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Friday, April 19, 2024

ASUCD Judicial Council holds second impeachment hearing for ASUCD President

This was the second of two hearings to decide if President Francisco Ojeda would be the organization’s first executive officer to be removed from office

 

By VINCE BASADA — campus@theaggie.org

 

On Jan. 15, the ASUCD Judicial Council (JC) held its second and final impeachment hearing in the case of ASUCD Senate v. Ojeda. Following the first impeachment hearing on Jan. 12, the second opened with cross-examinations and ended with closing statements and public comment. 

The case regarding Internal Vice President Aarushi Raghunathan, ASUCD v. Raghunathan, was also scheduled for the Jan. 15 session. However, Raghunathan’s case was delayed due to “unforeseen circumstances,” according to Head Justice Katrine Lee. 

The Senate, which petitioned the case, was represented by Senate President Pro Tempore Chasa Monica, Senators Trinity Chow and Dani Antonio and Internal Affairs Commission Chairperson ThuyAnh Truong. President Ojeda, the respondent, had no representative council. Alongside Head Justice Lee on the JC, Deputy Head Justice Albena Goulisheva and Justices Madison Whittemore and Samantha Figlietti ultimately decided the fate of the case. 

Ojeda began with the cross-examinations, asking if the petitioners would have made any changes during the impeachment process if given the opportunity to do it again. In response, the Senate said they wished they were more transparent with the public about the impeachment, but ultimately would not have changed the process in which they carried it out. They later reasserted their position that they followed the ASUCD Constitution and all bylaws in carrying out the impeachments, which began as censures.

The petitioners later said that holding the meeting in which the president and IVP were impeached as a closed session was only decided after speaking with both the president and IVP, who had the right to make the session public. Given that the pair are both elected officials and student workers, the petitioners said that a closed session was the best way to discuss workplace behavior and respect their privacy rights as employees. 

The Senate decided we could not and would not make any decision on censuring or impeaching [the President and IVP] without hearing both of their input[s] in this space where we could freely and respectively address the concerns,” Chairperson Truong said during the hearing.

Ojeda then questioned the petitioners on why they “rushed the passing of the impeachment resolutions” before the swearing in of four new senators, which was scheduled for the following day.

“This impeachment was not rushed, and in fact, it was late,” Truong said in response. “This entire time, these behaviors and actions [by Ojeda] were happening within the ASUCD Senate. It took us a long time to vote for this decision.”

Following Ojeda’s questioning, Senator Antonio began the respondent’s cross-examination. She started by examining Ojeda’s handling of SR #1, a constitutional duty of the president to establish goals for the association and one which the petitioners alleged he had failed to do successfully. They asked him if he was able to introduce SR #1 on time, and he responded that he did not.

“Despite not being the main author, nor being the individual who introduced SR #1, President Ojeda remained as a co-author on the resolution,” Antonio said. 

SR #1 ultimately was not passed. Ojeda and the executive branch failed to properly introduce and pass SR #4 as well, according to the petitioners. Ojeda acknowledged that he had delegated part of this duty to IVP Raghunathan.

“[Ojeda] not only passed on this responsibility to IVP Raghunathan but also did not contribute anything but a single space on this piece of legislation,” Antonio said.

Antonio then questioned whether Ojeda properly released his verbal State of the Association, which Ojeda titled as a “quarterly report,” to the public. Specifically, she asked if the written version was shared with the public and The California Aggie for dissemination among the student population. 

Ojeda responded that he sent the speech through an internal ASUCD email list.

“To my understanding, senators understood there were currently two confidential projects [in the State of the Association],” Ojeda said. “[The State of the Association] was for ASUCD: the unit directors, business managers and government people.” 

Upon further questioning, however, he acknowledged that he gave his speech at a public Senate meeting.

As part of the last line of questioning, they asked Ojeda about the lack of executive task forces established during his tenure. Antonio also questioned Ojeda on his support network, noting that he is still without a chief or head of staff. His chief’s onboarding has been held up with “ASUCD HQ” since week seven of fall quarter, according to Ojeda. 

After further questions about the hiring process of ASUCD administration, the petitioners ended their questioning. They were the first to give closing statements. 

“I would like to reiterate [that] this impeachment was unanimous,” Truong said. “[That is] 20 different [ASUCD officials] with diverse political beliefs, advocacy goals and personal aspirations. All 20 of President Ojeda’s closest peers and closest co-workers obtained his demonstrated actions and character as not capable of being ASUCD President.”

As it stands, with evidence and accounts presented, the ASUCD is being led with no direction and is communicating without a voice,” Monica said. “President Ojeda has time and time again failed to adhere to his responsibilities as CEO of ASUCD and has failed to represent and serve the over 30,000 students as their primary advocate.”

“We cannot trust him,” Monica added. “This is not just a disservice to the student government officials of the association, but truly a disservice to all UC Davis students. We have already risked 10 weeks of the year with President Ojeda. We should not even risk another day with someone who’s clearly incapable of effectively communicating and fulfilling the duties of the ASUCD President.”

In his closing statement, Ojeda raised a question about the implications of the impeachment.

“Do we want a precedent in which Articles of Impeachment are reserved only for the most serious of misconducts and infractions against the student body?” Ojeda said, “Or do we want to set a precedent in which anyone is subject to dismissal if others believe they can do better?”

He also introduced new evidence, citing ASUCD bylaws regarding the uses of closed sessions. He said that by not notifying him of the possibility of impeachment before the meeting, the Senate had violated guidelines.

“I love my work in the association,” Ojeda said. “I love the work we do for the student […] I’ll continue to work hard to create change and improve the amazing community that is UC Davis. I’ll provide the same wonders and help and assistance that this association and campus have provided me when I needed it. I completely believe that during my time as president, I have been productive and fulfilled the requirements [and] at least, the responsibilities of my position.”

Public comment afterward was largely in favor of the president. Several individuals, including members of the Davis College Democrats, claimed that they were close friends with Ojeda, expressing their belief that the impeachment was undemocratic and would set a dangerous precedent. However, one student criticized Ojeda for introducing new evidence in his closing statement, which is largely considered against standard practice as it gives the opposing party no opportunity within the hearing to respond. 

Written by: Vince Basada — campus@theaggie.org

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