Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE
During emotional Senate meeting Senators, Commission chairs call for resignations of Zapardiel, Gofman
The ASUCD Senate meeting was called to order at 6:10 p.m. on Thursday, March 7. President Michael Gofman, Senator Richardo “Ricky” Zapardiel and Internal Affairs Commission Chair Jacob Ganz were absent. Several senators and commission chairs were late due to having attended the on-campus vigil for Stephon Clark.
The meeting began with a quarterly report from The California Aggie Quarterly Report, presented by Editor-in-Chief Emily Stack. Topics of discussion included the recent addition of new staff members, The Aggie’s float on Picnic Day, the ongoing digitization project and The Aggie’s upcoming move from its location in Lower Freeborn Hall, which is being demolished soon. Stack also noted that marijuana advertisements were removed from The Aggie, which led to a decrease in revenue. Vagisil is among some of the the new advertisements to help recoup this loss.
Senator Jumoke Maraiyesa expressed her concern that The Aggie had not contacted any black students for a recent article about policing. She also alleged that when a black student had recently submitted a piece to the newspaper, it had not been published due to safety concerns. Stack stated that she believes the upcoming move from Lower Freeborn will increase The Aggie’s visibility on campus and thus help address similar issues of diversity and inclusion.
Elections Committee Chair Rodney Tompkins then briefly presented on the results of the recent ASUCD election, highlighting a higher student voter turnout which is likely due to the presence of the Unitrans fee referendum on the ballot. The referendum passed successfully.
Ana Maria Rizo, chair of the Sexual Assault Awareness and Advocacy Committee (SAAAC), presented the SAAAC’s Quarterly Report, describing the recent success of a campus event in which students and organizations formally submitted their comments on the U.S. Department of Education’s controversial proposed Title IX guidelines. She also noted that the UC Office of the President (UCOP), will soon be changing the adjudication process for student sexual assault victims, but that these changes have not yet been publicized.
Annie Adochi, director of the Food Pantry, presented The Pantry’s Quarterly Report, noting branding changes that were recently made to make it more “user-friendly and empowering” for students.
Darin Schluep, food service director, presented the AS Dining Quarterly Report.
Milly Judd, of the Mental Health Initiative Committee (MHIC), presented the MHIC Quarterly Report. A highlight included the recent success of the Mental Health Initiative Conference, which is now officially the largest mental health-related conference to take place in the state of California.
Helen Van Beck then presented the Experimental Community Gardens Quarterly Report.
During consideration of old and new legislation, Senate Bill #58, which “allocated $2,983.00 for Specialized Transportation Services to purchase new surveillance and dash cameras for their four vehicles,” passed unanimously. No new legislation was introduced.
During the public discussion period, students of color expressed their dismay with the Senate’s lack of a response to the news that Sacramento DA Anne Marie Schubert had decided not to press charges against the police officers who killed Stephon Clark. Among the student leaders who expressed their concern — some of whom had attended the vigil for Stephon Clark on campus that occurred earlier that same evening — were External Affairs Commission Chair Nayzak Wali-Ali, Senator Jumoke Maraiyesa and Gender and Sexuality Commission Chair Joelle Judeh.
During the speaking period, Wali-Ali, upon returning from the vigil for Clark, publicly called for the resignations of ASUCD President Michael Gofman and Senator Ricky Zapardiel due to their alleged decision to leave “laugh” reactions to a Facebook post about a protest which had occurred in Sacramento earlier that week over the DA’s decision, during which time 84 people were arrested.
“My community is disposable,” Wali-Ali said through tears. “I am tired. I am broken. I am tired of the brokenness of this decision. If you do not do better for the students of this community, you will be held accountable.”
Wali-Ali also recounted the “militarized police response” to the Sacramento protests and sharply criticized ASUCD for its lack of action regarding issues that pertain to students of color at the university.
“A peaceful protest was held on Monday and was met with militarized force,” Wali-Ali said. “That expression may seem insignificant to you, although I’m telling you it’s not. I urge you all to educate yourself — whether that’s listening to black students or taking an African American studies class. […] This conversation is needed for accountability.”
Wali-Ali pushed for Gofman to acknowledge and offer an apology for his action, saying, “[Stephon Clark] could have been my uncle, my cousin, me […] I never would have thought to leave a laughing [symbol] on Officer Corona’s memorial.”
