Lack of attendance raises questions about accountability
At recent ASUCD government meetings, elected officials have been criticized for missing meetings.
Only four out of the 12 ASUCD senators attended the recent budget hearing summit, where ASUCD officials discussed plans for the budget hearings which took place recently. Unit directors and staffers were said to have outnumbered senators at the summit. Senate Pro Tempore Jake Sedgley vocalized frustration on the absences at the May 10 Senate meeting.
“[It’s] really hard to keep going when people don’t take the initiative to do their job,” Sedgley said at the meeting. “You were elected to represent people on campus.”
Sedgley also accused senators of not taking bills or the association’s bylaws seriously and leaving meetings early to go to parties. As pro tempore, part of Sedgley’s job is to hold senators accountable.
“The problem is probably not as bad as it may seem based on my comments,” Sedgley later said in an email to The California Aggie. “But my position requires me to hold everyone to a higher standard.”
Sedgley also said that attendance at commission meetings has significantly improved since Winter Quarter.
Another issue ASUCD has faced this year is the resignations of both elected and appointed officials. From Senate, both Andreas Godderis and Danny Halawi, elected to senatorial positions during the Fall Elections, have resigned. Senator Jesse Kullar also recently announced his plans to resign, but has since decided against doing so.
“We’ve had almost half of our fall class of senators resign,” Gofman said via email. “The reason, in my opinion, is because they never had to invest time and sweat into campaigning, and as such have a different perspective on the privilege of being a senator.”
Appointed officials from the Elections Committee, the Gender and Sexuality Commission and the Business and Finance Commission have also resigned this year.
Issues with attendance, however, are also prevalent in other governing bodies of ASUCD.
At the May 10 Senate meeting, Kullar called out Judicial Council Chair Ryan Gardiner for not showing up to the last few Judicial Council meetings. Kullar made a motion to close-session Gardiner that was not seconded. ASUCD President Michael Gofman responded by saying that moving to close-session someone, even as a joke, is a “serious thing,” and advised senators against close-sessioning Gardiner without him present.
Both Gofman and Gardiner later clarified that Kullar’s statement was meant in a joking manner.
“This was more of a joke than anything,” Gardiner said in an email to the California Aggie. “The particular meetings in question, I had various personal and professional obligations that drew me away from Davis for a few consecutive weekends. These were prearranged, and my Vice-Chair was given notice and prepared to preside in my place.”
Gofman explained the severity of closed-sessioning an official.
“I explained that this isn’t just a way to chastise an official,” Gofman said via email. “No one had spoken to him about this before. A closed session is the last resort measure, not a ‘Plan A.’ Furthermore, previous closed sessions have been held over MUCH graver issues than missing a couple meetings, but otherwise being on top of responsibilities.”
Other concerns have been raised over Gofman’s own attendance at committee and commission meetings.
At the May 17 Senate meeting, a member of the community called out Gofman for not attending important student committee meetings. This topic also came up at the recent ASUCD Town Hall on May 31 when Gofman was asked about his absence at two meetings with the Chancellor’s Undergraduate Advisory Board.
“There are multiple overlapping meetings I have to go to,” Gofman said at the Town Hall. “I was never really explained the [importance] of that committee. I missed the two meetings because there were other things going on that I assumed were more pressing. I’ve heard how important it is and I apologize for not knowing how important this board is. I’m in contact with their Chair and the board and rest assured it won’t happen again.”
To this, Senator Ko Ser Lu Htoo said ASUCD officials are “elected to serve the students” and “using that as an excuse shouldn’t be allowed.”
“Everything I do in this office is for the students,” Gofman said in response. “No one is
doing this for the money. I didn’t know what it was. I knew from conversations I had with the admin and with the former President that the following X amount of things were unmissable. If you’re sitting in this role and see how many things you have to go to per week it’s impossible. As soon as I found out I reached out to everyone involved and apologized and committed going to in the future.”
Earlier this quarter, former Gender and Sexuality Commission Chair Becca Nelson alleged that Gofman had never attended a GASC meeting
“In regards to GASC, the reason was always due to other conflicts,” Gofman said via email. “Unfortunately, I was unable to attend them.”
Attention has also been brought to Gofman’s absence from meetings of the Council on Student Affairs and Fees. As a voting member of COSAF, Gofman is one of the eight members who act as a link between the student body and the administration for the management of student fees.
“As a result of budget hearings and a few meetings early on this quarter […] I did have to miss a few of them,” Gofman said via email. “This was very unfortunate. I’ve served in an ex-officio role most of my term as a senator and am intimately aware of its inner workings, and as such its importance. While I did miss a couple meetings, I read up on what happened in them prior to those meetings, and made sure that my concerns were addressed in meeting, and had notes given back to me.”
At the May 17 Senate meeting, Gofman said that, as ASUCD’s main representative, he sits on 25 committees. He later added over email communication with The California Aggie that he is “not too prideful to admit” mistakes were made and he is “looking to and [has] been in the process of rectifying mistakes and making sure not to make them again.”
“When assuming the role of Presidency you’re thrown off the boat and forced to swim,” Gofman said during the May 17 Senate meeting. “This is something I have to be [better] at going forward.”
Written by: Taylor LaPoint — firstname.lastname@example.org