Senator Reports Phone Threats





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An ASUC senator has accused her rival party's officials of pressuring her to vote for their academic affairs vice presidential candidate, threatening to use her attendance record to expel her from the senate.

Cal-SERVE Senator Evora Griffith levelled the charges at Student Action party members at Wednesday's senate meeting. Party officials said the accusations were ridiculous and that they were conjured up to protect Griffith from expulsion for excess absences at committee meetings.

ASUC rules state that if a senator is absent from five senate meetings, he or she is automatically removed from office. The senate, however, passed a bill Wednesday to support Griffith and amend her attendence record, marking her present at three committee meetings.

The motion passed 14-1, with Student Action Senator Pav Singh breaking party lines to join Cal-SERVE, APPLE, Squelch! and minor parties supporting the measure, which needed a two-thirds vote to pass.

Griffith said she received a phone call on Nov. 16 from a Student Action official, telling her to vote for Meredith Packer, the Student Action candidate for the position. Former Academic Affairs Vice President Jen Chang resigned last month amid senate allegations that she did not adequately perform her job.

"The call said, 'Your absences will be used against you if you don't vote for Meredith,'" Griffith said.

She said she was being targeted by Student Action because of her vocal demands to recall Chang, a Student Action member.

Griffith said she had a verbal agreement with Student Action Senator Cara Kim to mark her officially present for finance committee meetings she could not attend because of work. She said her attendance was changed during the recall controversy to mark her absent.

Kim said she did not remember agreeing to mark Griffith officially present. She said she initially misread attendance sheets and later marked Griffith absent to correct the mistake.

Several senators, however, including independent Senator Joanne Liu, said they remembered Kim and Griffith making the agreement.

"I don't believe this was about my attendance," Griffith said. "I feel it was an attack by Student Action in retaliation of what happened to Jen Chang."

But Student Action officials said the accusation was an attempt to change attendance rules to allow Griffith to remain in the senate.

"(Cal-SERVE) created this (accusation) to spin things," said Executive Vice President Alex Ding. "I even question the existence of the phone call - I don't think anyone would be so stupid (as to pressure Griffith)."

Student Action party chair Gray Chynoweth called the accusations "horseshit."

"Nobody would have any sanction from our party to do that, and if someone was caught doing that, they would no longer be able to associate with us," Chynoweth said.

But he called the senate's move to change Griffith's absences "silly," saying the senate chose to amend minutes to mark her present when she was not physically present at meetings.

ASUC Attorney General Nathan Quigley criticized the senate's handling of the issue. He said many committees have not submitted attendance reports, and thus he could not apply the rules fairly. If all documents were reviewed, as many as 12 senators could be in violation of attendance rules, he said.

Quigley also said he doubted the legality of the senate amending Griffith's attendance, or "rewriting rules after the fact." The issue could be appealed to the Judicial Council.

Student Action Senator Heather Drennan voted against the emergency bill because she said it set a precedent that senators could arbitrarily change their absences.

Squelch! Senator Richard Schulman, however, said he disagreed.

"The damage inflicted by going back in the record is far less than the damage we would inflict by removing Evora Griffith," he said.

Student Action had reason to push for Griffith's removal because the next senator in line, Rex Huang, is a Student Action party member, Schulman said.

APPLE Senator Matteen Mokalla said he voted for the bill because he thinks Griffith is very responsible and well-respected on campus.

In the meantime, Schulman said the finalists being considered for academic affairs vice president are Packer, Green Party Senator Erwin Tam and Cal-SERVE candidate Jose Luis Lopez. The interviews will be concluded Sunday, he said.

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