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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Senate Speakers and Chairs Re-elected Online, Initial Results Declared Invalid

Stephanie Bonvissuto, the graduating coordinator of the Queer Student Center (QSC), used her cellphone to photograph Auguste at his swearing-in. Auguste, a member of the QSC, had previously told Bonvissuto that he would not accept the job. 
Auguste is wearing a striped shirt. Behind him is Senator-elect José Martinez, and in front is Senator-elect (and fellow QSC member) Caroline Kim. 

Stephanie Bonvissuto, the graduating coordinator of the Queer Student Center (QSC), used her cellphone to photograph Auguste at his swearing-in. Auguste, a member of the QSC, had previously told Bonvissuto that he would not accept the job. 

Auguste is wearing a striped shirt. Behind him is Senator-elect José Martinez, and in front is Senator-elect (and fellow QSC member) Caroline Kim. 

On May 8, the Undergraduate Student Senate swore in new senators in a ceremony attended by Chancellor J. Keith Motley. Senators then voted for the speaker and vice-speaker, and the chairpersons of the senate committees. Results were announced immediately after each vote.
Two weeks later, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Judicial Branch announced that there had been irregularities in the first vote, and explained to senators that there would be online re-elections via the university’s SAGroups system.
Sonia Wahome, Chief Justice of the Judicial Branch, explained that “two or three” Senators-elect had arrived late to the assembly, were not sworn in, and therefore were not qualified to cast a ballot. Wahome said that “someone who had been active in the student government in the past” had complained about the breach in procedure.
According to Assistant Dean of Students Shelby Harris, who advises the USG, the complaint about procedure was legitimate. The Judicial Branch “found that at least one student stated they arrived late to the meeting, were not part of the swearing in, and voted.” The new election will require Senators-elect to swear in again, this time by accepting the oath online, before they cast votes.
Harris said she had heard of “no dissatisfaction other than a few students wanting clarification on some parts of the process.” She continued, “I would send students to the Judicial Branch if they had questions as the group has handled this efficiently, with good communication, and to the best of their ability given the situation.”
Four Senators-elect, including some who had run in the disputed elections for senate interior positions, were adamantly opposed to the re-election. One Senator-elect, who preferred to remain anonymous, said, “The only people who agree with this decision are the sore losers who cannot accept their incompetence. This is just an attempt to try to get them elected.” The same Senator-elect referred to the Judicial Branch as “stupid.”
Another Senator-elect expressed his frustration that nobody mentioned any procedural issues during the election itself. “Every member of the outgoing legislative, judicial and executive branches were present. Being that no issues were raised by them, I assumed everything was proceeding as normal.”
This Senator-elect added that he suspected senator David Manning of reporting to the Judicial Branch. According to this senator-elect, Manning exclaimed, “This is bullshit!” immediately after the election of Cheidy Meneide as the chair of the Student Events and Organizations Committee (SEOC). “He stormed off shortly afterwards.”
Meneide ran against the incumbent chair, Ignacio Chaparro. Chaparro ran for president of the USG earlier in the semester, with Manning as his vice-president.
A third senator-elect believed that Chaparro himself had complained. “I have not spoken to Senator Chaparro after the last General Assembly, but I do not find it difficult to deduce that he was upset by the turnout of election results. I keep in mind that that he ran for student body president and came in last place in polls, that he lost the election for USG Senate Speaker to José Martinez, and, having failed to secure that leadership position within the USG, was the incumbent SEOC chair and lost the position to first-time Senator Cheidy Meneide.”
The third Senator-elect also insisted that she was approached by Senator Leonard Leteure a week after the elections, and that Leteure told her she “should vote for Senator Chaparro.” Despite the fact that the Judicial Branch had not yet announced the re-elections, Leteure was certain that the initial vote would not be accepted. Leteure also “disparaged the newly-elected Budget and Finance chairperson for his lack of experience.”
Ranner Faugus, the newly-elected chair of Budget and Finance, is running unopposed in the re-election. Although his name is still on the ballot, opponent Chris MacRae has already announced his intention to reject any nomination for the position so that he can be both CFO of UMass Boston’s Enactus chapter and president of the Golf Club. “It would not be professional for a leader of these organizations to be leading the branch of the USG in which they receive funding,” he said.
The third Senator-elect also told the Mass Media, “When the Senators-elect were sworn in for the 2013-2014 year, there was a noticeable change in demographic. There were more people of color and more women present. All of the elected chairpersons were people of color. Two of them were women.”
“The Senator who tried to get me to vote for Chaparro voiced his concerns about changes with the Senate and the school. That Senator is an older white man. … Maybe there are other facts to consider. These are the facts that jumped to my mind.”
Senator-elect Vonds Auguste, the only elected Senator who did not request anonymity, said that he had also been approached by Leteure. Leteure himself has not responded to requests for information.
When contacted, Chaparro released the following statement, which he requested be published unaltered and unabridged:
The fact of the matter should not be who reported such claims. The matter at question here is if the bylaws and constitution that were sworn to be upheld and insured under an oath taken by every Senator was properly instituted. That is, the current case that was brought to the members of the Judicial Branch. The Judicial Branch under their jurisdiction has the ability and power to review the process for violations, and I for one am just happy to see our democratic process working. The better it works, the more beneficial it is to the students that we seek to represent here, at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Voting began at noon on May 24, the last day of exams, and concluded at noon on May 31, the day of the 2013 UMass Boston Commencement. As of May 29, Harris stated that there had been 21 votes from the 30 elected senators. Results are being reviewed by the Judicial Branch, and should be announced within the week.
Harris said that there would be no more online elections, just closer attention to the rules at swearings-in in the future. “We plan to make this airtight for the coming year.”
UPDATE: Another anonymous senator-elect has written the following email:
I was very troubled with how the voting was conducted. First of all, the Speaker position vote was a tie, despite all the voters not being present and/or some voters coming in late that had not been sworn in. I was especially upset when, since the vote became a tie, it was up to the sitting speaker, who was Vice President Worthey after former speaker Nguyen had stepped down, to pick.
Worthey picked Senator Martinez over Senator Chaparro. I believe that Iggy [Chaparro] had far more experience for this position and has dedicated himself to this student government, but she instead picked Trustee Marvel’s and her campaign manager. [Martinez helped Marvel and Worthey to campaign when they ran for USG President and Vice President respectively.]  
Martinez has limited experience on the Senate, and it showed as he fumbled through the rest of the voting process, unaware of the rules to conduct the session, which is essential for any speaker. 
If this isn’t a conflict of interest in what is supposed to be an impartial pick, I don’t know what is. I repeatedly watched as several Senators, all of whom were heavily involved in Marvel and Worthey’s campaign, tried to leave to attend class but were stopped by Miss Marvel. Whenever Senate members she and I knew were in support of her opposition candidates tried to leave, she made no effort to stop them. It seemed as though she was stopping people from leaving who she knew would help her.
By the end of the vote, it was clear to me that the President-elect had pushed for new Senators to vote for people loyal to her, rather than those with actual experience on the Senate. I have no problem with her having people that support her on Senate, but when they are being picked over vastly more experienced people, I feel that weakens our Senate.
I’m not sure if the re-vote will result in anything different, but I hope that people will see that severe mistakes were made that are going to put too much power in the executive branch and weaken the legislative.
The sender of the letter, with whom Chaparro spoke after the initial election, also confirmed that Chaparro had complained to the Judicial Branch and was responsible for the motion for a re-vote.