to use University facilities for
regular membership meetings. Some groups benefit by the membership gained through the
advantage of meeting on campus as they maintain offices within buildings owned by the ASUC
and also benefit from the prestige conferred by use of the name of the University in their
official name. (The Spring, 1963 list of recognized organizations, in addition to student
government bodies and approved living groups, names about 130 organizations whose
activities are considered inoffensive.) The political groups, which the administration
does not "recognize", must hold membership meetings away from the campus and
compete for the space available at Stiles Hall and at religious centers. The expression of
their interests is restricted by the University regulations; non-political groups, having
no interests in political or social action, are in effect unregulated.
B. Regulation of interest expression through
student government. Just as the regulations on student organizations affect only
political organizations, so student interests as articulated through student governments
are apolitical and innocuous. We have seen examples of the ways in which the ASUC checks
itself and of the ways in which University power further checks political stands. The
University Regulation states:
"Student governments are established by the
University for the purpose of conducting student affairs on the campuses. Students with
widely varying political, religious and economic viewpoints give them financial support;
hence it is certainly not appropriate to permit student governments to speak either for
the University or for the student body with reference to the off-campus political,
religious, economic, international or other issues of the time. Therefore, student
governments ...may not take positions on any such off-campus issues." (UC Policies
Relating to Students and Student Organizations)
This exclusion of politics from student government leaves
two realms in which it may operate -- recreation and student welfare. These indeed are its
spheres of activity.
1. Recreation. The ASUC operates
recreation rooms and a bowling alley and sponsors choral, dance, beating and other groups
whose purposes are recreational. Recreation seems to be one area in which ASUC feels
competent to act and in which it takes its responsibilities seriously.
2. Student welfare. This area of
activity is apparently relatively narrowly defined by the ASUC, referring to courtesies
and conveniences extended to the students -- check cashing service, lockers in the
bookstore, campus maps, and so forth. The Association, of course, lacks power to improve
welfare in such substantive areas as housing. But its scope is not as limited in power as
it has been in practice. The ASUC Store offers an example of an area in which student
welfare could be increased without overstepping these bounds set by the administration and
punctiliously observed by a complaisant student organization. This store is operated by
the ASUC; its prices are similar to those of other bookstores near the campus. The ASUC is
fully responsible for the operation of this store and makes its policies. It could, if it
chose, operate the store as a cooperative, as do many student associations at other
colleges and universities. Or it could offer a mail-order discount service to students.
Both of these proposals have been made; neither has been implemented. A reason can perhaps
be found in the particular interests represented in the student government. As we have
sought to establish, it is not a forum for political discussion. However, it is a
potential source of funds for nonpolitical organizations. The profits of the store are
used to support these organizations -- Glee Club, Treble Clef, etc. These interests are
the ones that prevail in decisions about store policy.
IV. The Pattern of Policy
The interplay of power and interests determine policy
patterns in a political system. It follows that much can be inferred about power and
interests by an examination of a political system's pattern of decisions.
In the spring of 1963, Representative Keith Axtell
prepared a "Record of the ASUC Senate" which listed 25 of the most important
actions taken by the Senate that semester. This list is an enlightening record of the
pattern of policy of the ASUC. Eight of these actions represented nothing more than
requests for minor adjustments of the complex administrative machinery of the University:
a request to make available to Berkeley students the library and check cashing facilities
of other campuses (2-14-63); a request that two holidays be added to the calendar (3-7 and
3-14-63); a plea for more parking for motor scooters (3-14 and 4-30-63); a later deadline
to file study lists (4-2-63); a pamphlet for transfer students (2-28); and the
establishment of a small fund to make it easier for faculty members to entertain students
in their homes (4-18).
Two actions, which at first appear to be independent and
political, merely support positions taken publicly by the administration: the Senate told
the legislature that they favored increased faculty salaries (2-21) and opposed a bill
that would charge students for their college education (2-28). The Senate also decided to
join two existing programs, the School Resource Volunteers (2-28) (associated with the
Berkeley Unified School District) and charter flights to Europe at reduced rates (3-7).
They re-established the ASUC Student Forum (3-7), thus creating a way for individual
students to voice their opinions on political issues, but the Forum still could not
express a consensus of student opinion.
They took four actions purporting to deal with the
educational life of the students; a year-long "study in depth" (4-18) (of which
no further mention has been made, 18 months later); a committee to provide materials for
faculty course evaluation by the students (3-14) (no results -- perhaps SLATE has
effectively pre-empted this field); a method of curriculum evaluation for the faculty
(3-14); and a plea that more consideration be given to teaching ability when faculty
members are chosen (3-21).
They petitioned the faculty to experiment with the Honor
Code (3-14) and set forth the philosophy of such a code (3-28), but refused to poll
students on such a code.
They founded an ASUC Leadership Training camp, a matter
of merely internal importance (3-28).
Five actions of the twenty-five are political. Three
protested the now-lifted ban on Communist speakers (3-7, 4-30, 5-9). Two of these actions,
however, were initiated only after the Chancellor had criticized the ban in a speech to
the American Association of University Professors. The Senate established a committee to
study the possibility of a Peace and Disarmament Institute (nothing has happened since).
And, in the single action that can truly be considered a disinterested expression of
concern about a political issue, they endorsed passage of the (unsuccessful) Fair Housing
In conclusion, because the administration exerts its
overwhelming power to regulate the expression of political interests, ASUC policies
reflect satisfaction of other kinds of interests. A study of the policies of the
Associated Students of the University of California over the past three years clearly
supports the opening comments of this paper. The power and pressure exerted by the
administration on students has had the net effect of causing the ASUC to be a passive,
apolitical organization that functions only intermittently and perfunctorily as an
educational experience for students and almost never as a genuinely political body.
in Political Science