Senate proposes impeachments, opens online student forum

April 12, 2017, 1:17 a.m.

At its Tuesday meeting, the 18th Undergraduate Senate proposed impeachments of Constitutional Council members for what it called “obnoxious” and “dishonest” behavior — characterizations that the two students under scrutiny contest. The Senate also passed a bill to produce an online forum for suggestions for ASSU discussion.


Senate Chair Shanta Katipamula ’19 raised bills for discussion to impeach Constitutional Council members Brian Baran J.D. ’18 and Jonathan York J.D. ’18 following their decision in the recent hearing of LSJUMB/KZSU v. Undergraduate Senate, which Band and KZSU won.

Band and KZSU won student groups’ right to petition a Senate funding rejection when the funding request lies outside of the Senate’s funding guidelines. The case raised Senate concerns over how the hearings were handled.

Senator Jayaram Ravi ’19 described Baran’s actions as “obnoxious,” accusing Baran of a “30-minute tirade” on University fee collection after a one-sentence response from the Senate on a different topic. Fee collection was unrelated to the case at hand, Ravi said.

Baran wrote in an email to The Daily that Ravi’s accusations were false and that the meeting Ravi referenced was just “a lively question-and-answer hearing.” Although Baran found Ravi’s statement unclear, he asserted that no topic was discussed for anywhere near 30 minutes. Baran further clarified that:

“Perhaps Mr. Ravi is referring to the stipends senators receive, in which case the claim is particularly ludicrous. One of the advocates noted that senators receive stipends in the course of arguing that organizations would be breaking the law were they to pay officers. I noted my confusion with this apparent contradiction, the advocates explained that they believed senators’ pay was covered by an exception, and the Council promptly moved on to discussing the argument that officer pay was illegal. Anyone wondering whether that issue was relevant need only refer to the copious briefing on it by the Senate and its supporters in the case.”

Regarding York, chair of the Council, Katipamula said he not only failed to disclose pertinent information in an email prior to the Senate meeting but also made false statements regarding a public meeting and required public motion prior to the hearing. Katipamula said the Senate was never notified of a pre-hearing meeting.

She alleged that York’s later description of the meeting was “completely different from what the email said,” although she did not specify exact wording.

Although the Senate did not pass the bills at this meeting, senators felt that they were important to discuss. However, York took issue with the Senate’s decision to discuss the matter of impeachment at all on Tuesday. In an email to The Daily, he wrote that he notified Katipamula and ASSU Exec of being unable to attend the Senate meeting due to religious commitments during Passover.

“As such, [I] had been assured that debate and vote on this issue would be postponed until next week,” York wrote.

York also noted “the very strange circumstance where an issue that is certainly not urgent (the Constitutional Council has no plans to meet and no cases upcoming) was discussed without the key people involved, one of whom had already informed the Senate that he could not attend due to a religious conflict.”

The bills will be brought up again in the next meeting after the senators gather more information from both sides of the case.

“Impeachment is a serious thing to be considered, and the student body deserves to know that we did it in a fair and evenhanded manner,” said Senator Gabe Rosen ’19.

Student Voice

Student Voice is an online forum where students can anonymously voice opinions and ideas for changes to benefit the student body. The website, found on the ASSU Senate page, is based off of other open forum sites from comparable universities like Harvard, MIT and Oxford. According to Junwon Park ’19, one of the senators who implemented the site, Student Voice is meant to act as an inspiration for discussion at Senate meetings.

Students can “upvote” or comment on suggestions made by others. Senators will serve as administrators for the site and will have the power to remove unwanted posts. Although students will be anonymous, senators will not.

Senator Matthew Cohen ’18 voiced concerns about “trolling” and multiple postings by the same person after testing the site. Park explained that the system would not be able to prevent students from “trolling,” but said there are few examples of malevolent behavior in similar applications. Instead, Park said to focus on the number of ideas generated on the site.

“If five students suggest 100 good ideas, it doesn’t really matter how many students are suggesting them,” Park said.

Ravi was more concerned with frivolity and the question of “ridiculous” ideas that do not concern Senate affairs.

Park responded to comments saying that the forum has been successful at other universities and that protecting anonymity is key for protecting student rights.

Katipamula suggested that the communications committee control the project and have access to the source codes for use by future senates. Katipamula said having a set head of the site would help with continuity of dealing with discussion proceedings by making someone “directly responsible” for the application.

Senator Jasmin Espinosa ’18 suggested an update to have students sign in with their student ID, making the site confidential instead of anonymous and ensuring that all posts are made by students. Her proposal echoed Katipamula’s equating of the site to YikYak, an app where students have faced issues of hate speech.

Rosen was also concerned with hate speech and obscenities and asked that the site be primed with a filter to prevent inappropriate posts when the communication committee is not there to filter them out. Espinosa added to this concern, asking about the site’s ability to block users.

Park accounted for all of these concerns, amending the bill before it was unanimously passed. Student Voice should be available after the site is updated to reflect these amendments.

Tight budget

Rosen said the Senate will face funding constraints for the rest of the term and that it will most likely need to dip into reserves. After supporting recommendations for funding this week, he said, the Senate has only $37,000 left out of the $178,000 that it had for use this year. This $37,000 is for the rest of the academic quarter.

As cost concerns rise, Katipamula offered a formal response to a bill on ASSU divestment from fossil fuels, providing context for the costs associated with divestment. She said that the bill raises concerns about the Senate acting as a 501c3 instead of a corporation.

“This is the first of many divestment requests – not necessarily to us but to this body in coming years,” Katipamula said.

Still, senators wrote and passed a bill offering funding to a Comunidad event that would bring star of the CW series “Jane the Virgin” Gina Rodriguez to campus to discuss being Latina.

Other projects

Individually, senators are concerning themselves with mental and physical health issues as well as amending constitutional bylaws.

Ravi is working on raising CAPS funding and getting counselors in community centers. Senator Carson Smith ’19 is also working on mental health projects to bring CAPS and its Mental Health and Wellness campaigns to dorms.

Cohen displayed his model for the implementation of a drinking fountain on the third floor of Crothers Memorial dorm. The pilot system is expected to be installed in May and is the first water fountain to be installed in the Crothers dorm complex.

Amendments to the constitutional bylaws discussed at last week’s meeting were all passed.

Update: This article has been updated to include comment from Baran and York. The Daily regrets not having reached out to said sources for comment in the earlier version of this article.

Contact Gillian Brassil at gbrassil ‘at’

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