During the ASUCR senate meeting April 24, fourteen senators unanimously passed the Armenian Genocide Commemoration Resolution thereby establishing that day as the official Remembrance Day of Armenian Genocide on campus. In hopes of increasing public transparency, the Judicial Branch has enacted a series of changes within the ASUCR elections processes and legislative voting procedures.
Addressing the Armenian Genocide
Students from the Armenian Student Association (ASA) and the Armenian sorority Alpha Gamma Alpha (AGA) convened at the ASUCR senate meeting to petition for UCR’s recognition of the Armenian genocide that occurred from 1915 to 1923.
“By honoring the survivors and consistently commemorating and forcefully condemning the atrocities committed against the Armenian people with regards to the repetition of the crime of genocide, ASUCR encourages the awareness of such atrocity in order to prevent reoccurrence of the crime,” stated the resolution. “Therefore, let it be resolved that ASUCR 2012-2013 acknowledges the commemoration the 1.5 million Armenians who fell victims.”
The historical legitimacy of the Armenian genocide is vehemently denied by the Turkish government. The U.S. government also does not recognize the event on a national level due to a history of needed diplomacy with Turkey. In 2007, the United States House Committee on Foreign Affairs approved of HR 106, which denounced the genocide.
However, HR 106 immediately lost much of its support from both Democrats and Republicans alike, who worried of Turkish interference—with the possibility of limiting airspace and ground access for U.S. troops—during the War on Terror. In response to HR 106, Turkish ambassadors were sent to the U.S., where they were successful in blocking the overall passage of the bill.
“It is heartbreaking that the victims and their families did not receive the proper regards as they ought to,” said Vazgen Plouzian, whose family was directly affected by the genocide. “Not recognizing the genocide affects every Armenian in the world. Although it was in the past, we cannot move on until our history is remembered, accepted and understood.”
Plouzian further claims that recognition of the genocide on the school level will ultimately equate to recognition on the national level. Many Armenian organizations are still actively appealing to President Obama about the acknowledgement of their racial and historical identity. They hope that one day in the future, all forms of mass killing and genocide will be condemned and prevented.
“This is not about racial identities or beliefs. We are fighting for recognition only because this really had happened,” said Sebough Kouyoumjian, Vice President of the Armenian Student Association. “As a public school representing the state, UCR’s recognition would mean a lot to us.”
Other students, who were not affiliated with ASA and AGA, supported granting recognition to the Armenian genocide in order to create an open space for diverse student organizations to thrive.
Many international scholars, the United Nations and 43 out of 50 U.S. states—with the exception of Alabama, Mississippi, West Virginia, Indiana, Iowa, Wyoming and South Dakota—have already recognized the genocide. Kouyomijian contests that as a public institution of higher education, UCR should also render recognition and commemoration of the Armenian people on behalf of California.
The resolution was immediately passed through the legislative process. Prior to its passage, President Liam Dow requested for an open ballot vote. At the end of the Senate meeting, Kouyoumijian rose up to the podium and led everyone to hold a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims of the Armenian genocide.
Judicial branch enforces senate reforms
After an investigation that determined the legality of a controversial vote made on the divestment resolution, the ASUCR judicial branch enforced a mandatory disclosure policy, requiring each senator to submit his or her input about every piece of legislation prior to voting on it. The elections committee was also tasked with creating a questionnaire to ask students what issues that they care about; ASUCR senate candidates will provide responses to said issues, which will then be attached to their biographies in the next elections.
“After an extensive investigation of the situation, we have come to the conclusion that ASUCR required reading policy was not enacted in an effective manner and that the senators did not have enough time to understand the material and interpret what the consequences of passing the resolution were,” ASUCR Vice Justice Mark Orland on behalf of the judicial branch.
Compiled by the Executive Vice President Armando Saldana, senatorial opinions will be archived and publicly available five hours in advance of a senate meeting. “If a senator does not provide a response, they will be barred from voting on said piece of legislation,” reported Orland. Senators must submit their responses at least 24 hours in advance.
Orland affirmed that the senate has the authority to vote on political issues pertaining to the student body. But he contended that the public has limited options when it comes to asking candidates about political affiliations and beliefs relevant to them. As a result, the Elections Committee will now be required to construct and release a survey, which will be checked by a third party during the winter quarter.
“This will allow students to be more involved in the elections process as well as say what they want their student government for. This will allow members of ASUCR to maintain a level of transparency and representation to the public,” said Orland.
Led by the Elections Director, the Elections Committee must create questions from the top 10 issues as submitted by the student body. By providing clear responses to the issues, ASUCR will allow students to vote for candidates who best represent their views.
After Orland delivered his report, President Dow requested that he reveal all five names of the justices on the Judicial Branch.
The response of the senate to the judicial branch’s ruling was mixed. Senator Kristina Morelos expressed her support of the enacted changes, saying, “I think this is an awesome idea, awesome recommendations.” On the contrary, Senator Sai Patadia made clear his concerns about the structure of each branch as a result of the enforced policies.
“This will change the functionality for a couple of offices,” said Patadia. He referred specifically to the finance committee as an example, where Controller Crystal Kim would be required to provide her opinion about the passage of student funding. In response, Orland stated the senators were only required to provide a simple response, which depended on the complexity of each piece of legislation.
Patadia asked, “In regards to powers amongst each branch, is the judicial branch allowed to make a ruling with whatever thoughts they feel are deemed appropriate to the judicial branch and overrule the legislative and executive branch?” Orland answered that justices are allowed to make decisions on behalf of the other branches, as long as the interpretations aligned with the ASUCR Constitution and bylaws.