Student activists were outraged in December after ASUCD President Joe Chatham vetoed a senate resolution expressing a vote of no confidence in UC President Mark Yudof and the UC Regents.
The senate passed the resolution unanimously in an unprecedented November meeting in front of Mrak Hall while student occupiers protested inside and hundreds of onlookers cheered them on from behind a police blockade.
After much debate in December, senators deadlocked in a 6-6 vote, leaving Chatham’s veto intact.
Chatham’s decision to veto the resolution was appropriate, and the senators who supported him made the right move.
The original resolution included a line that said, “The ASUCD officially declares a vote of no confidence in the leadership of the UC.” Chatham argued that this could be construed too broadly to condemn the actions of many administrators who were not responsible for the fee increase that sparked the protests – a valid point.
What concerns us most, however, is the manner in which the original resolution was passed.
The idea was for the senate to hold its meeting in front of Mrak to support the students rallying inside. The sentiment behind this idea was sincere, but the reality of it was deeply problematic.
Plopping a deliberative body down into the middle of a heated demonstration is an unreasonable and inappropriate way to conduct serious business. Throngs of angry, roaring onlookers surrounded the senators, not to mention the dozens of police, several television news crews and a helicopter circling overhead.
The excitement of this environment must have been invigorating, but it was also stifling to anyone who may have had a dissenting opinion. It’s hard to imagine that any senator who disagreed with the resolution would have felt comfortable or even safe saying so in a setting dominated by a mob mentality.
The senate usually pores over the wording of its resolutions very carefully in a calm, professional setting. Back-and-forth discussions usually take hours. In the case of this resolution, however, there was almost no debate or fair opportunity for public comment. It’s difficult not to take that as a sign that something was wrong with the way things were done.
The best move would have been to adjourn the regularly scheduled senate meeting to allow the senators to go to Mrak and support the protestors if they chose to. The senate’s business could and should have been postponed to a safer and more impartial environment.