Senate Faces Criticism Over QComm Legislation, President Vetoes


Gwendolyn Wu
AS Beat Reporter

Following a discussion with Associated Students Queer Commission and criticism from AS Attorney General Hector Contreras at an emergency meeting of AS Senate on June 3, Senate approved AS President Jimmy Villarreal’s vetoes of A Resolution for Queer Commission’s Appointments and the indefinite tabling of QComm’s 2015-2016 officer appointments.

At the May 27 Senate meeting, Senate voted to indefinitely table the appointments after the minutes from QComm’s meeting revealed that two of the QComm executive board candidates had been asked about their positions on divestment, which Senate believed to be inappropriate to ask during the interview process.

Additionally, Senate passed Off-Campus Senator Louis Mariano’s Resolution for Queer Commission’s Appointments, which stipulated that the Senate may “object any appointments that they deem unfit to the standards of the Association.” The resolution also suspended QComm’s right to elect their own officers until midway through spring 2016 and required Committee on Committees to revive the officer selection process for QComm until week one of fall 2015.

An email statement was sent to Senate, AS Executive Officers, AS Executive Director Marisela Marquez, various Resource Center for Gender and Sexual Diversity staff, The Bottom Line, and The Daily Nexus on May 28. It stated that the QComm executive board acknowledged that they had asked two individuals about their opinions of divestment, but clarified that the questions were light-hearted and the individuals to whom the questions were directed hold opinions about divestment that are publicly known. QComm stated that the questions were not reviewed in the context of the applications of these two individuals. The email also claimed that QComm had not been given the opportunity to clarify their selection process prior to the Senate’s decision, and therefore believed that both the resolution and Senate’s disapproval of QComm’s appointments were “both an unwarranted attack against Queer Commission as well as an expression of homophobia and discrimination by the Senate.”

Villarreal vetoed the legislation two days after the Senate’s decision and announced his veto in an email statement sent to Senate, Marquez, The Bottom Line, and The Daily Nexus. In follow-up emails explaining his decision, Villarreal opined that there are a number of inconsistencies in the written resolution, which he expressed did not align with Legal Code. Ultimately, he deemed it “harmful without an investigation of the facts by the association’s Attorney General,” and stated that allowing Senate to make such decisions would be “counter-productive to accomplishing the mission of Associated Students.”

In an effort to rectify the controversy that ensued after Senate’s tabling of QComm’s appointments and passing of the resolution, On-Campus Senator Lacy Wright and Off-Campus Senator Steven Abdalmalik authored A Resolution Approving the Minutes of Queer Commission from May 28, which asks the outgoing and incoming AS presidents, as well as Queer Commission’s Senate liaison, to be present during QComm elections.

“While some people may feel like this is not enough punishment, punishing Queer Commission further by pushing their elections back to the fall loses them a lot of time over the summer for them to do work,” Wright said.

Abdamalik called the previous resolution to suspend their self-election process “way too harsh.”

Outgoing Queer Commission Co-Chair Andrew Farkash and Queerstorian Chris Buck served as student sponsors for the resolution.

“I think taking power away from an organization to internally elect their positions—especially an LGBTQ organization, who was founded by an LGBTQ organization—and giving it to a body that isn’t LGBT and isn’t connected to our community is a policy understood as homophobic,” Farkash said with regard to QComm’s statement.

The student sponsors also reaffirmed that nothing had been communicated to them regarding the action items of Senate on May 27, citing the transition from the 2014-2015 to the 2015-2016 Senate as a potential reason for a lapse in communication. Buck clarified that his questions about divestment were due to a need to keep conversation going during the interview process, and that he was not aware that the question was out of line due to QComm’s political nature of supporting divestment in the past.

Following the student sponsors’ Q&A session, AS Attorney General Contreras spoke on the issues with the resolution and the aftermath of passing the resolution on May 27. Some of his concerns alleged that there were damaging social media exchanges between senators and members of QComm, followed by his warning to AS officers to foster constructive discussion to prevent facing violation of Legal Code. Contreras continued to criticize the incorrect language used in the resolution, requesting that senators clarify and take more care when writing legislation.

Furthermore, Contreras addressed the resolution’s statement that the AS Attorney General did not have time to “properly investigate acquisitions that were brought to him by the end of the year [sic],” as stated in the resolution. “First of all, if you’re going to mention the Attorney General in your legislation, please make sure that I am at least aware that this legislation is coming up,” Contreras remarked. “I did not see it sent out. Secondly, there is no such thing as the Attorney General ‘not having enough time to investigate.’”

His additional remarks regarding the written resolution also alleged that the author of the bill did not contact Committee on Committees before dictating that they would conduct future interview processes. According to Contreras, there was reason behind the passage of the resolution, but it was not properly expressed in the document, as it was poorly written. Additionally, he deemed it problematic that no senator read the resolution prior to its consideration at the May 27 meeting, and that it was important to improve “communication and disconnect” within AS immediately.

“Let this be the last ‘learning experience’ because in the future, regardless of if you’re an exec, senator, or chair, you will be brought to Judicial Council because no one is above the Legal Code,” said Contreras.