Members of ASUCR create Facebook group for fake political party

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

A fake ASUCR political party entitled, “My Side Choice,” received backlash during the first senate meeting of spring quarter when Outreach Director Mina Kato condemned the Facebook group for mocking the upcoming 2014-15 ASUCR elections. Vice President of External Affairs Kareem Aref said that President Sai Patadia, CALPIRG Campus Organizer Mick Del Rosario and himself played a role in creating the April Fool’s page, which depicted snapchats of current senators who planned to run for satirical positions in the upcoming elections.

“Whether or not the My Side Choice Facebook page was initially intended to be satirical or not is not the issue at hand. The issue with this particular Facebook page is that it did not present ASUCR professionally,” explained Kato. According to the “About” section, the page said, “ASUCR political party that is for those currently looking for something worse than is currently available. Because remember, you could do worse.”

Liked by Senator Fernando Echeverria, Elections Director Chris Sanchez, Del Rosario and Patadia, the page depicted satirical snapchats of current ASUCR members, such as Vice President of Internal Affairs Johnny Ta running as the “Senate Whip” and Aref running as the “President of all UCs.” Kato says that the public page discredits the professional work within the senate by identifying itself as an “ASUCR political party.”

Aref responded by saying that My Side Choice was intended to be an April Fool’s joke and also referenced an initiative by UC Berkeley’s senate to have a ferret run for external vice president. “(The page) was not serious nor was it taken seriously by anybody,” said Aref. “I’m sorry if (Kato) felt disrespected by that, but I don’t think it’s even worth bringing up to be honest.”

On the other hand, Senator Abraham Galvan acknowledged the page as a prank, but also understood how it could be seen as “slightly insensitive” to candidates running in the upcoming elections. Galvan is running for re-election under [YOUR]SIDE this year.

“This year has been such a competitive elections season that we’ve been working (tirelessly) throughout the clock, night and day … so I think in some ways, it can be seen as slightly insensitive to have (created the page),” said Galvan.

Additionally, President Pro Tempore Aaron Johnson admitted to being present around the creation of the page, but he was initially “not interested” in it. Johnson immediately requested for the removal of the page, which he said may contradict the position of the elections director.

“In one part, you can say that the elections director is working hard (I mean, I know them personally and I know who he is),” he said. “But if they’re knowledgeable of a mockery of their own system, then it’s a complete oxymoron in a sense; you can’t be in support of running an election that you allow to be made fun of (and) it’s going to derail us from two years of work that I’ve been a part of and a lot of people in this horseshoe have been a part of.”

Near the end of the discussion, Patadia briefly mentioned that he was “not responsible” for the page, neither supporting or opposing it. He urged the senate to express any and all concerns to him and the executive branch. The Facebook page of My Side Choice was immediately taken down within hours after the meeting. The Highlander attempted to contact the office of external affairs and the elections committee, but could not obtain a response as of press time.

Senators perceive ‘iron triangle’ within ASUCR

Kato’s speech continued to call out “unfairness” within the elections process and competing political parties, citing cases of lagged repercussions for those who submit elections violations to the elections committee. “I feel like there’s this kind of iron triangle working between (the executive cabinet), elections director and the justices,” which Kato says, has contributed to the lack of an impartial elections process.

Highlighting cases of personal agenda politics, Kato said, “I feel like there is a lack of consequence, following and review of violations. I feel there should be less slaps on the wrists and more action.” She emphasized the importance of reviewing the discretion and jurisdiction of Elections Director Chris Sanchez and the judicial branch.

Both Galvan and Johnson also shared similar sentiments about the perception of an “iron triangle.” “I agree, there’s a lot of confusion and a lot of things are kept internal,” Johnson said, based on his two years of experience in the senate.

Galvan later followed up by saying, “Unfortunately, I think there needs to be a serious evaluation of the way ASUCR is working, the way that the (executive cabinet) works with senate. I think, at the same time, we get caught up with the patriarchy of it all. I don’t think that critique was toward any individuals, but ASUCR from a systematic point of view.”

At the same time, Galvan felt it was slightly patronizing and offensive for Kato to target specific people in her speech. “I think that everyone in this horseshoe puts in a lot of work (and) and to make that judgment call is offensive and it’s deplorable,“ he expressed.

In response to Kato’s speech, Aref said, “I would be hard-pressed and I would dare anybody up here and anybody in this whole campus to find me a student that’s worked harder for students than Chris Sanchez. While I think a lot of your concerns are absolutely valid … I think a lot of things you said were a little inappropriate.”

In an interview with the Highlander, Kato later explained that candidates should be held accountable for their actions in violation of the elections code at the end of the day. “Even though I was hesitant to speak on my concerns of elections,” said Kato, “it showed me that there are many other senators who feel the same about the current situation. I hope that my action to speak will encourage others to confront the senate when they see injustices occurring in the office.”

Elections committee cuts the judicial branch out of elections

Prior to Kato’s speech, Galvan admitted early on in the meeting that it was “very difficult” to follow up with elections violations that were reported. In response to Galvan’s concerns, Elections Director Chris Sanchez said that he was not speaking on behalf of the justices, but reasoned that individuals who report violations may not be necessarily informed if the accused is found not guilty.

“(The judicial branch is) not sending it to the person who filed the violation report … because you can only appeal a violation if you get a strike (not if you get a violation),” Sanchez interpreted.

A violation is a reported case of illegal elections conduct, while a strike is a reported violation that one is found guilty of by the judicial branch. However, according to the ASUCR Judicial Council Rules of Procedure, justices only “review complaints regarding the Elections Committee or any other office or body of ASUCR.” This does not exact clear roles for the justices when it comes to determining the final ruling of an elections violation or in handing out “strikes” to the accused.

Unlike the judicial procedures, the Elections Code points to specific cases, which provides Sanchez with greater authority in determining the outcome of a campaign violation and means for a candidate’s disqualification. Under Item 8, individuals must fill out a campaign violations form to the elections director, who will then determine whether or not the alleged violation is valid within 24 hours. A strike acts as a “warning” and three strikes will lead to a candidate’s disqualification.

In addition, candidates may appeal a guilty violation through the elections committee or turn to the judicial council. “If Committee decisions are not acceptable to candidate, he/she may appeal to Judicial Branch through the appeals process set forth by the Judicial Code,” reads the Elections Code. At the same time, the Judicial Code does not clarify the proper steps that a candidate can take if they wanted to make an appeal for an elections violation.

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