Campus Beat Reporter
Associated Students (A.S.) Senate approved the appointment of Raymond Alonso as Chair of the A.S. Judicial Council during its third meeting of the winter quarter, ending the 225-day hiatus that saw a nonfunctional judicial body without a Chair.
Alonso is currently a second-year political science and history of public policy double major, and he, as well as his fellow Council members, will be serving on Judicial Council (JC) as Chair until they graduate or resign as per Article VIII, Section 3 of A.S. Legal Code.
Alonso was unanimously appointed by the Council, a decision informed by Alonso’s past experience of service, according to fellow Council member Justin Nilsen. Nilsen recounts that many of the other Council members looked to Alonso for guidance on procedure, so his appointment to Chair was “the natural choice.”
Under his leadership, Alonso hopes to hold the Council’s administrative, procedural and legal levels to a higher standard of accountability and equity.
“Every UCSB student should care about Judicial Council because of the role it plays in ensuring that the substantial money that goes to student fees every year is handled appropriately, both in how it is spent and in the people who are entrusted to spend it,” said Alonso.
During public forum, Alonso presented ideas and initiatives that culminated from the Council’s internal discussions and collaboration, particularly on improvements for how the Council operates.
In regards to procedural changes, Alonso stated that the newly updated JC website will have a more accessible platform for hosting briefs, emphasizing that Council will be conducted in such a way that is inclusive to all students on campus.
“It is important that petitions from people of all backgrounds, all political leanings, and people with all different kinds of understandings of the world that we live in, to be able to represent themselves in JC so long that there is a legal code violation present,” said Alonso.
Alonso stated that in the past, it was easy for the Council to exhibit implicit bias by dismissing matters and had in fact considered dismissing a previous petition on the grounds that it seemed “ridiculous.”
“There is a reason for people to submit these petitions,” said Alonso, “I think that our system should be one that is not beholden to individual biases.”
Consequently, Alonso stated that in order to extinguish individual biases, he will be asking Council members to disclose any conflicts of interest and to recuse him or herself if necessary before moving forward with a case.
Alonso recounted that in the past, he has had to recuse himself from a case concerning political campaigning because he was affiliated with one of the parties involved in the case.
As a result, Alonso stressed the importance of objectivity and equity in his legal interpretation of Legal Code.
“I want to foster a Legal Code interpretation that fosters equity and the equality of opportunity to guarantee the equality of outcomes for all,” said Alonso. “It is important for all students and people within the association to feel safe and comfortable with the fact that the Legal Code has their back.”
In addition, Alonso pointed out how, in the past, the Council has been slow to respond to emails and did not clarify the nuances of the petitioning process.
In an interview with The Bottom Line, Nilsen also touched on the fact that the petition process isn’t explained very clearly, which can sometimes intimidate students looking to make a petition.
Alonso stated that the petition submission process is one of the Council’s biggest problems. Every petition in the past has missed some element that was necessary to be considered complete and sufficient to render a preliminary hearing in a timely fashion.
As a solution, Alonso proposed that petitions be submitted through Google Forms, which would require petitioners to completely supply the necessary information before submission. Presently, students are submitting petitions via email, using a form accessible on the Council’s website.
“Responding to emails was not the reason I joined Judicial Council. However, upon joining the Council in April, I learned immediately how important it was [that] those emails were responded to,” said Alonso. He also stated that the Council will be submitting a resolution to Senate that holds Council members accountable for responding to emails in a timely fashion.
Under Alonso’s leadership, the new Council will be working on upgrading its regular office location to be accommodating enough to hold cases. Alonso explained that the Council’s budget is very small and, in the past, they’ve had to request money to rent spaces to hear cases.
Consequently, Alonso brought up improving the Council’s outreach, specifically updating its three-year-old website, making pamphlets, and educating the student population, Boards, Commissions, and Units (BCU’s) about the Council and Legal Code.
Both Alonso and Nilsen described the environment within the Council as productive, optimistic, and collaborative.
“What people don’t often realize about Associated Students is just how big it is. If you’re a student, a lot of the organizations that you interact with are the ones that it’s our job to ensure are keeping their integrity,” said Nilsen.
Gauchos who need to visit the Council’s office can find them located at Associated Students 2535 or on their website at https://judicial.as.ucsb.edu/.