ASUCR: Judicial appointments spark transparency debate

Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER
Vincent Ta/HIGHLANDER

The Judicial Council represents the legal branch of the senate, enforcing the constitutionality of ASUCR’s bylaws and addressing reported complaints, whether in regards to elections or previous pieces of legislation. During the initial nomination process, the senate president is responsible for appointing justices as prescribed in the Judicial Procedures and Constitution — which states that one of the powers of the executive cabinet (ECAB) is to nominate justices by a three-fifths vote with the ratification of senate by a two-thirds vote.

These procedures came under scrutiny during last week’s senate meeting after it was revealed that two of the five ECAB members — Vice President of Internal Affairs Abraham Galvan and Vice President of External Affairs Fernando Echeverria — were not present during the justice nomination process because they were not given sufficient notice of the meeting.

“I was under the understanding that the president does nominate the justices but I did meet with (Director of Finance Iris Jiang) and (Executive Vice President Michael Ervin) to consult with them if they were okay with the nominations,” President Nafi Karim said about scheduling the ECAB meeting. “I did not actually meet with Abraham or Fernando.”

Marketing Director Ravin Rathod held the belief that the justice nominations required the presence of all five ECAB members as opposed to the three that were present and further questioned if there was actually a vote between all members of ECAB. In response, Karim stated that three ECAB members present approved of the nomination.

Further discussions drew concerns over public transparency within the senate. “I do not believe that transparency is the Holy Grail answer to all situations. Stop giving the public a false sense of reality that we will be always be transparent because that’s not true,” said Karim.

“We are not always transparent, but we will disclose full information that pertains to the public.” Karim explained that this view was based on his belief that private brainstorming was crucial before information and decisions are disclosed to public.

In an interview with the Highlander, Senator Herman Sangha felt that Karim’s actions of calling the meeting were not consistent with ASUCR’s governing documents. “It was not done in accordance to the Constitution, which therefore compromises the integrity of the nominations,” he said. “All five Executive Cabinet should have collectively voted, let alone been informed on who he nominated.”

Both Galvan and Echeverria heavily disagreed with the process that occurred, especially as members with past ASUCR experience. In the end, Galvan agreed to finding a solution rather than debating over the transparency issue by stating, “We should just move forward and take this as an opportunity to learn.” Sangha also agreed, “Let’s move forward, let’s create a better (Associated Students) AS, uphold the things that were done well (in past government) and try improving them in terms of making it the best possible AS for the students.”

In the underlying nomination process for the judicial branch, third-year Gadiel Lopez, fourth-year Daniel Ojo and third-year Raashi Goyal brandished their qualifications, which were further scrutinized by the senate during an open Q-and-A session. Karim motioned for a one-ticket vote which would entail all nominees being voted at the same time. The motion was unsuccessful and instead modified to permit individual votes instead.

Through a secret ballot vote, Lopez was approved by 12-2-0; Ojo was approved by 11-3-0; and Goyal was not approved by 6-8-0.

Highlights:

Karim presented a new e-signature method using a program called Seamless Docs in hopes of creating a more efficient administrative system within the senate.

Senator Akeem Brown’s resolution regarding transfer recognition month was unanimously passed by the senate during the meeting. Assemblymember Jose Medina, a UCR alum of 1974, stopped by the senate chambers to speak on Brown’s resolution, which he may possibly present as legislation in Sacramento this upcoming January.

Senator Pricilla Perey shared her next initiative, which is aimed at creating a year-round 24-hour study area “so that students will have a safe place on campus past library study hours.” The second and third floors of the HUB as well as the Bear’s Den were possible areas discussed.

Senator Sam Uweh plans to collaborate with the UCR Student Recreation Center, specifically with recreational trainers, to develop the UCR Get Fit website, which will include informational videos about exercise and healthy eating.

Senators Brown and Sangha are working to write a resolution to set reasonable times for the agenda minutes to be posted and made available to the public.

 

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