On Wednesday, June 2, ASUCR held their final meeting of the spring quarter and of the school year. Due to a walkout protest, the meeting was extended to three hours. CHASS senators Christopher Kent and Sarah Dhou, as well as President Pro-Tempore Orlando Cabalo, staged an unannounced walkout that prevented the passage of legislation.
The senate board began a motion to discuss SB-S21-10, a piece of legislation designed to require a yearly student-issued survey to be completed following the electoral process. However, upon calling for a motion to vote on the bill, the walkout occurred, leaving the vote at 9-0-0. Due to the walkout of the three named senators, the quorum to pass legislation was not met, and the remaining senators were unable to continue with further motions, as all further voting would be considered unofficial.
President Pro-Tempore Cabalo released a statement to The Highlander on behalf of the three ASUCR senators who decided to walk out of the senate meeting, citing two primary reasons. The first concern of the five senators regards “a number of backroom attempts to strongarm these election bills to the Senate floor.” In their statement, Cabalo and the other senators stated they felt it was necessary to resist attempts to pass unconstitutional legislation.
Their protest was driven by what they considered to be a major piece of unconstitutional legislation. The bill in question, SB-021-12 “Minimum Requirement to Win an Election Unopposed,” was described in the statement as “defiant of the ASUCR Constitution” and threatening to the will of voters. The bill states that in the event that a candidate fails to garner 70% of the vote, rather than looking at the majority of votes, a special election would be held in its place. In his statement, Cabalo expressed that “this unconstitutional bill would revoke the will of voters in the event an unopposed candidate fails to garner a ludicrous 70% of votes. Rather than listening to voters, this bill would hand election power to the Senate in a special election.”
Cabalo further expressed his concerns stating, “Our caucus is wholeheartedly opposed to ignoring the will of voters and handing more power to a gang of 18 senators.”
In an interview, ASUCR Elections Director Lama Yassine expressed that she considered the walkout to be a “clear obstruction of justice,” and “very undemocratic.” Yassine explained further that she wrote and submitted 12 pieces of legislation, including SB-S21-010, with sponsorship by other senators; this legislation would implement a minimum number of votes for unopposed candidates, defining an online aspect of the election process, requiring a yearly survey and removing the three strikes rule for candidates. However, she explained that Cabalo refused to place these pieces of legislation on the agenda for the Legislative Review Committee meeting, though her legislation was later accepted through a vote by the LRC. She explained that Cabalo had then refused to hold a meeting to review the legislation, a refusal to honor the LRC vote, and violation of his jurisdiction. However, an interpretation of the constitution by the ASUCR Judicial branch allowed for an override of this refusal and ensured that the legislation would be heard in the senate. At the senate meeting, a motion was passed to include her legislation on the agenda, though once they reached her pieces, the walkout interrupted further voting.
Yassine expressed her concerns and stated that, “These senators who walked out were blocking my legislation from being heard and are silencing the voices of the elections committee and senators who voted to pass these pieces of legislation, as well as the senators and sponsors who worked hard to write and approve the legislation respectively.”
At the end of the meeting, many graduating senators expressed their appreciation for the work and professionalism of the ASUCR board. Many of them expressed that it was an honor to serve and lent their gratitude to the incoming cohort who will serve on the ASUCR board next year, bidding farewell before their departure.