Associated Students Judicial Council will decide today whether to approve or overturn A.S. Elections Committee’s May 6 recommendation that 14 current or former members of Associated Students — eight of whom were sworn in to the 2011-12 Legislative Council on Wednesday — be charged with serving alcohol to minors during Spring Elections.
A.S. President Harrison Weber, Internal Vice President Chloe Stryker, External Vice President of Local Affairs Tim Benson and Executive Vice President of Statewide Affairs Ahmed Mostafa — all of whom ran with Open People’s Party — were given the option to either resign or serve their terms and complete 45 hours of A.S.-related community service each during the 2011-12 academic year.
OPP Off-Campus Representatives Danielle Foster, Reena Fram and Drey Liautaud and OPP Representative-at-Large Nathan Walter were told they could either resign or serve their terms without receiving honoraria. Former Legislative Council members Yeni Nguyen and Kellie Hartl were also asked to either step down or serve without honoraria, but neither ran for positions in next year’s Association and may not be under the purview of Elections Committee as they are no longer student government representatives.
Pending Judicial Council’s decision, four elected OPP members — Representatives-at-Large Kelly Gandee and Chelsea Parrott and Off-Campus Representatives Lauren Begleiter and Alexa Cover — were not sworn in for their elected positions on Wednesday as they face either disqualification or forced resignation if Elections Committee’s recommendation is approved. Democratic Process Party Off-Campus Representatives Xenia Mendez and Marlene Moreno and DPP Representatives-at-Large Danielle Stevens and Danielle Bermudez were sworn in to the council instead.
Elections Committee holds only closed meetings and, according to Stryker, does not have its minutes approved by Legislative Council. Several attempts to contact the chair, advisor and members of Elections Committee were unsuccessful.
According to Stryker, the case began with an anonymous complaint to Elections Committee that several OPP members had distributed alcoholic Jell-O shots to fraternities around Isla Vista during elections week. However, Stryker said, because none of the implicated representatives are privy to the proceedings of Elections Committee, the case appears to be based on one student’s word against another.
“We don’t know what evidence they have at this point,” Stryker said. “I have no idea what their reasoning or consideration was behind this. They don’t put the Elections Committee minutes on record — that’s another issue altogether. If they have all power, they can disqualify anyone for anything that they think of; I’m guessing that’s their interpretation at this point.”
Stryker said the group will petition to appeal the committee’s decision if Judicial Council chooses to hear the case. Additionally, Stryker said the recommended punishments were not proportionate to the students’ charges and are much stricter than in years past.
“We’re fighting the fact that [Elections Committee] says that disqualification is the highest punishment and last resort,” Stryker said. “This is my third year running and, in the past, things that were way worse were done. People either did not even get in trouble by Elections Committee or they were fined.”
For example, on April 16, 2010, OPP Presidential candidate Josue Aparicio was cited by Isla Vista Foot Patrol for furnishing alcohol to a minor during an election-related party. Elections Committee took no publically disclosed action against Aparicio.
Mostafa, who does not drink for both personal and religious reasons, said the committee’s recommendations are an attempt at retroactive justice to punish past OPP members and extend far beyond the committee’s jurisdiction.
“The way it is, it’s almost as if they’re the leviathan of A.S. where they technically can have more power than the president,” Mostafa said. “If they’re able to force a legislator to resign from office that didn’t even sign any paperwork, you might as well make Elections Committee run A.S.”
Mostafa said Elections Committee’s closed meetings and undeniable bias skewed their ruling on the case.
“I think I trust their intentions in Elections Committee; I just don’t trust the fact that there are other individuals in the room, like Paul [Monge-Rodriguez], who can influence the whole entire committee,” Mostafa said. “You have the A.S. president, who happens to be the leader of our organization as a whole, and he also happens to be the leader of DP Party and I just think that his very presence in that room is not fair.”
Stryker said she feels that OPP’s success in the recent election explains the Committee’s prejudice against them.
“Because we swept, we’re going to get targeted,” Stryker said. “We expect to be targeted because we’re who got elected but I do think there’s a correlation between the fact that we did sweep and that there are such harsh penalties this year.”