Some called last Thursday’s ASUCD senate meeting “heated and offensive.” Some called it “beautiful.” Almost all, however, just wanted to voice their concerns regarding the winter 2009 elections.
“This has nothing to do with ASUCD slates [such as LEAD or ACT],” said Momo Newbon, Ethnic and Cultural Affairs commission chair and former senatorial candidate. “It has everything to do with an unfair election.“
Approximately 150 angered students attended the meeting at 6:10 p.m. in the Mee Room of the Memorial Union to voice their concerns over the technical glitches in the Feb. 18 through Feb. 20 elections. They sited the premature release of the results online and the voting website going down as reasons to hold another election.
A formal complaint was filed last week against the ASUCD Elections Committee (EC). Student Judicial Affairs (SJA) will likely determine whether or not the election was ethical early this week. Should SJA turn the case over to the EC – as the bylaws dictate– and the plaintiff files for an appeal, the ASUCD Student Court will then determine if a re-election is in order.
Supporters of a re-election blamed the alleged unfairness on the EC, whom they felt could have done more to notify students of the extended voting time. The EC accounted for the three-and-a-half hours the website was down by allowing students to vote for an extra three-and-a-half hours.
“The elections committee did everything they could to notify students of the extended voting period,” said Chris Dietrich, vice president-elect. “The e-mail was sent out by the registrar [to notify students] was denied because it could not be sent out in that timeframe. Also, our philosophy is that all the candidates agreed to a 48-hour election. The bylaw stipulates that all the candidates need to agree. We were consistent with that bylaw. The hours that were down were replaced to meet the 48-hour election.“
However many saw those three-and-a-half hours where students were unable to vote as an injustice that disenfranchised student voters, especially since many did not know about the extension.
“If you leave voices out, that silence is dangerous,” said former senator Sergio Blanco. “Oppression starts with silence.“
The meeting got tense when those in attendance brought up allegations of racism.
In one instance, Blanco pointed out that many assumed he and Reynaldo Rodriguez, the student who filed the formal complaint, were associated because of their ethnicity.
“People are assuming that [Rodriguez] is my friend because we are both Latino,” Blanco said. “I want you all to respect my ethnicity and those assumptions that are being addressed.“
Another such accusation was directed toward senator Justin Patrizio, who at one point in the evening’s discussion, voiced concerns that only “one group” of the student population was giving their opinion. Many took the comment as offensive, calling him a bigot during the break.
Patrizio later clarified that his earlier remarks regarding “one group” referred to the gathering of people presently at the meeting and was not racial in intention.
“Give charitable interpretations to people before we attack them,” Patrizio said of some of the accusations made at meeting. “It could be a simple matter of the wrong word came out and [you] could not retract the word. People should be conscious of their intent and impact, but speaking to people is nerve-wracking. Everyone needs to be charitable.“
Several attendees described the attitude of the protestors as a “mob mentality,” referring to the intensity of reactions from those on the speakers‘ list.
The issue of censorship also caused some debate at the senate table, when senator Mo Torres criticized Vice President Molly Fluet and President Pro-temp Jack Zwald for not stopping people from making offensive comments.
“I want to voice my disapproval from the lack of leadership from our Vice President and other members,” Torres said. “The comments were very offensive. As senators, we need to take a strong stance to make sure the comments that are made in our senate are not disrespectful to the student body. It’s an issue of respect to our community and our Vice President did not uphold it.“
Despite many people’s disapproval, the newly elected senators were sworn in, as the ASUCD Constitution requires.
To learn more about this case, those interested can attend the Student Court’s meeting on Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Mee room.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org