About 200 students attended Wednesday night’s regular ASUC meeting to both voice their support for and condemnation of the Judicial Council’s recent controversial ruling that resulted in the retroactive disqualification of all Student Action candidates from the 2019 ASUC elections.
Eight ASUC officials resigned Wednesday night in light of the controversy, including Elections Council chair Shirin Moti, Elections Council assistant chair Pranav Mudiam, Elections Prosecutor Jedidiah Tsang, Elections Auditor Roop Randhawa, Judicial Council chair Maureen Ochi Sides, Judicial Council assistant chair Christian Armstrong, Justice Brian Tsui and Justice Amanda Allen. A ninth official, Justice Kiran Girish, also resigned Thursday morning.
Acting Elections Council chair and Chief Legal Officer Claire Goudy said she is reviewing the line of succession to determine who will now become the acting chair of the Judicial Council and said filling vacancies on both councils will be a “priority.”
Several of the public commenters alleged that students had “bullied” and “harassed” these officials, ultimately leading to them stepping down. In her resignation letter, Ochi Sides alleged there is a “culture” in which elected officials feel it is “permissible” to “slander, bully and intimidate” those on the council if they disagree with the council’s decision.
“The punishments and regulations we enforce are ones you all created, not us,” Ochi Sides said, minutes before resigning. “You make the rules — we have to enforce them.”
Ochi Sides added that five appointed officials, including herself, experienced breakdowns and panic attacks because of the alleged “intimidation” and “bullying tactics.” Although she said the “retaliations” will not pressure the council members into changing their minds, she noted that the alleged bullying has had impacts on their mental and physical health.
According to the ASUC’s Constitution, all members of the Judicial Council must be confirmed by a two-thirds majority of the senate. When Ochi Sides was appointed in 2017, Student Action held 10 out of 20 senate seats. Student Action party co-chair Josh Wilson, who served as a senator during Ochi Sides’ appointment, said in an email that nobody had reason to question her appointment at the time.
“I certainly wouldn’t appoint her again,” Wilson said in an email. “She’s failed to uphold her duties as specified in the constitution,” he alleged.
Wilson added that the party will “definitely” file an appeal of Monday’s decision and is “not opposed” to hiring outside legal counsel in order to challenge the Judicial Council’s decision.
During more than two hours of public comment, former ASUC senators, current and former senators-elect and Black Student Union members, among others, spoke. Many of those in support of Student Action cited the “disenfranchisement” of the student body because they claimed the retroactive disqualification of candidates essentially declared students’ votes void. This sentiment rang true, especially for the transfer student and Pilipinx communities, both of which were unable to elect community-endorsed candidates in the 2018 elections and whose current candidates face disqualification.
“I am losing my faith in our student government,” said campus sophomore Emily Gallo, who works in current Senator Anne Zepecki’s office, during public comment. “Our work was taken away by a council that a majority of the student body had never heard of.”
Both former senator-elect Derek Imai and former senator-elect Joseph Besgen mentioned during public comment that they had met with community leaders and administrators to ensure their platforms were well thought out. Former senator-elect Haazim Amirali said in public comment that it’s a “shame” the candidates were disqualified because of a mistake with which none of them were involved.
Senator-elect Nicole Anyanwu said during public comment that Student Action members spread “misinformation” by letting people think CalSERVE brought forth the initial complaint. In fact, an internal audit brought the case to the Judicial Council’s attention, Anyanwu said. She also pushed back against claims that the council was “biased,” arguing that it offered a plea deal to Student Action in the case regarding spam emails.
CalSERVE chair zaynab abdulqadir-morris said during the meeting that CalSERVE had discovered a mistake in its finances but reached out to the Elections Council in February 2018.
“The Judicial Council didn’t mishandle your funds, the Judicial Council didn’t try to spam this campus,” said campus senior Dominick Williams to Student Action during public comment. “Per ASUC bylaws, y’all are out — the same bylaws y’all were supposed to read before you ran.”
Representatives from the Defend Affirmative Action Party/Fighting for Immigrant Rights and Equality, or DAAP/FIRE, also condemned the Judicial Council’s decision. Even though DAAP/FIRE candidate Stephanie Gutierrez would likely fill one of the vacant senate seats, she said that “democracy rises above any gain.”