Courtesy of Grace SunThe Associated Students of UCR’s eleventh meeting was called to order by Executive Vice President Myra Usmani on Wednesday, Jan. 25th, 2023 in the ASUCR Senate Chamber at 7:05 P.M. All senators were present, excluding CHASS senator Andrew Bui who arrived late, CHASS senator Alex Lu, CHASS senator Kyle Cheng, and BCOE senator Chloe Au. In addition to the senators, the Executive Cabinet was present as well.
During the Public Forum, First Time Student Director Victoria Nguyen made a statement addressing the Monterey Park mass shooting that occurred on Lunar New Year Eve. The statement was motioned to be adopted as the official ASUCR statement by President Pro Tempore Aalani Richardson and seconded by Sen. Abby Choy, passing with a vote of 13-0-0. At risk of losing a vital community program, graduate student Christian Valdez presented the two-year long effort in drafting a referendum for R’Garden. It asks students to pay $10 per quarter for the resources that the R’Garden supplies in partnership with the R’Pantry. Lastly, Genevieve Ortiz, the External Communications Director at the ASUCR office, brought up concerns about the ASUCR HEAT event, as the approved budget does not include accommodations for students with sensory disabilities and the budget for the EMT is split between other event items.
Ex-officio reports then took place and saw various members of the Executive Cabinet discussing the state of the Association and their individual projects. Executive Cabinet meeting minutes were also reviewed as well.
The committee reports of the LRC included discussions and motions on several bills. The first bill, SB-F22-018 Chapter 32 Bylaw Amendment, was opened for discussion and later approved 10-0-2. The second bill, SB-W23-006 Chapter 16 Administrative Amendments, was opened and approved 10-0-2 and provides an update to the Transfer Student Director Bylaw. The third bill, SB-W23-007 Executive Vice President Stipend Amendment was presented by PPT Richardson and stipulated that the stipend for the EVP position be the same as all other VP positions. The bill was later approved 12-0-2.
Two Green Grants were discussed and approved. Vice President of Sustainability Alondra Martinez spoke in favor of Green Grant #21 which funds the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Solar Boat project. The second grant, Green Grant #22 serves the Gardening Club and would provide funding for pizza materials from the R’Garden. Both were approved 14-0-0.
Finance Hearing Minutes #1 was reviewed by individual line items. VP of Finance Martinez discussed funding allocations, including $10,500 requested by Marketing and Promotions Director Phanxico Hoang for the HEAT concert. PPT Richardson raised concerns regarding why this request was submitted as normal funding and not outreach grant considering the low contingency fund. According to VP of Finance Martinez the grant comes from the state of California and is usually not accessible for UCR students, the contingency is to support ASUCR. President Assaf voiced her clear disapproval of HEAT allocations and urged the Senate to disapprove, believing that concerts are within ASPB’s expertise. She expressed that $10,000 should not be for a concert and could instead be allocated elsewhere such as for the Women’s Campus safety program, which needs around $15,000.
In regards to line item g, Chief Justice Arias addressed reasons for the Associate Justice position compensations increasing from $990 to $1485 for 9 months of work. According to Zaki, the judicial branch was getting paid the temporary stipend that was approved last year but was not seen this year. PPT. Richardson brings concerns about how the compensation is equal to Senators, but on paper Senators have more tangible duties. This raised questions about increased Senate pay. Chief Justice Arias acknowledged PPT Richardson’s concerns and does believe Senators should be paid more, but also stated that the Justices do not deserve to be paid less than the requested amount. Finance Hearing Minutes #1 was approved with a vote count for 13-0-0.
In conjunction, Finance Hearing Minutes #2 and Finance Hearing Minutes #3 were also approved with a vote count of 12-0-0 and 13-0-0 respectively. Most notably, Finance Minutes #3 adds $30,000 to ASUCR total contingency allocations, pulled from the Reserves.
New Business first saw Chief Justice of the Judicial Council, Alexandria Arias addressing numerous issues including changes to bylaws and complaints. She also clarified the procedures behind close sessions, where senators can request those they believe are conflicts of interests to not participate, and could request members of ECAB to join.
A closed ballot ratification of an Associate Justice candidate then took place. President Assaf introduced the candidate, Reem Chamas, a 4th-year, Neuroscience major. She gave her opening statement where she described her love for advocacy, leadership experience, and desire to uphold the ASUCR constitution. The senate questioned Chamas on a number of issues. Chamas stated, “I’m going into every meeting with an open mind, not based on my personal beliefs, but what will uphold the Constitution and bylaws.”
CHASS Sen. Jules Yang referred to Chamas’s application where she highlighted that some members came from the same fraternity and implied that such conditions were suspect, concerning impartial procedures. Chamas had compared the student government to a “boys club as opposed to a non-partisan party.” Chamas responded to Yang explaining that she believes it is important to have people from different backgrounds, different majors, different years, to be working together in the judicial offices. BCOE Sen. Alexander Hunt questioned if she would remain impartial if the administration were to get involved in a matter. Chamas restated her commitment to impartiality. After the senate conferred in a closed session, the closed ballot vote resulted in a vote count of 9-5-0, which meant that Chamas would not be ratified as an Associate Justice.
In an event that shook the Senate Meeting, President Assaf and Vice President of External Affairs Amina Hearns dissented from the Senate decision to not ratify Reem Chamas for associate Justice. Hearns expressed her dissatisfaction with the state of the ASUCR and questioned the impartiality accorded to women of color during elections. President Assaf pointed out the peculiarities of how the Senate votes when in closed discussion. She expressed her belief that Chamas was one of the best candidates they vetted, as she was the only one to speak up and stand her ground regarding the nepotism rampant within ASUCR, particularly members that are associated with fraternities. President Assaf and VPEA Hearns discussed various ways misogyny has been expressed in ASUCR processes.
Confusion had arisen regarding whether a 2/3 vote of the present or total senate is needed for ratification. A motion was called for by SPP senator Sean Nguyen to have the Judicial Council reinterpret voting requirements. The issue was tabled for next week’s meeting.President Assaf requested during Public Comment that in the next meeting with the elections director and associate justice elections, the senate should try to vote publicly. VPEA Hearns primarily announced an anti-misogyny workshop for the office. Highlander News briefly made an appearance. Chief Justice Arias made clarifications for the Elections Director search. The meeting concluded with announcements from PPT Richardson and CNAS Sen. Shukan Shah. A motion for adjournment was called at 11:51 p.m.