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Thursday, April 18, 2024

ASUCD Judicial Council holds first impeachment hearings for President Ojeda, Interval Vice President Raghunathan

The Jan. 12 hearing was the first of two to decide if the executive team will be removed from their respective offices

 

By VINCE BASADA — campus@theaggie.org

 

On Jan. 12, the ASUCD Judicial Council held impeachment hearings for both ASUCD President Francisco Ojeda and Internal Vice President Aarushi Raghunathan. At each hearing, the Judicial Council heard opening statements and presentations of evidence. 

Recently appointed Senate Pro Tempore Chasa Monica served as petitioner on behalf of the Senate in both cases: ASUCD Senate v. Ojeda and ASUCD Senate v. Raghunathan. Ojeda and Raghunathan both represented themselves without representative counsel. Presiding over the case were Head Justice Katrine Lee, Deputy Head Justice Albena Goulisheva and Justices Madison Whittemore and Samantha Figlietti.

If the Judicial Council rules against the pair, whose cases are separate, President Ojeda and IVP Raghunathan will be removed from their respective offices. If both are removed from office, Monica will become the new chief executive, as per the ASCUD Constitution. 

The hearing, in contrast to the closed special session at which the impeachment resolutions were drafted and unanimously passed, was open to the public.

The Judicial Council first heard opening statements in ASUCD Senate v. Ojeda, during which the petitioner affirmed that while the ASUCD Constitution is somewhat vague in its required threshold for an elected official to have committed “gross misconduct” or otherwise be considered “incapable of their office,” the responsibility of interpretation is left to the Senate. 

Ojeda, in his statement, disputed the Senate’s claims that he violated ASUCD bylaws. He also cited a conference in Los Angeles as an explanation for some previously disputed absences. 

Upon receiving questioning from Head Justice Lee, Ojeda said that since his impeachment, he has been working on the Inclusive Scholarship to help AB540 students and has attended all necessary meetings required by his position.

Next, Monica alleged that Ojeda mishandled the Priorities Resolution and State of the Association (SR #1), as well as argued that Ojeda failed to establish and maintain executive task forces to aid in the administration of ASUCD.

“The Senate has already demonstrated that President Ojeda is not a strong advocate individually, and [his] failure to establish any advocacy infrastructure whatsoever illustrates that he is conducting negligible advocacy or administrative work as president,” Monica said.

Ojeda presented no evidence in his defense, saying that he had misinterpreted the deadline for the submission of evidence 24 hours before the start of the hearing as being a strict cutoff, though Head Justice Lee clarified that it had been a flexible guideline. Additionally, Ojeda later said in an interview with The California Aggie that he was under the impression that the presentation of evidence would be saved for the second hearing.

“I feel like people have been mostly focusing on very few aspects of my performance as president,” Ojeda said. “That doesn’t mean I have not fulfilled my other performances, and I think some people have seen the fruits and the produce of my other work.”

After public comment on the case and a brief recess, the Judicial Council moved on to hear opening statements in the case of ASCUD Senate v. Raghunathan.

“The Senate will acknowledge that much of the other listed failures are in connection to the Executive office as a whole,” Monica said. “However, the ASUCD Senate impeached IVP Raghunathan on the grounds of failure to perform duties in connection to conduct towards members of the public.”

Raghunathan then read her opening statement.

 “I believe that misogyny has played a huge role in my impeachment,” Raghunathan said. “Not only did I receive far less warning than the other impeachment of a man taking place, mine also has almost no merit and it is not nearly equal in grievance to the president’s.” 

Raghunathan cited the fact that only two of the 14 people who voted to impeach her are women.

Petitioner Monica, in the presentation of the Senate’s evidence against IVP Raghunathan, read from the resolution impeaching her. 

“Raghunathan has displayed general unprofessionalism while performing the duties of internal vice president throughout the quarter,” Monica said. 

This includes failing to promptly hire Senate and executive staffers, according to Monica. 

In her response and evidence, Raghunathan presented several screenshots of correspondence between herself and fellow members of the executive branch and Senate, alleging that they were as unprofessional in their messages as they impeached her for being, as well as being absent from meetings without valid reasoning. 

She also said that she had been unfairly blamed for the mishandling of SR #1, which she alleges was not originally her responsibility, but the president’s. 

 “I have [a text] from [another person involved in ASUCD activities], ‘I’m going to go to the gym to flirt on boys, I might be late,’” Raghunathan said. “That was an hour before our senate meeting. I would say that’s not professional.”

Raghunathan then spoke on her absences throughout the quarter, asking if there is anyone in the association who has attended every meeting of every commission, committee or unit throughout the quarter that they were not required to. 

“If we’re going to impeach me on the basis of not showing up to committee meetings, which I’m not required to, I would say we should impeach the entire table for not showing up when that’s actually one of their duties,” Raghunathan said.

She also attributed some of her absences, which were included as a reason for her impeachment, to ongoing health issues, which she asked to remain private. 

“It’s so unfair to say that I couldn’t preside well [over the Senate] when I had [health problems] the day of the impeachment hearing, and I still showed up over Zoom, and I still showed up the next day to preside over the entire Senate meeting,” Raghunathan said. 

When the floor opened for public comment, several members of the student body expressed their own concerns with the proceedings and largely defended Raghunathan, and Ojeda to some extent. The Judicial Council adjourned soon afterwards.

The date for the second and final impeachment hearing, at which parties will have the opportunity for cross-examinations and to make closing statements, is set to take place soon after the first hearing. As with the first hearing, members of the public will be invited to attend. Final rulings on both cases by the Judicial Council are expected shortly thereafter.

Written by: Vince Basadacampus@theaggie.org

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