ASUCR engages in heated debate over potential constitutional amendments

ASUCR held its first meeting of the Spring quarter on Wednesday, April 3 at 6:30 pm. After roll call and approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, the meeting started with the Chief Justice of the ASUCR Judicial Council Rume Diamreyan proposing to table an amendment change made by ASUCR late last quarter until further notice on the grounds that the Judicial Council was never consulted on the change.

Shortly after, during public forum, Justice Peter Haddad spoke at the podium to further explain the request to table the amendment change. He said, “We feel that the constitutional amendment is stripping us of certain powers necessary for Judicial to do a proper job.” The proposed constitutional amendment would add a caveat to the finality clause in the constitution that states that “All decisions from the Judicial Council shall be final unless reversed by subsequent Judicial Council action.”

Under this new change, the senate would be able to, with a two-thirds vote, allow for an arbitrator (an outside attorney) to be hired to make a decision that can either override or confirm the judiciary’s decision on the case in question, and the arbitrator would have true finality. Haddad also argues that this would prevent the judicial branch from making decisions independently from the senate, as the senate would hold the power to potentially nullify any decision the judicial branch makes with an arbitrator.

Vice President of External Affairs Jose Cortez Hernandez followed this by claiming that the finality clause was never ratified by the senate, “It was never presented to the senate at the time nor any senators after. What makes it just to have a justice write governing bylaws and then never have it ratified by the senate?” He then went on to argue that this change would give the judicial branch a much needed check on their power, “This amendment more or less ensures that every branch in ASUCR has a check because right now only two branches have accountability, the senate and the executive.”

Cortez also believes that this amendment would only be utilized “during very extreme measures” and therefore does not limit the judicial branch’s powers significantly. Haddad countered these points by claiming that, “When you are appointed, you then confirmed a good faith body to do its mission.” What this means is that the ASUCR president nominates the justices and then those nominees are confirmed by a vote from the senate. Haddad claimed that this is where the check on the judicial branch occurs in that both of the other branches have the responsibility of selecting justices who will make correct decisions. This argument in particular received multiple snaps of agreement from the audience.

After Haddad thanked the senate and sat down, the candidates involved in the upcoming ASUCR elections were announced. After the announcement of the candidates, debate centered around the proposed amendment continued as CHASS Senator Chelsea Davenport argued that the judicial branch should have been consulted about the change, and this complaint was echoed by CHASS Senator Mehvish Ali. “I think if we’re changing rules for a whole different branch then they should most definitely be included in the conversation. I find no harm in tabling this resolution, at least for a week,” stated Ali. From this point, the conversation devolved into a heated argument between Senator Davenport and CNAS Senator Andy G. Veliz about being properly alerted in advance about legislation being voted on.

Veliz then stated, “We’re not children. We don’t need to have this in our hands. It’s literally in our Google Drive. If you guys aren’t going in and looking at this legislation, that’s all on you guys. You guys aren’t doing your jobs.” As Senator Davenport prepared to respond, Executive Vice President (EVP) Andrea Cuevas stated “This conversation is out of order” and had them return to the topic at hand and pounded her gavel at Senator Davenport as she attempted to continue the previous conversation, and she pounded it again as Senator Veliz attempted to speak again. They both fell silent, and then a motion to table amendment four indefinitely was denied.

After that, a motion to table the amendment for one week, until April 10, passed, which was followed by a brief recess. After the recess, amendment five was discussed. The current legislation in the ASUCR constitution states “A forty-eight (48) hour public notice must be given before an official meeting may be held; (b) Public notice shall include: posting on the door of the Association, written notice to all Senators, posted on the ASUCR Website, or notice to all campus media.” The new item “(b)” would instead state, “Public notice of meeting shall be placed by the senate chambers, email (sic) to all senators, posted on the ASUCR website and provided to all campus media that has requested it.”

Senator Davenport explained the importance of this new legislation, “As it stands right now, students don’t have an opportunity to hear ahead of time what’s going to be discussed in these chambers. Everyone agrees that it’s necessary for students to know what their elected officials are talking about.” Veliz then made the argument that this would cost too much paper. Vice President of External Affairs Hernandez then reminded the senate that this same proposed amendment was already voted on as a part of the bylaws and he then questioned why it is necessary to now make it a constitutional amendment.

President Semi Cole then chimed in stating, “Last year we were actually able to send out the agenda via email to every single student, but that ability was removed this summer.” He then explained that sending out a weekly email on Monday would be sufficient to let students know about what will be on the agenda for the meetings. “It doesn’t need to be a constitutional amendment. That’s the whole issue at play.” Several times it was repeated that this legislation being a bylaw is sufficient. BCOE Senator Sarah Al-Khalili argued that, “It doesn’t even state how the EVP should be able to publicize the meetings or anything within those meetings, so this definitely needs to be amended within the constitution itself.”

After continued arguments about whether or not this issue deserves a constitutional change, a motion to table amendment five indefinitely was passed. After amendment five was tabled, the five referenda that will be on the ballot in the upcoming elections were discussed. The only major change announced to any of the referenda was a decrease in the amount being asked for in the Highlander News Referendum from $2 to $1.50. After this announcement, all five referenda were voted on and passed, and as a result, they will all be on the ballot for the student body to vote on in the Spring elections from April 23-27. After the referendum passed, a new parliamentarian was confirmed. Following roundtable announcements from senators about various events, the meeting was adjourned at 8:32 pm.

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