Letter to the Editor – Failed Government: A look into elections mishandling by the ASUPS Senate
by Ryan del Rosario
Once again, Senate is holding a special election to recover from the errors of a previous election. I tried to explain to them why correcting a wrong with another wrong is just….wrong. But today the elections went live and candidates can start applying for the two Senator-at-large positions that are open (but not really). At Senate Open Forum on Thursday 4/23, I spoke:
“Friends, Faculty, Staff, and Senators of the Associated Students of the University of Puget Sound,
Please allow me to introduce myself before I get started – my name is Ryan Del Rosario. I am a member of the Class of 2015 ( I hope to be walking soon with a degree in Business and Economics!). Being involved on campus is something I’ve always prided myself on – I’ve was student representative on the Faculty Senate Student Life Committee, I was a residence hall representative my freshman year, a two-year Residence Life staff member and this last year I was the President of my fraternity, Beta Theta Pi. A highlight of my time here at UPS was speaking at the National Race & Pedagogy Conference where I was so lucky enough to speak on soul/funk music, civil rights, the importance of black issues today and how we as educated college students can help stress this importance in ways more relatable than lengthy papers.
I come to Senate tonight incredibly disappointed, frustrated and most importantly ready to leave this place. It seems like sometimes I no longer feel at home. Now, I stress that feeling home here at UPS has been an incredible privilege. To often we as students do we forget the transphobic housing policies or the long history of racist, ableist, and heterosexist policies we have operated under for over 125 year – not to mention on Native land.
But for too long has this Senate failed to represent me. To be more specific and relevant to today’s conversation – WHY IS THE SENATE RE-DOING ELECTIONS FOR THE SECOND TIME THIS YEAR. Even if we ignore the mishandlings of the elections from Fall semester, I do not understand why ASUPS Senate is holding a special election for two Senator-At-Large positions already filled by Senators Beatrix Evans and Gwen Bartholomay. As if the actual election was not contentious enough thanks to former Senator, Kyle Chong – now we are wasting time, energy, and I’m am sure money on a second election that for 1) does not need to happen and 2) is outside of the governing power of the ASUPS Senate. Of course the economist inside me reminds us of the opportunities we miss out on by needlessly wasting our resources on an election that is unnecessary and most importantly a disgusting abuse of power.”
Of course such an unsubstantiated claim would surely be dismissed! Allow me to provide my proof!
It is true that Senate – specifically the Senate Elections Committee may hold special elections. This power is given to them in the ASUPS Constitution,
iii): “Special elections, if necessary, conducted under the guidelines
outlined in the By Laws.”
Good, we like our government to be able to run. Here is a look at the ASUPS Bylaws concerning elections:
ASUPS Bylaws Article IV (Committees) Section IV (Elections)
E) 12. After an election, the ASUPS Honor Court is empowered, and is the only body empowered, to invalidate a candidate’s election after receiving a complaint or after being requested to do so by the Elections Committee and after due process. These invalidation proceedings must be commenced within three weeks after the election in question.
It seems that ASUPS Honor Court – ASUPS’ judicial body – is empowered and is the only body empowered, to invalidate a candidate’s election. So it seems that ASUPS’ judiciary is the only power that can invalidate Senator Evans and Senator Bartholomay’s election – and only under complaint! Which has not happened according to any minutes of the Senate!
So perhaps Honor Court gave the Senate the O.K. on a special election? We do know that that during the formal Spring 2015 Election that former Senator and candidate, Kyle Chong, broke elections guidelines leading to the removal of his name from the ballot. Further, Kyle Chong’s continued actions during the elections process lead to his complete removal from the election. This happened.
We also know, that Kyle Chong – with the help of newly elected Senator, CJ Queirolo – took Elections Committee to Honor Court arguing that his elections invalidation was not constitutional. In the ruling from Honor Court, it was found that Kyle Chong’s invalidation was in fact outside of the power of ASUPS Election Committee. It however did not clear Chong of his actions – merely stating the punishment did not fit the crime. Honor Court however was silent on the actions to be taken by Elections Committee. Honor court did not invalidate the election of Senator Evans or Senator Bartholomay.
This left Senate in an interesting predicament. On one hand, the election they just held was mishandled, but Honor Court did not provide Senate with a vacancy to hold another election. So what the hell is going on? Here is where it gets tricky.
Senate has taken it upon themselves to do a new election – one that is democratic and fair for all those participating. This absolutely unfair to the two Senators already in place isn’t it? They also didn’t violate any elections rules and Honor Court didn’t kick them to the streets. But on the other hand Kyle Chong was unfairly removed from the election. Regardless of the outcome there is something much larger at stake here. Let’s consider how law works and what this could mean for ASUPS.
