Wednesday night’s Associated Students Senate meeting was historic — with newly elected officials being sworn in over Zoom for the first time — but much of the night was dominated by conversation about the fight to recall President Daevionne Beasley, who was recently accused of sexually assaulting a UCSB student during their first year.
The night was split into two Senate meetings: the last of the 70th Senate, and the first of the 71st. The second meeting ended abruptly due to multiple instances of Zoombombing, when an unknown individual wrote graphic messages on the shared screen and later verbally interrupted the swearing in with explicit, sexually harassing language.
A large part of the 70th Senate’s final meeting, which lasted five hours, was spent in public forum discussion about how individual senators and executives had responded to a petition created to recall Beasley after rumors about his alleged inappropriate behavior spread.
Izzy Mitchell, a second-year economics and communication double major who created the petition to hold a recall vote for Beasley, spoke and answered questions during public forum for over an hour.
Mitchell called on the Senate to release a formal statement in support of survivors — which they wrote later that night but have yet to publish — and expressed frustration with the senators and executives who have not publicly commented on the allegation against Beasley.
Mitchell heavily criticized outgoing President Alison Sir in particular, who had released a statement on Tuesday night announcing the lockdown of her personal social media accounts and those of the A.S. President due to “extreme harassment.”
“Why are we allowing this type of a behavior of shutting down your social media accounts? You cannot choose when you decide to be an elected official,” Mitchell said during public forum.
Mitchell said she emailed all senators and executives multiple times about the petition as well as the rumors about Beasley and asked them to respond. Earlier this week, she posted on her social media accounts the names of A.S. executives and senators who she said never got back to her, including Sir.
“We have attempted to get in contact with you and your staff for over three weeks. Since you have been ‘always happy to speak with students’ throughout your term, we find it abhorid and ironic that you are unable to even merely acknowledge we have emailed you,” Mitchell wrote on Twitter in response to Sir’s lockdown of her social media accounts.
Sir ended her final report to the Senate as A.S. President by addressing Mitchell’s public forum comments and social media posts, marking Sir’s first acknowledgement of the allegation against Beasley since it was publicized.
“I was publicly called out on social media for not responding to constituents concerning sexual assault allegations that were posted in a Nexus article,” Sir said, later calling Mitchell out by name.
“While I was trying to make time to work out this issue with our administration, I was harassed to the point where my personal cell phone number was in the hands of people I do not know and [who] were sending me hate mail and Facebook video chats repeatedly calling me a rapist supporter,” Sir added.
Sir declined to take questions from senators at the end of her report.
Mitchell also strongly criticized A.S. Elections Board for its recent announcement that the over 600 signatures she had already collected would not be valid due to the lack of verification, as Mitchell used a Google Form to collect signatures for the petition.
Ahead of Mitchell’s comments at public forum, Elections Board members Davis Quan and Andrew Yan detailed the remote instruction recall process that Elections Board had ratified at its latest meeting on May 15. The board also published a statement describing the process on its Facebook page yesterday afternoon.
“In this new reality where in-person signature collection is currently not possible, the Elections Board has had to adapt and develop an entirely new process for signature collection,” Elections Board wrote in its statement.
Quan and Yan said the biggest reason for requiring new signatures from Mitchell was for the verification, although several senators asked Elections Board to reconsider the rules, given that Mitchell had already collected several hundred signatures and because the recall election procedures were created close to two weeks after Mitchell began circulating her petition.
Yan and Quan remained firm about requiring verification for the signatures through a “secure university platform,” but said they would work with Mitchell to convert her already-collected signatures to the new petition.
In response, Mitchell expressed frustration at the hoops she said she was being forced to jump through and the fact that these decisions were being made by Elections Board without her involvement. She also complained that Elections Board was slow to respond to emails when she attempted to confirm that her petition was valid.
Off-Campus Senators Dagan Addinall and Giselle Etessami had tense exchanges with Mitchell during public forum, with Addinall calling Mitchell’s actions “bullying” and Etessami saying that she didn’t believe the email had asked anything of her.
During public forum, now-External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Alia Reynolds also brought up the allegation, calling Addinall and Etessami’s responses to Mitchell “atrocious.”
“When you are actually given the opportunity to show that support [for survivors], you choose not to. You are not an ally, this is not allyship, do not call yourself an ally,” Reynolds said to the Senate.
Off-Campus Senator Daniel Segura-Esquivel, who lost to Beasley in the run for president, echoed Reynolds’s statement about allyship and urged senators to act in support of survivors of sexual assault at all times, not only in situations relating to A.S.
“Sexual assault and rape do not discriminate. But once it’s finally at our Senate table because it’s affecting us directly, because we’re being harassed and asked to be held accountable, it’s too much?” he asked.
“This to me is not about an office, this to me is not about A.S.,” Segura-Esquivel continued.
Toward the end of the 70th Senate’s meeting, senators broke into a closed working group to draft a statement in support of survivors, first mentioned by Mitchell in public forum and formally introduced by Off-Campus Senator Kimia Hadidi.
When the meeting returned to open session, outgoing Internal Vice President Alli Adam confirmed that senators did write a statement, but said that it would not be released until it could be “reviewed by a few different levels of the university.”
The 70th Senate’s term officially ended at 11:35 p.m., but as former executives went to swear in their predecessors shortly afterward, the meeting was interrupted when an unknown individual wrote the words “fuck off” over the shared screen.
A.S. Executive Director Marisela Márquez expressed concern about the potential Zoombombing and considered ending the Zoom meeting and creating a new link, but Adam decided to keep the meeting going and continue swearing in the executives.
Despite the controversy about Beasley during the 70th Senate meeting, his swearing in came and went with little fanfare.
As Reynolds was being sworn in, the meeting was once again interrupted, this time by a man using sexually harassing language.
After removing the individual, now-Internal Vice President Tianna White muted all participants in the meeting as a precautionary measure.
All five executives and 25 senators were sworn in by 11:59 p.m., but a few minutes after roll call, White, with the counsel of Márquez, decided to end the meeting altogether due to the “potentially traumatizing” nature of and safety threat posed by the Zoombombings.
“Given the expletives and suggestive language of the zoom bombing, I ultimately had to end the meeting to prevent any more disturbing and potentially triggering content from entering,” White wrote in a statement to the Nexus after the meeting.
In response to Off-Campus Senator Esmeralda Quintero — who asked that the meeting continue due to a timely legal code change — White announced that the 71st Senate would hold an additional meeting in Week 10, giving the new Senate two full meetings before breaking for the summer.
Several newly sworn-in senators, along with Mitchell, tweeted their frustration with White immediately after the meeting, expressing concern that she prevented senators from speaking or continuing with the meeting and public forum.
White said in her statement that she will be talking to the administration about how to prevent Zoombombings for future meetings, as well as how to proceed with the agenda items slated for the meeting.
Update: This article has been updated to better differentiate between Senator Addinall and Senator Etessami’s comments during public forum.