ASUCI Discussion Held on Dismissal of ICS Senator Tej Vuligonda

During one of ASUCI Senate’s biweekly meetings last Thursday, Senators discussed the impeachment of ICS Senator Tej Vuligonda on the grounds of poor attendance, marking ASUCI’s first tangible effort this year to regulate consistent Senate attendance and ensure that Senators are present to represent their respective schools.

Vuligonda, a fourth-year computer science and engineering double-major, was elected ICS Senator in winter quarter of 2016.  According to President of the Senate Tin Hong, Vuligonda attended only 11 out of 38 meetings last year, and has not attended any meetings this year, resulting in an attendance record of less than 29 percent.

Vuligonda stated that his absences were due to his busy class schedule, in which every class he takes is necessary to graduate. There is currently no rule against Senators scheduling classes during Senate meetings.

Vuligonda defended himself as ICS Senator, arguing that he had “been attending basically every ICS organization meeting that [he is] able to that doesn’t conflict with [his] classes,” and that he meets with the dean of his school regularly to discuss student issues.

In response to a question by ASUCI President Tracy La over how Vuligonda could do his job of representing ICS students in the Senate if he did not attend meetings, Vuligonda replied, “If you really want to dismiss me because of something that’s really out of my control, then you can do that. Vote with your conscience. Vote against me for something I have no control over, that you want to single me out over.”

According to past precedent, if an ASUCI Senator had class during a Senate meeting time, they were excused with no questions asked because ASUCI considered them a student first, and a student leader second.

The flaw in this policy, Hong argued, is that if a Senator is consistently excused from Senate meetings due to class scheduling conflicts, they are functionally not doing their sworn duty to represent students from their school at Senate meetings.

Moreover, Senators continue to get paid for their positions whether or not they attend Senate meetings, with their pay coming from all undergraduates’ student fees.

“We get funded by higher-income [students] who don’t even notice that $70 is missing every quarter and we get paid by the lower-income [students], for whom $70 every quarter is going to mean an increase in their loan amount,” said Hong. “That’s the duty that we have to uphold to our students: to make sure we’re accountable to them and to make sure that they’re spending their money wisely and that we’re doing it to the best of our purposes.”

The impeachment proceedings will move forward this Thursday, and Senators will vote on whether or not Senator Vuligonda will be dismissed. If the Senate votes by a two-thirds majority to impeach Vuligonda, ASUCI’s Judicial Board will hold final hearings on whether or not the senator should be removed from office, and whether or not he should be barred from holding other ASUCI offices for a period of time.

Senators dismissed in this manner can appeal the decision  as outlined in the ASUCI By-Laws. A dismissed Senator can submit a written appeal to the President of the Senate within one week following the dismissal, which will result in a Senate vote requiring another two-thirds majority to overturn the dismissal.

Besides the issue of Senator Vuligonda’s potential impeachment, Senate also passed several pieces of legislation last week. All four pieces of week two’s legislation were passed last Tuesday, and all dealt with appointing positions. Siddharth Baranwal was appointed Internal Deputy Student Advocate General; Auzzsa Eaton was appointed External Deputy Student Advocate General; Holly Woods, Daniel Rodriguez, Savannah Sampilo and Nghi Giang were appointed ASUCI Deputy Elections Commissioners; and Leah Jablon was appointed Senate Secretary. All four appointment legislations passed 12-0-0.