In this country and in this school, law works on a system of precedents. Giving ASUPS Senate the power to hold special election without the explicit direction of Honor Court means that Senate can bully any Senator out of the Senate. And I’m not even talking malfeasance. I mean straight up if a majority of senators wanted to, a special election could be held to replace senators. Not only is this a huge misuse of power, but this is a direct challenge to the systems of checks and balances that exist to prevent this type of power use.
So how are they justifying this election?
There has been no initiative, referendum, or recall. This throws out everything from the Constitution under Article VII. The two Senators-at-large have not had their term requirements waived under section 8 of Article VI (Elections) No provision of the Bylaw was suspended under Article VI Section 4 of the Bylaws. There are no vacancies as detailed in the Constitution Article X (Vacancies) which would allow for a special election under subsection iii. Senate did not rescind anything under Article IV Section II (though I am pretty sure that power has more to do with ASUPS Exec – it is unclear).
In my plea to Senate during Open Forum on 4/23 one senator relied heavily on:
“Any measure not in conflict with the Constitution or Bylaws may be initiated by
any member of the ASUPS Senate and shall require a majority vote for approval”
This is a strong power given to the Senate indeed but it immediately falls short of the power needed to hold the election. Why? A special election to fill vacated spots is well within their power. A special election to replace two senators is well outside the bounds of Senate power. The fact of the matter is, honor court was silent and silence is not a signal for action.
ii) [The Honor Court shall] [h]ave final authority for interpreting the constitutionality of the ASUPS documents
Whether they like it or not the silence of the Honor Court can only be interpreted by none other than….Honor Court. There is simply no part of what has happened here at the University of Puget Sound to justify the need for a special election.
I have heard from one member of ASUPS (whose position requires them to be at all Senate meetings – they may or may not be a senator) who said that some correspondence has occurred by email with the faculty representative of Honor Court. I am not sure as to the weight of this correspondence since this is not clear to the public, but I can say with confidence that if email is used to run this student government there are some serious issues at play concerning transparency. Not to mention the precedent set by running government over email.
So what then? Why is this happening? I honestly can say….I have no idea. Some things that I’ve noticed and seem fishy (fishy of course by no means conclusive):
Kyle Chong was the candidate who requested the initial Honor Court hearing and was supported by student C.J. Queirolo in a sort of lawyer-esque fashion.
Simultaneously, C.J. was elected to a position on the ASUPS Senate.
On Senate, Senator Queirolo was placed on both Elections Committee and Governance Committee. Elections Committee is tasked with organizing and holding all elections while Governance Committee whose task is to Serve as a first level evaluator of ASUPS documents, policy and procedure, ensuring consistency, accuracy and legality. Governance Committee does indeed hold the power to “Evaluate and review the ASUPS Constitution, Bylaws and any other ancillary documents and present recommendations to Senate.” However this does not mean to interpret ASUPS documents. It is true that Senator Queirolo does not have a vote on governance concerning Elections Committee though the check on that power is unclear to the public.
In speaking with a number of current ASUPS members anonymously I have heard some feedback.
“There is no explicit reason and there is no check against Senate’s power. This is a terrible precedent that’s been set.”
“[Power] was not given to us [to hold the election]”
Yet no sitting Senator voted against or abstained from a vote in favor of the Special Elections timeline. Not any of the anonymous senators mentioned above or the senators whose positions are at stake (and who may or may not be the same senators giving anonymous statements). I would love to tell you the results of the actual vote on the occurrence of the election, but again ASUPS Constitution and Bylaws the minutes from that meeting are long overdue and have not been posted.
WHY IS NOBODY SPEAKING UP?!
Again it’s fishy. I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe like me they are giving up on this school. Maybe it’s because two of our sitting senators are top editors for the two most read publications on campus – the Trail and Wetlands. Nothing in the trail from last Friday (4/24) brings into mention anything I just wrote about. Fishy indeed.
I am weary over this topic. My appearance at Open Forum did not go as anticipated but still I had hoped that….ANYONE would side with me. Again, I’ve spoken to Senators privately and they totally agree. But when the vote is being cast nobody – no senators and none of the new exec are willing to fight for it. It just does not make sense – Senate has no powers given to them to hold this election and honor court was silent. Now if there was some other proceeding that has occurred that has not been made public that is an issue within itself. But as it stands this election is fraudulent.
As I grow closer and closer to graduation – Puget Sound it is in your hands. Do not let ASUPS Senate fail this campus. I would of course tell you to look up recent senate minutes and have discussions with your ASUPS Senator but the last two weeks of minutes have not been published (last minutes published from 4/2) and the ASUPS page does not have an updated list of your current senators. What can you do? Take ‘em all to Honor Court. Go to Open Forum. Whatever you can do, you should. This is not about having a fair election to have more UPS Students feel at home on campus as candidate Kyle Chong claims – it is about not allowing ASUPS Senate to misuse their power and bully campus.