UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Internal Vice President Bee Schaefer began a strike before the Senate’s Oct. 19 meeting, refusing to call the Senate to order and announcing an indefinite demonstration against Associated Students.
The strike follows internal dysfunction within Associated Student (A.S.) and allegations of Schaefer’s neglect of her position, including not presiding over the fulfilling necessary positional appointments and not facilitating necessary distribution of funding and honoraria.
In the meeting and in an email announcement sent to A.S., Schaefer dubbed all allegations as false, maintained that she had fulfilled the role of her position and said she received anti-Black and racist treatment in A.S. spaces, including in the Senate — which she chairs — through the “spreading of misinformation and malicious rumors.”
Nineteen of the Senate’s 20 members released a joint statement deeming anti-Blackness and discrimination intolerable and said they are “determined to resolve all of the issues within our Association, while simultaneously fostering a safe environment.”
“Any investigations into the accountability, valid criticisms, and negligent behavior of the IVP should be done simultaneously with investigations into the allegations made by the IVP into the treatment they have received,” the Senators’ statement said. “We as an Association have the power and the latitude to do both at the same time.”
Schaefer claimed throughout the strike meeting that she is “being colluded and retaliated against” and “people are operating to intentionally incite emotional distress and harm.”
“I’m being denied my civil rights, with fair and equal opportunity as a student at UCSB,” Schaefer said. “As the 73rd Internal Vice President, I’m being falsely accused, condemned and slandered due to anti-Blackness and anti-disability discrimination as one of the only Black women in this elected space.”
Schaefer said that many of those speaking against her do so with anti-Black undertones and maliciousness.
“I am forced into a position and situations where people come up against me to make recommendations to have their opinions heard,” she said. “Although they are important, they do this with anti-Blackness undertones, with malicious intent and interest, and why I define it as such is because knowingly people continue to do so with harm.”
According to Schaefer — a fifth-year biology major and the only Black woman in the Senate — these allegations have brought about severe harassment and bullying that have caused her to revert to online instruction.
Although Schaefer said that all important financial matters and appointments put on pause for the strike would be conducted through emergency email vote in her email statement, a vote did not occur.
Schaefer did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the Nexus regarding allegations of any kind.
Schaefer’s strike halts Senate activity, as she alone has the power to convene and head the Senate. Senators said in their statement that such a strike has made it difficult for them to fulfill their roles.
“The chair ultimately decides whether or not to recognize our motions and our legislation. In a certain capacity, we are being inhibited from doing our jobs, and we cannot call a meeting to order without a chair,” the statement read.
Eddie Zong abstained from voting on the publication of the statement.
A.S. Legal Code states that the Internal Vice President is compelled to serve as the presiding officer of the Senate and is exempt only when the office of the President becomes vacant. Legal Code additionally states that the Senate is required to meet at least once a week during the academic year.
Continued failure of the Senate to meet and failure of Schaefer to serve as the presiding officer of the Senate would constitute a violation of Legal Code.
“There will be no meeting called to order. Until my safety is ensured and an investigation started,” Schaefer said in her email statement.
UCSB’s Black Student Union (BSU) said in an Instagram statement that they are “working to hold AS accountable for their discrimination and misconduct against Bee Schaefer,” and one active member and the former BSU president spoke in her support during the strike alongside other advocates and several of Schaefer’s family members, including her relative and Chief of Staff Shva Star.
“The senate and those involved in AS have been actively targeting and slandering Bee Schaefer,” BSU said in the Instagram statement. “She has personally asked BSU and all members of the Black community to join her in the fight for justice by attending the AS Senate meeting tonight, to stand with her in solidarity.”
A.S. Senator Sohum Kalia said in a personal statement to the Nexus that he will continue to encourage the student body to speak out on their needs.
“I want to make it clear that, despite the claims of the IVP, criticism is protected speech. No one should be afraid of retaliation for speaking out against their elected official,” he said.
Included on the agenda for the Oct. 19 meeting was a Bill to Clarify the Recall Election Process, outlining the A.S. constitutional language that allows for a recall election. For an official recall election to take place, 10% of people who voted in the Spring Quarter 2022 A.S. Election — roughly 400 students — must sign an initial petition, alongside A.S. executives and members.
According to Kalia, because the recall process is already set as precedent, it is considered valid even though the bill was unable to be officially addressed due to Schaefer’s strike.
Ted Giardello, chair of the Living History Project, originally sent a list of allegations against Schaefer to A.S. and had planned to be the student sponsor on a recall petition against her, he said in an email. Giardello is now requesting that the petition be put on pause or be sponsored by another UCSB student.
“I would like the senate to show leadership and political courage in support of students and organizations being intimidated. Constituents deserve better than silence from the senate while they are being personally attacked, especially on grounds that have already been investigated by multiple people–and not substantiated by any evidence,” he said.
“I am happy to be a leader in remedying the IVP situation, but do not appreciate the silence from the senate regarding open retaliation against me and others.”
The list of allegations by Giardello regarding Schaefer’s neglect and subsequent internal issues was sent to the A.S. body by Schaefer, where she argued that she committed no A.S. Legal Code violations and completed the breadth of work required of her position.
