When the ASSU Is No Longer about Students

With great disappointment, I submit my resignation from my position as the Legislative Liaison for the ASSU Executive. I have been involved in the ASSU for four years and believe that with the right leadership it has great potential. In the past few weeks, many ethical and constitutional concerns have emerged from the actions of current ASSU President David Gobaud. While David claims that his decision to push through reforms in Judicial Affairs as well as appoint new members of top-level positions of his cabinet are well-intentioned, I believe these actions have been unethical and unconstitutional.

The lack of transparency, inconsistency in argumentation, and circumvention of the governing documents of the Association displayed by David in recent weeks have made a mockery of the ASSU as a credible institution and as a legitimate representative of students’ interests. For these reasons, I cannot in good conscience continue to serve on the Executive Cabinet.

In my four years of serving in the ASSU in a variety of capacities, I have never seen such a concerted effort by an Executive to single-handedly control the legislative process. Even when I was asked to interpret various pieces of legislation, David had already figured out what his actions would be regardless of the gray areas.

In David’s view, it was up to him as President of the Association to determine the meaning of the Constitution’s vague diction. For example, during Andy Parker’s legislative confirmation, I brought up the point that the constitutionally valid path of confirmation would be to hold a Special Election, as there is no direct justification for an appointment process and legislative confirmation. Since either option could be the case, I argued that the Constitutional Council should determine the correct process.

Although many Senators agreed with my interpretation, David continued to push through his selection for VP and then threatened to withdraw his appointment for Co-Chief of Staff, Farah Abuzeid, from the confirmation process, another constitutional gray area. In this case, however, precedent had been established under previous administrations that members of the Executive Cabinet be confirmed by both legislative bodies since they are paid members of the Association. Even though David did submit Farah for confirmation, the mere threat of circumventing the legislative process seriously questions his commitment to transparency and cooperation with legislators. With so much maneuvering, people have to start asking David’s intentions. Who are his actions best for? The student body, the ASSU, or merely himself?

In addition, David’s recent push for reform within the Office of Judicial Affairs raises even greater concerns over his ability to separate his own agenda from what is best for the student body as a whole. Even though David began pushing for Judicial Affairs reform early in his term, his continued work, given what he knew about Jay’s situation, creates a huge conflict of interest. Just as UG Senators refrain from voting on funding bills for groups they are associated with, David should have backed off from his reforms and waited for Jay’s situation to be settled.

David and Jay were not elected last spring as individuals, but as a slate. Throughout their term, David and Jay claimed to be equals in their elected partnership. Yet when one of them faced hardships, the other continued to fight for reforms that had the ability to directly impact the other. Regardless of whether David himself pursued these reforms in good faith, this situation has created the appearance of illegitimacy and thus tarnishes the work of those individuals assisting in the reform efforts.

Ultimately, instead of allowing for the ASSU to continue to be tarnished by a bad reputation and a loose interpretation of the Constitution, the UG Senate and the GSC need to take a more active role in executive oversight and the development of enforceable ethical standards for our leadership. Tough questions need to be asked by our elected officials if the ASSU has any hope of returning to a point where our community recognizes it as a legitimate institution.

David’s unethical actions, alongside those of the Avula/Jones administration two years ago, have forced the student body to question and to resent the very institution that was founded over a century ago so that all students would be equally and justly represented. Now, more than ever, our student body president needs to be held accountable for restoring students’ confidence in the ASSU.

Since I no longer believe that my values match the vision or the actions of the Gobaud administration, I am stepping down from my position as Legislative Liaison with the hope that the ASSU can move forward in an honest and ethical way, making sure to hold the needs of the entire student body above all else.

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