USG Senate votes to veto Judicial Council’s decision to uphold AEC disbanding of PVC

Last night, the Undergraduate Student Government Senate voted to veto the USG Judicial Council’s decision to uphold the decision of the Awards and Elections Committee to disband the Progressive Voter Coalition.

The council brought its recommendation to Senate, which needed a two-thirds majority vote to be overturned. At the end of the night, the Senate voted 25-3-2 to veto the recommendation.

AEC member and Senator Shehan McFadden, along with Senator and Vice President for Academic Affairs elect Claire Namboodri and Senator Izzy Hagar, voted against the veto. Senator and Vice President of Finance elect Maggie Palys and AEC member and Senator Claire Chapel abstained from voting. All other senators voted in favor of the veto.

Sanjali De Silva | Senior Staff Photographer
AEC members Claire Chapel and Shehan McFadden answer questions at the Senate meeting last night.

The members of the Senate engaged in a discussion for more than two hours regarding the process of the AEC that led it to its decision and discussed the significance of what the veto would mean.

“It was very comforting to see my peers stand up to the bureaucratic nature of USG that has continually silenced marginalized communities,” former PVC co-chair Shahamat Uddin said. “Not only did they stand up for these communities, but also saw a direct contradiction with the AEC bylaws and implementation of them.”

AEC Chair Carrie DiGregorio and members Chapel, McFadden and Michael Morton were present at the Senate meeting and answered many inquiries from Senate members as they made their decision.

“I think this is one of those things of putting those bylaws up on stage. The AEC only has two powers in regards to coalitions, to recognize them or not to recognize them …” DiGregorio said in an interview before the Senate meeting. “What we have in the bylaws is what we have to go off of and that I think kind of trapped us a little because we wanted to follow process as much as we could because that’s our job.”

The council found the AEC to have acted in accordance with its bylaws, but provided recommendations going forward to prevent recurring issues of lack of transparency and due process that were present in this case.

“The AEC acted in a way that was unfair to the students and organizations who had dedicated their time and efforts to forming a coalition with the purpose of giving a voice to marginalized groups on campus,” the Judicial Council decision reads, “But the AEC bylaws do not guarantee due process or transparency to coalitions who commit a violation.”

The recommendation suggested the AEC update its bylaws providing details on how violations by coalitions are handled, offer more latitude to the AEC when dealing with coalitions, revise the registration process for coalitions and encourage Senate to work with with organizers of the PVC to foster an environment for coalitions to be successful.

“This was made for promoting social justice for marginalized groups on campus, whereas our decision was made only looking at the bylaws,” Connor Crowley, chief justice of the Judicial Council, said. “I don’t necessarily disagree with the decision that was made tonight, and I think it was made for a very good reason, and I think the other justices would agree with me.”

Many senators said they thought the night was a victory. They said they hope this sets a precedent going forward for how AEC handles decisions and ensuring marginalized communities are heard.

“The decision to veto restored my faith in our USG and made me so proud to be a part of this body,” former PVC co-chair Simran Jain said. “We have set a powerful precedent that marginalized communities will not continue to be ignored, this was a huge win.” 

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