Every Senator in the ASUCI Senate is in jeopardy of being recalled as of March 7, as individual petitions for each Senator have reached the required signature threshold. While it may seem drastic to recall the entire senate, their loose justification for actions such as impeaching the ASUCI President, striking down the Womxn’s Hub fee initiative, and passing an undemocratic constitution shows a dire need to refresh the institution.
On Feb. 27, The ASUCI Senate voted to impeach ASUCI President Randy Yan with 16 yays, three nays and six abstentions. Yan pleaded innocent to the three charges set against him, which included abuse of power, maladministration and perjury. While the specifics of these charges were only brought up in closed-to-the-public Senate executive sessions, we can glean one thing from the Senate’s actions during that week; holding the Senate to the same standards as the President means that they deserve to be recalled.
“Cronyism” is listed as the third section of charge one against Yan in reference to the Student Advocate General’s relationship with ASUCI Mental Health Commissioner Isabelle Lee. Yan allegedly allowed Lee to become Interim Chief of Staff due to this relationship. However, during public comment in the Senate on Feb. 27, Lee made it clear that this allegation of “cronyism” had no merit.
“In this legislation, I am seen as under qualified and I received the position because I was dating the Student Advocate General, despite being in ASUCI’s Office of the President ever since my freshman year,” Lee said in her public comment.
Lee’s comment gave the public more information on the actual specifics of the charges against Yan, namely that they fall apart amidst the first bit of outside scrutiny. It is no wonder then why after only eight minutes of public comment, the Senate voted to not extend the time set for public comment.
While the President may not have participated in cronyism, members of the Senate have appointed their significant others without repercussions. On Oct. 8, 2019, ASUCI Senators Bryce Lindsey and Juliana Chhouk presented Legislation R55-05 to appoint Kimo Gandall as the Acting Senate Parliamentarian for the 2019 – 2020 academic year, but the legislation was tabled. On Feb. 11, 2020, Lindsey and ASUCI Senate President Jo Hannah Faith Castillo Chua presented Legislation R55-36 to appoint Kimo Gandall as the official Senate Parliamentarian and for him to receive back pay all the way back to Oct. 1, 2019.
Chhouk and Gandall have been in a relationship since March 2019. The “cronyism” against Yan alleges that he appointed another ASUCI member’s significant other to a position; yet Senator Chhouk drafting legislation for her partner to be appointed directly to a position has not been labeled as such. One of these situations seems to be a more blatant example of cronyism, but I cannot pinpoint which.
While the Senate was unwilling to divulge any information on the first two charges against the President, they were more than happy to explain charge three, perjury, in detail. However, what the Senate probably assumed was a surefire way to sway the public to their side came off as petty and vindictive.
The charge alleges that the President finished the veto on Legislation B55-04 a day later than he said he did. Because the President said that he and other executives had finished the veto on the 10th and sent it on the 11th during a Senate meeting under oath, the Senate was able to include this as a charge. In presenting this information to the public, it became increasingly clear that the Senate had found the loosest reasons possible to indict the President.
This should not come as a surprise, given that the Senate took it upon themselves to conduct an in-depth investigation of Yan despite holding no constitutional authority to do such. The Advocate General is tasked with investigations, but the Senate failed to even notify the Advocate General of their intentions to impeach Yan.
In her Statement on the Impeachment of the ASUCI President, ASUCI Senate President Jo Hannah Faith Castillo Chua claims Yan participated in, “obstruction of justice, by intimidating material witnesses vital to the investigation of his corrupt actions.” Chua fails to acknowledge that the Senate’s independent investigation into Yan has no constitutional basis, and that Yan had no constitutional obligation to cooperate.
Chua ends her statement with, “You, the public, are invited to attend the trial of President Randy Yan’s removal from office and see the facts, free from the mask of propaganda.” This statement comes from the same Senate President who was fine with having a mere eight minutes for public comment during the actual senate session where Yan’s impeachment was voted on. Chua’s invitation to the public is nothing more than an attempt to save face and rewrite the history of what happened last thursday: a suppression of the public voice.
As for the comment on propaganda, I am vain enough to take it as a personal hit against the New University as a publication. Editor-In-Chief Oriana Gonzalez has gone to great lengths to publish the events of last week as they happened, with an objective lens. She conducted multiple interviews with various members of ASUCI, and reported the story as it truly happened.
While it can be argued that the Opinion Section, of which I am a Co-Editor, is itself propaganda, I would argue that this section very clearly labels itself as subjective in nature. We base our opinions on the facts and attempt to argue our point solely based on facts. While I would much rather be writing about the Graduate students fighting for a COLA or the season finale of ”The Bachelor,” the Senate is acting blatantly above their constitutional authority with extremely loose reasoning, forcing me to write about this instead.
The Senate should be familiar with loose reasoning, given their slapdash passage of Legislation R55-43 on Feb. 25. Legislation R55-43, The 2020 Constitutional Reform Act, assures readers that “Student Rights were expanded in class and specified.” In reality, the revised constitution makes it harder for students to participate in direct democracy, raising the threshold for signatures required to present legislation from 2% to 5% of the student body. While this may not seem like a large increase, it amounts to a 150% increase in required signatures.
More worrying are the reforms in R55-43 which make Senators practically unrecallable. In the current constitution, a Senator may be recalled with “10% of the votes cast in the last regular election for that office.” This language makes sense, as it allows those who are direct constituents of their Senator to enact a recall. The new constitution requires 10% of all students to sign a petition to recall a Senator, which for schools such as humanities would increase the signatures required from a current 20 to 3,000, double the amount of actual undergraduates served by the Humanities Senator.
Antidemocratic issues with the new constitution such as these were not brought up when the Senate was debating the legislation. Instead, Senators stayed on their phones throughout the meeting, with at least one Senator playing “Clash of Clans.” Mere minutes before passing R55-43, four Senators built a tower out of their name placards; it would take a combined 12,000 student signatures to recall these Senators under the new constitution. Seconds before having to vacate the room for the next club, the Senate passed the constitution, to the relief of ASUCI At Large Senator Joshua Wolfe who said, “I’m just excited to get this over with,” while giving his “yes” vote.
With the passage of this undemocratic constitution followed by the veiled impeachment of the President combined with a non-constitutionally sanctioned investigation, the Senate has had a week of utter misconduct. While the impeachment of the President is now in the hands of the Judicial Board, the newly passed constitution will require a student vote to be passed. We need to hold the Senate accountable, and that means not only denying their constitution but supporting the impeachment of the senators who voted “yes” on this new constitution, before it’s too late.
Nicolas Perez is the 2019-2020 Opinion Co-Editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.