UC Santa Barbara Associated Students Internal Vice President Sohum Kalia announced at the Jan. 24 Senate meeting that he intends to yield his duty as chair of the Associated Students Senate to his first pro tempore.
Kalia said he plans to attend the beginning of each weekly meeting, call the meeting to session and delegate the duty of chairing the senate to second-year computer science major, first pro tempore and Off-Campus Senator Ephraim Shalunov.
“I will be there 6:30 every Wednesday to call the meeting to order in order for it to be a legal meeting,” Kalia said. “After that, I will not be yielding the presiding officership or the presiding office, but I will be delegating some of those chairship authorities to the first pro temp.”
Kalia emphasized that he is not resigning and will not relinquish his duty as the presiding officer of the Senate. After calling the meeting to order and yielding his chairship, Kalia intends to be easily accessible, either in the audience or in his office next door.
Associated Students (A.S.) 2023-24 Legal Code states that the Internal Vice President (IVP) should “serve as the Presiding Officer of the Senate.”
While the IVP is required to attend Senate Finance and Business Committee meetings, serve as a Senate liaison and be available for clarification after Senate meetings, there is no explicit wording in Legal Code mandating them to be present for the entirety of Senate meetings.
Kalia acknowledged that it is not his duty to interpret Legal Code but said that he believes relinquishing his Senate chairship duties is legal.
“As of right now, it’s my firm opinion that this is totally legal,” Kalia said. “And in the case that someone thinks it’s not legal, there’s clear procedures outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order to appeal to me.”
“I’m currently in conversation with the attorney general about this matter. If it becomes abundantly clear to me that this is a violation of bylaws, constitution, Robert’s Rules of Order, anything, I’ll pull the plug immediately,” he continued. “My intention is not to violate any procedures, rules or anything. It’s just to try and find a way to progress with the Association and move forward.”
Kalia said that stepping aside as the Senate chair is something he has wanted to do for a while, as he wants the Senate to function autonomously and not solely rely on the IVP for instruction.
“This isn’t a new idea that I’ve just presented all of a sudden,” Kalia said. “It’s something I’ve been talking about the entire time I’ve been in A.S. It was something I was planning to do this quarter.”
Kalia said that yielding his chairship duties is not necessarily a permanent move. He called the change “an experiment,” affirming that if a problem were to arise with him not being at Senate, he would return as the chair.
“Like everything I do, [this] is truly an attempt to make things better for the student body,” Kalia said. “If I feel that it is no longer better for the student body or I was wrong — and I have been wrong in the past a plethora of times, no shame in admitting that — I’ll walk it back. I have the authority to do that.”
Kalia said the timing of the move, however, was motivated by various actions within A.S.
“The exact timing of it was influenced by some political movements,” Kalia said. “There’s too many things in the Senate that I’m uncomfortable with recently that I don’t really want to be associated with, because I believe them to be either illegal, unconstitutional, against any policies and procedures or outright completely immoral.”
Shalunov expressed his discontent with Kalia’s decision to yield Senate chairship, stating that serving as the senate chair unfairly adds to his workload as a senator. Shalunov added that Kalia did not discuss his decision with him prior to the Jan. 24 Senate meeting and that Kalia’s announcement came as a surprise.
“This places a huge extra work burden on me,” Shalunov said. “My honorarium is six times less than [Kalia’s] for that work that I do, and him giving me essentially the main part of his job, frankly, isn’t fair. I didn’t run for it. And I don’t want it.”
Shalunov also said that based on his interpretation of the A.S. Legal Code, he believes that Kalia’s decision to yield senate chairship is unconstitutional.
“While the Constitution has a provision for that internal vice president stepping away from chairships from time to time, one can’t simply declare that they are now not going to be fulfilling their constitutional duties because they don’t want to,” Shalunov said.
Shalunov said he will assume the responsibility of the Senate chairship to ensure functionality within the Senate.
“It’s my duty to step up to the plate and chair the senate,” he continued. “The senate needs a chair and the Association needs a functioning Senate, and it’s my responsibility to take that on.”
Kalia agreed that serving as a senate chair could cause an increased workload for a senator pro temp.
“Part of the pro temp duties is chairing meetings in some circumstances, but I do agree these circumstances don’t usually arise as often as I intend for them to arise in the near future,” Kalia said. “I haven’t actually heard anyone bring that concern to me, as far as workload and honoraria. If they did feel that this was too much work for them, absolutely I would be open to that conversation.”
A concern brought up by a senator when Kalia announced his decision at the Jan. 24 senate meeting was the potential for bias within the Senate if a senator is chairing the meetings. Kalia said that in cases where he feels bias could arise, he intends to step in and chair the Senate.
Shalunov said that senators should not be concerned about bias while he or second pro tempore Amelia Rowe serve as the chair of Senate meetings.
“The question is whether senators can trust us to be fair, and the answer is yes,” Shalunov said. “Not only have we proven ourselves to that regard, but we will publicly and repeatedly make commitments to that, and we hope to be held accountable for that.”
Shalunov emphasized that regardless of who is chairing the Senate, the entity will continue to convene throughout the year.
“There’s absolutely no risk that the Senate will not be meeting,” Shalunov said. “We’ll be voting on everything that matters to students, we’ll be hearing public forum, we’ll be hearing concerns and we’ll be continuing to do our jobs so that everyone in A.S. can continue to do theirs. That’s a commitment that I can make.”
The Nexus will continue to report on this topic as more information becomes available.
A version of this article appeared on p. _ of the Feb. 1, 2024, print edition of the Daily Nexus.