On Monday, Jan. 30, an“emergency” ASUCR senate meeting officially began at 10:14 p.m. in a senate chamber holding approximately 60 UC Riverside students and staff beyond capacity.
The call for the meeting was primarily to hear the case for two charges filed against judicial branch’s Chief Justice Jo Gbujama and Vice Chief Justice Hayden Jackson, alleging that they acted unilaterally without a quorum present and the other claiming they violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
Following the hearing, the senators — 14 of whom were present, with CHASS Senators Shaun Nzeribe and Annette Jiminez absent — were scheduled to conduct a closed vote on the impeachment of Gbujama and Jackson. Following the vote, the agenda called for committee reports, in which amendments were to be made to senate bills W17-020, W17-022, W17-023 and W17-024.
However, none of the above occurred. Rather, what eventually amounted to a seven-minute-long senate meeting began with Executive Vice President Wen-Yu Chou moving to strike the committee reports from the agenda “in the best interest of students” who were mostly in attendance to witness the hearing and support Gbujama and Jackson. The motion passed with a unanimous 14-0-0 vote from the senate, tabling the reports to the Wednesday, Feb. 1 senate meeting.
Before beginning the hearing, President Pro-Tempore Johnathan Li made the following statement in support of the justices and in a move to remove all FERPA-related charges:
“Before we begin the senate meeting tonight, I want to give my personal thoughts on this hearing. I will do what’s right, I will not let anyone (be) unjustly removed by personal biases. I can not stand with this corruption (…) of the student government. That is not the reason why I ran in the election. I ran with integrity and heart. (There is) more time spent on dealing with these problems when there’s bigger issues that the senate needs to address. We should address the tuition hikes and (President) Donald Trump’s executive orders, rather than this hearing. With that, I urge the senate to do what’s right (…) As for the FERPA violation charges I believe the senate is inadequate to interpret and make its best judgement on a federal act. With that I move to dismiss any FERPA-related charges against chief justice and against vice chief justice.”
Once seconded, Li’s motion passed with a vote of 12-0-2.
Once FERPA violations were off the table, Justice Casey Thielhart raised that none of the five justices present — Justice Kathryn Yip being the sole absentee — were bringing forth charges against Gbujama and Jackson.
According to item one in Article VI, Section G of the ASUCR Constitution, in order to begin discussion on the removal of a justice from office, “charges may be brought by any of the six justices.” Thielhart also acknowledged that interpretation of this section falls solely under the responsibility of the senate, though, when repeatedly asked if they were bringing forth charges, the senators and five justices in attendance remained silent.
“Well, what about the sixth justice?” CHASS Senator Jose Cortez-Hernandez contended.
“She (Justice Yip) isn’t here. I mean, sixth justice (are) you here,” Thielhart then asked the attendees in jest. “There’s no one to bring charges and (…) If there’s no one here levying these charges, what the hell are we doing here?”
“That’s a good question,” responded Chou who acknowledged a move on the table to adjourn the meeting, which was seconded by multiple senators and approved unanimously. The meeting officially ended at approximately 10:20 p.m. and Justices Gbujama and Jackson remain in office.
As the meeting adjourned, chants of “Jo!” emerged from a contingent of students located near the back of the room in support of Gbujama.
Following the meeting, the Highlander was informed that Chou privately offered the president’s seat to 2016-17 presidential runner-up Arturo Gomez in the wake of elected President Shafi Karim being on automatic leave for the quarter. Gomez accepted the presidency and will serve as acting president for at least the remainder of winter 2017.
“I am honored and humbled to officially take office as interim acting president of the Associated Students of UC Riverside,” shared Gomez in a statement. “I am optimistic that collaboration with the members of our three branches will help move us — and by extension, the campus — forward. I will do my best to represent and advocate for the best interest of all Highlanders. Thank you.”
Watch video of last night’s emergency senate meeting in full below: