Elections committee chair confirmed after contentious vote at Jan. 30 ASUCD Senate meeting

Elections committee chair confirmed after contentious vote at Jan. 30 ASUCD Senate meeting

Photo Credits: CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE FILE

Senate bills passed enforce new rules for Creative Media, ASUCD election candidates

ASUCD Vice President Shreya Deshpande called the Jan. 30 ASUCD Senate meeting to order at 8:03 p.m. 

Senator Lylah Schmedal was absent. Deshpande amended the agenda so that the Elections Committee chair confirmation could happen first. 

Former ASUCD Interim Senator Karolina Rodriguez was nominated to be the elections committee chair. Rodriguez, who unsuccessfully ran for a Senate position twice with the BASED slate, said seeing the challenges last quarter’s emergency elections committee dealt with during the Fall Elections motivated her to apply, especially with the Basic Needs & Services Referendum on the ballot. 

The Elections Committee chair oversees election preparation and assists candidates in the campaigning process. The interview committee is composed of the Senate Pro Tempore, the Internal Affairs Commission (IAC) chairperson, the ASUCD business manager, the Judicial Council chair and the ASUCD controller. The majority of the committee recommends a candidate for the position, which the ASUCD Senate then confirms.
Senator Shondreya Landrum offered her recommendation and said the interview committee understood the concerns about Rodriguez being a potentially biased elections committee chair, but said she still thought Rodriguez is the best candidate. 

“One thing she reiterated was her goal was to be impartial — it doesn’t matter the slate, if there’s a violation, there’s a violation,” Landrum said of Rodriguez. “She has a love for the association and she cares that we do the right thing.” 

An hour of questioning and debate followed, concentrating on Rodriguez’s impartiality.

Senator Juan David Velasco asked how Rodriguez would remain impartial given her personal relationships with other senators on the table and how she would respond to social media posts calling out violations of the ASUCD bylaws.

Rodriguez said she had detached herself from prospective senators and her former slate on social media. She said later that she wanted to apply for the Elections Committee chair position after last quarter’s Fall Election and does not plan to run for Senate any time soon. 

“I do have folks on the table I am friends with, but that will not affect my decisions,” Rodriguez said. “If I get an email with a complaint, I would talk to my committee and do what needs to be done.” 

Former ASUCD President Michael Gofman called Rodriguez a “partisan pick for the Elections Committee” and urged the table to act as one in the face of the fee referendum.
“To pass the referendum and ensure the association moves forward, we have to work in a bi-partisan manner,” he said. “I think ignoring all of the alternatives and picking someone who has run twice on a slate is a very bad step if we’re trying to show that we’re a united front.”

Senators Samantha Boudaie and Andre Spinoglio brought up similar concerns. Boudaie said she felt Rodriguez would find it “very difficult to be impartial” considering her history with the ASUCD Senate. Spignolio also said he was worried about future candidates being disadvantaged due to Rodriguez’s potential implicit biases. 

He asked Rodriguez if she had experienced a situation where she had to overcome biases. Rodriguez shared an experience when, as an orientation team leader, she had to reject some of her friends’ orientation leader applications because they did not meet the qualifications. 

Still, Spinoglio and Boudaie remained hesitant about confirming Rodriguez. 

“Right now, ASUCD is at a point where we can’t risk anything and having someone who has history with ASUCD to be our election chair — it smells fishy,” Boudaie said. “It’s problematic, and even though I’m confident in your abilities, I worry about the face of ASUCD.” 

Senator Anna Estrada noted that previous election chairs all had some bias, as they applied with some knowledge of the slates and what the slates stood for. She asked Rodriguez how she planned to make the elections committee better. 

Rodriguez said she wanted to ensure the committee was comprised of folks who hold their own opinions.

“I want to try not to associate any names to any slates, but associate what they did and their violation of the bylaws,” she said. 

Gofman reminded the table that Rodriguez decided the people on her elections committee and that bias could slip in through those hiring choices.

Landrum reiterated her recommendation for Rodriguez. 

“If she gets put into this position, she will do this job,” Landrum said. “I don’t choose people on a whim. I would never give a recommendation for someone who would not do right.”

President Justin Hurst, who is also part of the BASED slate along with Landrum, said he and Landrum understood the potential of bias and were the last two members of the interview committee to cast their votes. He said he was not present for the interview because he had submitted a candidate petition on the ASUCD website, which he withdrew to be present for the interview committee debate. He said he was ultimately convinced she would be the best candidate because of her prior elections knowledge.

Senator Victoria Choi called for the table to “conceive that someone in the association might want what’s best for the association.” 

“Can we respect Karolina’s intelligence and entertain the notion that she can be impartial?” Choi asked. “I think we are dooming ourselves if we are tied to the idea that she is doomed to be biased and is inherently going to fail.”

Senators Boudaie and Mahan Carduny both stressed that “appearances matter” and said risking another ASUCD controversy put the future of the association at risk. 

“At the end of the day, we set the tone for how we want our table to look,” Landrum said. 

Addressing concerns that the majority of the interview committee had ties to BASED, she added, “you can’t erase the history of how you got to the position.”

Before motioning for a roll-call vote, Deshpande clarified that if Rodriguez was not confirmed, there would be no election chair by the time of the upcoming Winter Elections, happening from Feb. 18-21. 

