On Wednesday, Feb. 19, GSOE Senator Evelin Castaneda publicly announced that she was resigning from her position at the ASUCR meeting. In an interview with The Highlander, Castaneda further expanded on her experience in ASUCR and the reasoning behind her resignation. Castaneda’s resignation marks the sixth resignation from ASUCR this year.
At the meeting, Castaneda stated that she was tired of being part of a team that is unprofessional and uses their elected positions to serve themselves. She also stated that members of ASUCR were elected as officials to serve the student body, to help them by passing bills and voicing their concerns but instead, she felt that they use their positions to help themselves whether it be by increasing their own salary, “getting clout,” or using funds in ways that only benefit certain people.
Castaneda stated in an interview with The Highlander that last quarter, she was really excited to be part of a team that was passionate about advocating for student issues. She stated, “Soon after, I noticed a difference in the elected officials’ attitudes and personalities. Everytime I would communicate with them, I felt ignored. When I would ask for funds for an event or volunteers for an event, I wouldn’t hear back unless I directly messaged someone.” Castaneda stated that this quarter, she did not see ASUCR as a safe space for her anymore. “Every time I entered the office, I felt tension towards me and I felt unwelcomed. I did not want to be in a space that was pushing me out and I didn’t feel happy anymore,” stated Castaneda.
One of the reasons Castaneda resigned was because she did not want to be part of a team that did not listen to her, or respect the constitution. Castaneda also elaborated on her statement she made at the ASUCR meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 19 when she called her fellow senators “fake.” She told The Highlander that when she would have conversations outside the office with senators, they seemed to agree with her in regards to legislation. However, when it came down to voting during the senate meetings, they would do the opposite, said Castaneda.
Castaneda also stated at the ASUCR meeting that many senators put up a front for the public, but acted very differently behind closed doors. Castaneda told The Highlander that many senators would not voice their opinions about a bill in the senate meeting, but as soon as a discussion was closed to the public, they would become vocal about it. “This made me feel like they were scared of the students knowing their true opinions. It seemed to me that they would show different sides of themselves; one they showed to the public (concerned, hardworking) and their true selves (apathetic). They also claim to be transparent with their decisions, but then go on to make closed sessions and closed voting,” stated Castaneda.
Many senators want to maintain an image to impress the executive cabinet (ECAB), stated Castaneda. She claimed that she felt like senators wanted ECAB members to see them as a friend rather than as a coworker. She said that she thinks that her fellow senators were afraid of how ECAB would view them if they went against something the ECAB believed in or wanted. “Because I was always vocal about my opinions from the start, many of my coworkers felt that they could have me voice their opinions instead of doing it themselves,” stated Castaneda. She believes that senators would rely on her to start uncomfortable conversations so they would then have the opportunity to speak up. She stated, “I had become known for speaking my mind, even if I went against my colleagues. I think my fellow senators recognized this and saw an opportunity to voice their concerns through me. That way, I would be the one going “against” everyone else, not them.”
At the Feb. 19 ASUCR meeting, Castaneda claimed that Gonzalez acted rudely and unprofessional toward ASUCR Executive Director Laurie Sinclair during the closed session meeting called to discuss SB-W20-009 Amendments to Chapters 10, 8, 2 and 4 of the ASUCR bylaws, which would increase the executive vice president’s (EVP) stipend by $2,475. In her interview with The Highlander, Castaneda stated that during the closed session, Sinclair asked EVP Abigail Cortes where in Robert’s Rules of Order it allowed her to call for a closed session. Cortes called a closed session meeting to discuss the bill while the ASUCR Parliamentarian stated that a closed session meeting must be approved by a two-thirds vote by the senate. Despite this, Cortes still held the closed session meeting, stating that Robert’s Rules of Order allow the chair of a meeting to call a closed session without a vote. Castaneda stated that during the closed session, Cortes answered Sinclair and stated that the Constitution stated that she can hold a closed session without a vote. Castaneda stated that Sinclair was simply verifying that Cortes’ actions were constitutional, but “President Gonzalez rudely cut her off and insisted that the constitution overrides Robert’s Rules.”
In regards to her overall experience in ASUCR, Castaneda stated that she is grateful students elected her to be their representative. She stated that she had the opportunity to vote on topics impacting campus such as the location of commencement and R’Gear. “I was exposed to different committees around campus and I was able to learn more about communicating and collaborating with others,” she said. She also stated that she was able to educate her peers about funding their ideas and projects through ASUCR. “However, I was pushed to resign because I did not feel valued. I felt that the other members saw me as an enemy rather than a colleague for voicing my opinions,” stated Castaneda.
As for the future of this year’s ASUCR, Castaneda stated that after being there for almost two quarters, she does not think that they are capable of accurately voicing student concerns. She stated, “When sitting in the horseshoe, I only saw senators who cared about having a position, some who wanted a resume-builder, others who wanted more power to benefit themselves and a few that wanted to help other students.” While she does not see this year’s ASUCR being full of passionate senators who want to help the student body, she stated that she does hope that next year’s ASUCR is better.
She ended the interview stating, “I hope that senators actually attend the meetings with their respective ethnic and gender programs’ directors, I hope that elected officials know how to approach Ethnic and Gender Program Directors when wanting to set up a meeting about a sensitive topic.” She believes that ASUCR can be much better than what it is now when it is full of students who are not afraid to use their voice, stand up for themselves and voice the concerns of the student body.