ASUCR argues over the constitutionality of bill that would address removal and vacancy procedures

On Wednesday, Jan. 22, ASUCR held the third meeting of the winter quarter.

At the beginning of the meeting, the agenda was amended to include a discussion on SB-W20-001: Enacting Chapter XXXIII: Removal and Vacancy Procedures, which was tabled at last week’s ASUCR meeting. The bill would make the removal and vacancy procedures of members in the cabinet more clear and concise. The proposed change would define malfeasance and dereliction of duty in Section 5 and Section 6 of the bylaw. Section 5, Item A defines malfeasance as “malicious intent to harm an individual physically, to engage in bribery (whether monetary or otherwise), an intense self-service through one’s elected office, and/or other high crimes/misdemeanors.” Section 6, Item A defines dereliction of duty as any consistent and repeated violation of the job required by all members in ASUCR.

At last week’s ASUCR meeting, ASUCR President Julian Gonzalez stated that this bill would go against the constitution because it states that the five added directors are part of the executive branch. The agenda was also amended by Gonzalez to include a closed session discussion after Roundtable and Announcements. The amendment to add a closed session discussion was approved 13-0-0.

The meeting then moved on to Public Comment. Former President Pro Tempore and former School of Public Policy (SPP) Senator Preeti Juturu approached the podium. Juturu, who authored SB-W20-001 along with Orlando Cabalo, a first-year history major and ASUCR senate intern, stated, “I find it concerning that the bill was tabled when the writers of the bill were not given a reason why … the bill was tabled by the senate because someone did not like it … to say that this bill is not in compliance with the constitution and bylaws is completely inaccurate.”

After Public Comment, the meeting moved on to Campus Culture/Climate Task Force Recommendations Feedback. Mariam Lam, associate vice chancellor and chief diversity officer, and Helen Regan, professor and chair of the Department of Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology gave a presentation on the Task Force on Campus Culture which received charge from Chancellor Wilcox in May of 2019. This task force will build on the work of recent departmental and campus-wide reviews, to gather data points on campus culture from a variety of sources and develop a set of recommendations to campus leadership. The charge will include analyzing formal policies, informal processes and organizational behavior to address bullying, harassment, favoritism and toxic work environments.

Lam stated that the task force was created in response to a University of California investigation released in October of 2018 that found that former UC Riverside Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs James Sandavol sexually harassed two women he supervised with unwanted touching, intimate texts and persistent invitations to private dinners and drinks. The presentation stated that only 50% of employees agreed that most of the time, it is safe to speak up in the UCR organization.

The task force’s recommendation for UCR’s senior leadership is to build trust, accountability and transparency. This includes defining and developing mechanisms to monitor abuse of power. It also includes promoting training opportunities for improving campus culture. The task force’s recommendation for supervisors and faculty is to foster an ethical use of power. This includes training and support for staff supervisors, academic leaders and faculty by enabling things such as healthy power, gender and race dynamics. Regan stated that often, supervisors and faculty are hired as assistant professors with no training at all. She stated, “You’re just thrown in there … it is no wonder we mess up on a regular basis.”

Lam stated that the task force found that gender and sexual harassment were not the only things wrong with UCR’s campus culture; they found all kinds of favoritism, nepotism, bullying and abuse of power across all staff lines and divisions. She stated that the new Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Brian Haynes and the Dean of Students Christine Mata have been working to make structural changes in the management of student affairs to ensure that something like this does not happen again.

The meeting then moved on to Committee Reports. SB-W20-003_Modification of the ASUCR Labor Commissions, SB-W20-004: Chapter 6 Personnel Bylaws Revision, SB-W20-005: VPFinanceBylawUpdate-ClubFunds and SB-W20-006 Bill _ SCAIP Form were all passed.

SB-W20-003 would change the name of the Labor Commission to the Labor Committee and expand on the work the Labor Commission would be permitted to do, including educating students about labor unions and their importance. SB-W20-004 would outline the duties of the personnel director more clearly as well as require a quorum of five members for committees under the personnel director when they hold meetings. SB-W20-005 would return fundraised money by clubs who are no longer active back to the rightful owners. Sinclair stated that the money was turned in to ASUCR and put in the ASUCR reserves. SB-W20-006 would require that candidates during the ASUCR elections be required to sign certain paperwork in order to be eligible to run.

Juturu and Cabalo then presented SB-W20-001: Enacting Chapter XXXIII: Removal and Vacancy Procedures. BCOE Senator Maurice Armstrong expressed his concern with this bill stating, “The issue that I still have with this bill is that the definition of the executive cabinet including the five director positions within the executive cabinet when they are a part of the extended cabinet according to the constitution.”

Armstrong went on to state that he does think that this a great bill and that they should be discussing and defining the exact definition of malfeasance and dereliction of duty but there is no need to vote on the bill because he struggles with the terminology of the executive cabinet and director positions stated within the bill.

President Gonzalez then went on to state, “The constitution says that the five vice presidents and the president are the executive cabinet and the directors are a part of the executive branch who are non-voting members in the executive cabinet. What this bill would be doing is stating that all directors, vice presidents and the president are a part of the executive cabinet. This bill would conflict with the constitution.”

Leo Yue//HIGHLANDER

Chief Justice of the Judicial Council Sarai Fuentes then went on to agree that this bill would be conflicting with the constitution. She stated, “Technically, since this bill does explain how the directors are part of the executive cabinet, it would be somewhat conflicting with the constitution.”

Juturu responded by directly reading from the constitution which states in Article IV: Executive Branch, Section A, the executive cabinet shall consist of the following five executive officer positions and five non-voting director positions: president, executive vice president, vice president of internal affairs, vice president of external affairs, vice president of finance, elections director, undergraduate sustainability director, marketing and promotions director, personnel director and the transfer and nontraditional student director. Juturu stated that the bill is a verbatim of the constitution.

ASUCR Executive Director Laurie Sinclair then went on to affirm Juturu’s statement. She stated that about five years ago the past senate wanted everyone in the executive branch to be a part of the executive cabinet. Sinclair stated that that has never made sense. The issue, Sinclair stated, is that the vote was approved but the constitution is the people’s document which means that the senate cannot change it, it can only be changed through a constitutional amendment that would have to be voted on by the student body. Sinclair stated that directors have never really been a part of the executive cabinet because they do not have a vote, they do not get paid the same and it is a different part of the branch. She stated that because of this, they have always considered directors a part of the extended cabinet.

Sinclair claimed that she is working on creating a committee that will get together called a constitutional review committee that would update this wording in the constitution but the change would have to be voted on by the student body in the general election. Sinclair stated, “But yes, as of right now, this bill does coincide with what the constitution says.”

Executive Vice President Abigail Cortes expressed some of her concerns with the bill as well. Cortes stated, “It looks like parts of this bill are copied and pasted directly from the constitution … I wanted to ask what the purpose of copying and pasting the constitution is?” Juturu responded stating that it is just to clarify what the constitution states and it would make it easier to have this language in a separate bylaw for future senators since she believes that not every senator or student reads the constitution in its entirety.

Cortes then reiterated her question, while also questioning what the purpose of copying and pasting the constitution onto a bylaw is. Juturu claimed that this was intended to clarify parts of the constitution that need further explanation. Gonzalez also stated that by grouping directors and the executive cabinet together in the bylaw, the bylaw is also stating that directors would require one year of experience the same way the executive cabinet does.

After approximately 35 minutes of debates, EVP Cortes terminated any further discussions on the bill. She urged the senate to consider what she stated were inconsistencies within the bill when casting their vote. The senate voted on the bill and the bill was ultimately denied with a vote of 4-5-5.

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