Senators Khalil Malik, Sahiba Kaur, Landrum, Choi and Estrada voted to confirm Rodriguez. Senators JB Martinez, Velasco, Spignolio, Boudaie and Carduny voted against confirming Rodriguez. Senator Camille Randolph abstained from the vote.

With a split table — 5 “yes” and 5 “no” votes, Desphande was the deciding vote. Before giving their vote, they encouraged the table to understand the urgency of having an elections committee chair, given last quarter’s discussion about the unconstitutionality of an emergency elections committee. 

“I would encourage you all to talk to Karolina and potentially ask about helping out with [elections committee] interviews and seeing how you can involve yourself in the process to make sure […] this election is unbiased,” Deshpande said. “I believe in her ability to remain unbiased.”

Deshpande voted to confirm Rodriguez. 

Rodriguez encouraged those who voted against her confirmation to refer their folks to her and said she understood where concerns were coming from. 

“I will put everything in this position to make sure that these elections go smoothly,” she said. “If you have a problem, email me.” 

The Senate took a break at 9:05 pm and resumed at 9:23 pm. Controller Kevin Rotenkolber and Senators Randolph and Schmedel were absent. Commission chairs Naomi Reeley, Filip Stamenkavic, Shelby Salyer, Elena DeNecochea and Kyle Kreuger were absent. 

No new legislation was introduced, so the meeting moved to the consideration of old legislation. Both SB #25 and SB #27 were tabled. Discussion began for SB #28. 

Hurst, who authored SB #28, said the bill expressed that Creative Media had to be a collaborative unit. According to Internal Affairs Commission chair Ashley Lo, the bill was necessary to clarify the purpose of Creative Media and the jurisdiction it had over marketing in the bylaws. 

“Creative Media will have initial jurisdiction, but will have to work with the units [and their in-unit graphic designers],” Lo said.

After discussion, the table came to a compromise. The amended bill stated that Creative Media had to design a logo for ASUCD units, but its director of graphics would be the point contact that consulted with each unit for any changes. For media units like The California Aggie and KDVS, logo changes would instead go through the media board for increased separation from the ASUCD government.

The bill passed with “yes” votes from all 10 present senators after the changes. 

The next considered piece of legislation was SB #30. Authored by ASUCD Chief of Staff Francois Kaeppelin, the bill would package bills on the consent calendar that were “non-controversial,” so the Senate could vote on the bills all at once instead of going through each bill. 

The “non-controversial” designation had to be unanimous through ASUCD commissions, according to Lo, and there would be provisions to take bills off the consent calendar. 

Amendments to the bill included clarification that abstention votes were a non-factor and as long as there were not any “no” votes, the bills would remain non-controversial. 

The bill was passed with 9 “yes” votes, with Carduny abstaining and Randolph and Schmedel absent. 

SB #26 was considered next. Hurst, who authored the bill, explained that it would not be possible for ASUCD candidates to run with someone else’s image and associate it with another slate without having been approved by the slate manager. Candidates also had to use their legal last name when submitting their petitions.

The bill aims to eliminate joke candidates, such as “Baby Yoda,” who appeared on the ASUCD petition list as running as part of BASED.

Deshpande added that the bill would take effect next quarter if approved. 

Velasco asked if Hurst and Deshpande had sought out contact with past slates for feedback on the bill. 

“We represent all students on campus,” Velasco said. “If a bill affects students, we need to contact them and ask how they feel about it.”

Boudaie also asked for clarification regarding slate formation. Deshpande explained that when petitions to run for ASUCD government go up, candidates can choose what slate they are affiliated with. After that, an immediate request is sent to the slate manager, they said, who chooses to accept or reject the candidate as part of that slate. 

Another provision regarding slates involved donations: A slate cannot receive a donation over the amount they are allowed to spend on the campaign. Deshpande clarified the wording such that slates would have to give back the excess of donation. 

When the bill was called to question, Velasco objected to the bill, bringing it to a roll-call vote. 

It passed with seven “yes” votes. Senator Velasco voted “no” and senators Boudaie and Carduny abstained. 

The meeting then moved to public discussion. Hurst proposed a closed session — where meeting minutes are not public — to discuss personnel matters.

They moved to a roll-call vote on the closed session. The table voted to approve the closed session. 

The table proceeded to public discussion, which was largely devoted to discussing the fee referendum. Velasco said the town hall meeting before ASUCD Senate went well, as he and other senators saw people there besides their friends.

“A point of clarification I want to make — you can tell your friends that Thrive is in favor of the referendum,” he said. 

Boudaie reaffirmed Velasco’s point of clarification.

“We need to have a united front,” she said. “We cannot be partisan. Don’t start any rumors. And say, ‘As far as I know, Thrive and BASED in terms of senators and slate managers are all in support of the referendum.’”

Landrum shared that she had asked Senator Schmedal for her resignation earlier. 

Martinez suggested having an ASUCD banner, possibly permanent, to increase awareness of both the fee referendum and ASUCD and Deshpande said they would talk to Creative Media to see if it was possible. 

The meeting ended at 11:14 p.m. 

Written by: Janelle Marie Salanga — campus@theaggie.org

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