In possible violation of Associated Students Legal Code, four A.S. executives in the last five years were either not enrolled or took fewer than the required number of units at UC Santa Barbara for at least a part of their terms.
A.S. Legal Code, the governing document of all A.S. entities, requires executives to complete at least six units per quarter — making them at least a half-time student — during the spring quarter in which they are elected and each of the subsequent fall, winter and spring quarters of their term.
The executives — current S.A.G. Grecia Martinez, former EVPSA Kristin Hsu, former President James Villarreal ‘16 and former EVPSA Melvin Singh ‘15 – either withdrew or canceled their enrollment or took fewer than the required number of units at some point during their terms, according to student enrollment records.
A.S. Attorney General Zeina Safadi said she is currently investigating Martinez’s withdrawal from Fall Quarter 2018 to determine whether there is cause for a Judicial Council case. Martinez said she believes she did not violate any requirement.
Martinez withdrew from Fall Quarter 2018, Hsu canceled her Spring Quarter 2018 and Villarreal dropped below half-time during Winter Quarter 2016. Singh canceled Winter Quarter 2015 and there is no record of him attending UCSB in Spring Quarter 2015.
Last spring, former EVPSA-elect Mayela Morales was disqualified before being sworn in after it was discovered she had canceled her classes for the quarter, making her ineligible for her position.
It is unclear if A.S. executives from previous years would have been allowed to serve if it came to light that they were taking fewer than six credits.
Executive officers receive $3,000 per quarter – taken from student fees and paid directly to their BARC accounts — for serving the student body.
Cindy Lopez, A.S. assistant director for finance and budget, confirmed that all executives who the Nexus found had withdrawn or canceled their enrollment or dropped below half-time over the last five years received their $3,000 stipends each quarter and that none had returned the money.
Students who withdraw before the beginning of a quarter have their registration canceled and receive a full refund, the UCSB Office of the Registrar website says. It is unclear what Hsu and Singh, the executives who canceled their quarters, used the $3,000 for.
A.S. Executive Director Marisela Marquez directed all questions regarding consequences for failing to meet eligibility requirements to Judicial Council.
Raymond Alonso, who leads the Judicial Council, declined to comment.
“What the Legal Code is missing are the consequences, if any, that come with not being enrolled as a student,” A.G. Safadi told the Nexus.
Martinez withdrew on Dec. 7, the last day of instruction for Fall Quarter 2018. Hsu declined to comment. Singh and Villarreal did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Records also show that two other executives, former A.S. President Hieu Le ‘18 and former S.A.G. Josephine Ampaw ‘17, did not complete the minimum six units for their respective quarters.
However, Le withdrew from Spring Quarter 2018 about six days after his term had ended and his successor, current A.S. President Brooke Kopel, had taken office. Le declined to comment.
Similarly, Ampaw retroactively withdrew from two of her classes after the end of Fall Quarter 2016, citing a personal family emergency and a desire to protect her GPA.
“At the time that I was doing S.A.G., I was in those classes,” Ampaw said in an interview. “It’d be important to also state that regardless of a family emergency, I still worked as S.A.G., and I still served the student population.”
Marquez said she had not been aware of the executives who had withdrawn or canceled their enrollment or taken fewer than six units until she was informed by the Nexus. She said executives may not have known they had dipped below the six-unit minimum and that she wished she had known so she and other A.S. staffers could have provided them with resources and support.
Lopez and Marquez are responsible for checking executives’ enrollment status before paying them, but Legal Code does not require them to check their enrollment status throughout the year.
A.S. senators, BCU officers and all other non-executives who are paid by the association have their enrollment checked at the end of each quarter, making it more likely that a change in enrollment status would be caught and their honoraria affected, Lopez said.
The $3,000 stipend for executives — originally intended to cover all or part of tuition — is paid before each quarter starts, on Sept. 15, Dec. 15 and March 15 for fall, winter and spring quarters.
Marquez said that her job is to check an executive’s enrollment before paying them, and “outside of that, I would imagine that it’s on them to report it or give it back.”
S.A.G. Martinez, who withdrew from the university while serving during the Fall Quarter 2018 but is currently enrolled, maintained that she did not violate the Legal Code and said there is a “gray area” in the eligibility clause.
She argued that since the clause for executives falls under the eligibility portion of Legal Code, the by-laws serve as expectations for candidates running for positions, not obligations to be upheld.
“This is supported by the fact that the clauses included in those same sections are all worded in language concerning a candidate’s [eligibility] for an election,” she wrote in a message after her interview.
Martinez said Legal Code should be clarified so that expectations and exceptions for executives are clearly outlined.
If a Judicial Council case were filed against her, Martinez said it would “spark a bigger conversation about what should be done in special situations like this,” but she doesn’t believe it would be the right step.
“I don’t believe I’m in violation,” Martinez said. “I mean, I was a student. I did my job and I was a student at the same time.”
A full version of A.S. Legal Code can be viewed below. The section pertaining to executive’s eligibility can be found on page 21.
Simren Verma contributed reporting.
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