Vice President Shaniah Branson confirmed in an email to The Aggie after the meeting that the alleged Facebook reactions did take place.
“Since then, [Zapardiel] has removed his ‘laugh reaction’. [Gofman’s] reaction, however, remains. This action was/is insensitive and hurtful,” Branson said.
In his own email to The Aggie, Gofman said he made a mistake when he chose to “laugh” react on the post.
“I meant to react to a comment on the post, but wasn’t paying close enough attention to my phone and clicked on the wrong thing,” Gofman said in the email. “The reason I didn’t correct it is at first I didn’t [notice that] I clicked the wrong button, and by the time it was brought to my attention it was already late. I [apologize] for any misunderstanding my perceived response caused, my response was not intentional.”
On his part, Zapardiel referred to the allegations in an email to The Aggie as “mere rumors and gossip,” adding that he “intended to leave a wow react, however, after one of my colleagues reached out to me notifying that me that I had left a different react, I immediately [changed it].” Zapardiel stated that “the response was a badly timed mistake.”
“It saddens me that another young man of color like myself has been taken away from us by the actions of those who are in place to protect us from the evils of this world,” Zapardiel wrote in the email. “I see all lives as equals and when anyone dies I take it to my heart. I send my condolences to the Clark family and all who are [a]ffected.”
Zapardiel noted that “this tragedy calls for action” with respect to police accountability.
“That is why I will be urging students to read and consider AB 392 […] this piece of legislation is a step in the right direction for keeping police officers accountable,” he wrote. “Until then, I will work to protect the students I represent and ensure I am doing things and taking action on their behalf.”
Zapardiel added that he felt “alienated” by some of his fellow senators, however, speculating that this was because he “stood by Gofman in times of difficulty.”
Joelle Judeh, Gender and Sexuality Commission Chair, called upon the Senate to take action in response to Clark’s murder. Judeh then urged Senators to cease giving Gofman and Zapardiel a “platform,” referring to their behavior as “rude.”
“None of you in positions of power have an excuse,” Judeh said. “Only three black women at [this] table took a stand regarding what happened with [the] response to Stephon Clark’s murder.”
Judeh added that the situation is not about ASUCD or Davis, but about “humanity and human empathy and doing the right thing.”
“I get that it can be scary to make these statements, but it’s just a statement at the end of the day,” a member of the public present at the meeting said. “I’m scared because of the color of my skin and I can’t change that… I understand that we’re [coming off] as mad but we’re fucking distraught.”
Ethnic and Cultural Affairs Commission (ECAC) Chair Rina Singh described her frustrations with ASUCD’s lack of a response to the DA’s decision. She also recalled a perceived indifference to the public backlash that she faced in January for the ECAC’s controversial condemnation of a Blue Lives Matter flag that was featured in a photograph of slain Davis police officer Natalie Corona. Singh said that she received death threats and that her personal information was released online.
“My commission just took it upon itself to voice that and make it public,” Singh said. “I didn’t expect that people at this table could turn around and target me so hard that my safety and private information was in the public. There’s nothing in me that makes me believe that things are going to change.”
A break was held at 9:45 p.m., and the meeting rejoined for public announcements at 9:58 p.m..
During the announcement period, Senator Mohammad Qayum criticized the U.S. House of Representatives’ decision to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, saying “if the anti-Muslim stuff wasn’t part of it, everyone would vote for it.”
Additionally, Maraiyesa expressed her own feelings of frustration regarding the behavior of ASUCD following the Sacramento DA’s decision.
“The tears that I cry are not just for my community but for other communities struggling on this campus,” Maraiyesa said. “Since freshman year I can’t count how many hate crimes that have happened. I make the effort to go and learn more. As selfish as it may sound, I haven’t seen a lot of you all do that. When things do happen to other communities, I know I’m there. My tears come from knowing that not a single person did come up besides the typical people I mention.”
The meeting adjourned at 10:16 p.m.
“I stand by students’ frustration with ASUCD Senate’s response to Clark’s death,” Maraiyesa said via email after the meeting. “I would like to thank current members on the table, extend my gratitude to future members of the table and to all who had the capacity to show their support in the ways that they were able to. Although I am broken and both my heart and mind are heavy, the love and support I received this week helped ease the pain and heaviness I have inside. I do not know how I would have been able to make it through the week without all the love and support and for this, I will always be grateful.”
Written by: Rebecca Bihn-Wallace — firstname.lastname@example.org