Schaefer described the claims made by Giardello as “baseless, rooted in his own internal bias, highly discriminatory and designed to diminish [her] character and integrity.”
Schaefer reported Giardello to the A.S. Judicial Council and the UCSB Office of Student Conduct to review conduct violations he allegedly committed against her, he said.
The Judicial Council chose not to proceed with an investigation because it was outside of their domain, according to Schaefer.
“I have filed everything that I stated to you all to the Judicial Council,” Schaefer said in the Senate meeting. “They denied my case, and they told me that they would not hear my case because it is not within their purview.”
In emails obtained by the Nexus through Giardello regarding the case of Bee Schaefer v. Living History Project, the Judicial Council told Schaefer that while “violations of the Code of Conduct policies are serious allegations, a complaint must be submitted to the Office of the Student Advocate. The Office of the Student Advocate is the investigating office for these complaints.”
The Office of the Student Advocate did not immediately respond to requests for comment regarding any pending cases by Schaefer or against Giardello and/or the Living History Project.
Additionally, Giardello told the Nexus that Schaefer reported him to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) regarding alleged violations of the Student Conduct Code, although OSC did not pursue the matter, according to an email procured by the Nexus.
Within the email, OSC said to Giardello: “My office has received a report alleging that your behavior has violated the Student Conduct Code. A conduct violation was not substantiated upon our review of the matter.”
Schaefer said the coverage of the allegations through campus media outlets is defamatory, including that several pieces of Nexus reporting “continue to support and spread falsehoods” and additionally violate A.S. Legal Code. She requested official censorship of the individuals listed in the email — including two Nexus editorial board members — if they were unable to “come forth to produce proof and/or evidence.”
“[I ask] that you request the individuals listed above and others to come forth to produce proof and/ or evidence to prove the above allegations are factual,” she said in the email statement. “In addition, If the individuals do not produce evidence, I ask that the individuals are officially censored and remove themselves from Associated Students in perpetuity.”
Schaefer referred to the Nexus as an A.S. Board, Commission and Unit several times throughout public comment and her email, although the Nexus is an independent news organization and not an A.S. entity.
“The perpetuation of false allegations and the perpetuation of putting me in direct harm violates my rights as a student and violates A.S. legal code,” Schaefer said. “It has been used as a coercive scheme to remove me from this position and to write me off and to silence me.”
In her email statement, Schaefer implored judicial entities and USCB staff and faculty to continue to investigate the claims she had made.
“I am once again formally requesting an investigation into the frivolous and false narrative(s), allegations, hearsay, and rumors(s),” she said in the email. “I will protest AS until my Bill of Rights is honored. Please start the investigation. Staff and faculty please act and assist in this matter as I have previously implored rather than collude and alienate and remove me.”
Schaefer also stated that she is filing a case with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) — a U.S. federal agency — against the entirety of the Associated Students body and received support from unnamed university administrators in doing so.
“I want to let you all know that I filed an OCR case against Associated Students for the conduct that has happened to me because it is in violation of my civil rights,” Schaefer said. “I’ve been promoted to do so by administrators in other departments on campus who see this as the legacy of white supremacy in this space.”
Schaefer criticized A.S. executives — along with the general A.S. body — for perpetuating harassment and spread of misinformation.
“A.S. execs and members have aided, abetted, encouraged, permitted and assisted A.S. members or A.S. entities to do acts that violate me in the space as a student,” Schaefer said in the meeting.
A.S. President Gurleen Pabla, External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Marvia Cunanan and External Vice President for Local Affairs Hailey Stankiewicz declined to comment on the situation.
Student Advocate General Kristen Wu did not respond to requests for comment.
Kalia said he felt discouraged by the lack of comment by any A.S. executives or members and that the lack of response made Giardello, the original student sponsor, feel uncomfortable moving forward with a recall petition.
“[I’m] offended and disappointed that the executive branch has failed to comment or take action on the situation since summer. I urge them to heed their responsibility to step up and address the students concerns as the association representatives and leaders they were elected to be,” he said in a statement.
The A.S. Office of the Attorney General did not respond to requests for comment regarding the potential for legal proceedings either by or against Schaefer.
A.S. Executive Director Marisela Marquez and A.S. Assistant Director of Governmental Affairs Holly Mayes did not respond to requests for comment regarding the aforementioned allegations and whether Schaefer’s current Senate strike violates A.S. Legal Code.
Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Student Life Katya Armistead did not directly respond to requests for comment regarding the aforementioned allegations and clarification on the role of the UCSB administration in facilitating or participating in A.S. matters such as these. Armistead told the Nexus to reach out to UCSB’s Office of Public Affairs, who did not immediately respond to request for comment.
[Correction 10/20/22 6:40 p.m.]: This article has been corrected to reflect that Eddie Zhong is not the official pro-tempore of the Senate, but an appointee who has not yet been elected, so he has no official title within the Senate aside from Senator.
[Update 10/20/22 6:40 p.m.]: This article has been updated to most comprehensively and accurately represent the allegations against Schaefer.