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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Undergraduate Student Government in turmoil: President and Vice President resign

The Undergraduate Student Government senate conducted a disciplinary hearing against former President Dhruv Naik and former Vice President Anjani Naidu of the student run organization.  The investigation was conducted throughout the fall 2022 semester over the violation of several bylaws in the student government’s constitution. The disciplinary hearing was held by the government’s judicial branch, where a verdict was determined after much deliberation.

The Associate Justice of USG, as well as the individual who oversaw the disciplinary hearing, was Ahsan Khan. Khan is part of the judicial branch, alongside Justice Kaushar Barejiya and Chief Justice Angie Kelpach. The two other Justices were not able to participate in the judicial hearing due to bias, as they ran against the former President and Vice President in the past election. In order for the trial to take place, two senators, Alex Shea and Colin Tsuboi, were selected to step in as justices to make up the fair, three person judicial board.

The violated bylaw that the former President has been accused of is 2-1 § 5.02, which states: “Officers are required to maintain an appropriate level of decorum both in and out of meetings. Officers will be dressed in at least business casual when attending any meeting in an official capacity.”

As for the former Vice President, her charges include bylaw 2-1 § 1.02 part C, which states: “The Vice President will preside over the Senate until the new Speaker is elected, at which point the Speaker will preside over the meeting.” The rest of the bylaws violated were 5-0 § 3.03, which states, “The Vice President will meet with SAEC no less than once per academic month;” 2-1 § 3.02, which states, “Officials may not commit ad hominem attacks against other Officials, members of the USB, or University staff;” and 2-1 § 5.02 which states, “Officers are required to maintain an appropriate level of decorum both in and out of meetings. Officers will be dressed in at least business casual when attending any meeting in an official capacity.” After an appeal, the SAEC charge against the Vice President was dropped.

Regarding the events that lead up to the disciplinary hearing, Khan agreed to sit down and discuss the situation. Khan stated: “The main allegations were about the decorum relating to the President and the Vice President. It was mainly attitudes towards members of the Undergraduate Student Government and people just didn’t feel respected, in a sense. While we did make a decision on whether we found them guilty on that or not, this is something that a lot of students within the student government were feeling.”

One of the biggest causes of the turmoil that occurred within USG was the Cross Student Government Talk hosted by UMass Boston. This event invited 11 different universities, and the university partnered with the organization, B.I.G., to put the talk together. However, the attendance was limited for all parties, including UMass Boston’s attendance, due to the amount of topics the government organizations had to cover. When the members of USG had realized that not everyone was allowed to attend the event, many in USG felt they were being left out. “The President and Vice President had asked people to help out, and people were willingly helping out thinking that they would be allowed to go to the event, and they didn’t find out until a couple days earlier that they were not allowed to be at the event. There were only two or three members of the student government that were allowed to go to the event,” Khan reported.

In response to the claims of the intentional exclusion of USG members from the cross talk event, Naik and Naidu remained adamant that they had done all they could to try and involve all of USG at the event, but it just wasn’t possible. The guidelines for the event stated that the event had to be closed for the sake of time and for the prioritizing of interaction.  Additionally, each school was only allowed to bring no more than four of their student government members.

As explained by Naidu, “We did not want to show up with 15 people, because that would portray a bad impression on the USG. So, we requested to get more people, and we were allowed to get six people, so we had 6 people from our side and all the other universities had about three or four.” Naidu had also requested that other UMass Boston USG members would be able attend the event through Zoom, but that request had been rejected. “We also requested if our cabinet could join through Zoom, but they didn’t allow that because [the event] needed to be interactive, and B.I.G. believed it would have been too difficult to moderate the chat and the live event at the same time.”

Former President Naik stated that, while others have said in their testimonies that they had helped with the cross talk event, it was really him and former Vice President Naidu who did all the work behind the scenes.

“We planned the entire event by ourselves. We booked the place, we decided the food, we contacted the universities. A lot of people had said in their testimonies that they had helped us, they did not, we have proof,” Naik said.

As for the disciplinary charges involving verbal attacks, allegations of using harsh language have been made against the former President and Vice President, which in turn led to the start of a petition being created for the removal of their position. The creator of this petition was the Casa Latine Coordinator Avi Lorenzo-Lassus.
While sitting down in an interview to discuss the matters, Lorenzo-Lassus stated his reasoning behind the creation of the petition, even though he is not involved with USG. Lorenzo-Lassus explained: “I’ve seen people run out of their center crying because of an interaction they had. I’ve heard them yell at each other, expletives, and for being here five years, I’ve never seen the President and Vice President operate this way.” However, the petition did not end up being used in the disciplinary hearing due to the fact that the violated bylaws weren’t listed on the petition.

During an interview, both the former President and Vice President had explained that the verbal attacks had come from both sides, and that several members of USG had made aggressive comments and verbal attacks towards both of them.

“In a lot of the meetings, we were portrayed as the aggressor. I would like to make it clear that we are not the aggressors, we did not want to go there. There were only two incidents that I distinctly remember where I said things that I shouldn’t have, which I apologize for,” Naik stated.

Not only did the President and Vice President violate the USG bylaws, but the judicial branch did as well. It was up to the judicial branch to notify the President and Vice President of the new selections for the hearing, since two justices had to be pulled for bias. When the branch failed to do so, Naik and Naidu were notified of the new, temporary stand-ins just an hour before the hearing took place, which left them without a choice and forced them to accept the temporary justices, so the trial could take place.

As a result of the disciplinary hearing, both Naik and Naidu were instructed to give apology letters to the rest of USG for the entire ordeal. Each had two weeks to write and submit their letters, but neither ended up doing so. Instead, Naidu resigned from her position as Vice President due to her belief that charges brought against her were unjust. Since she resigned before the trial, there was no need for her to write an apology letter. Naik resigned shortly after Naidu, and his reasoning for not submitting an apology letter was that he did not feel it was appropriate to apologize to the entire USG when most of the members weren’t involved in the conflict.

He later went on to state: “Another thing that we advocated for was that both sides had violated the bylaws. We decided not to press charges, so we had gone one step forward in saying that if they apologize, we will apologize as well, and we just move on. It’s not the fact that we did not want to apologize, we just thought that it was extremely demeaning for us to make a public apology when it was not only our fault.”

For the rest of this academic year, the new interim President of USG is former USG speaker Julia Olszewski, until the next elections are held. Both Naik and Naidu expressed they hold no grudges against any of the members of USG. They did not want the issue to go unnoticed any further, and each have stated that they are willing to help whoever permanently takes on their roles.

About the Contributor
Samantha Beady, News Editor