ASWU discusses multiple bills, tables votes for some and passes bill on pronoun usage
Updated: Dec 9, 2021
Disclaimer: Two ASWU senators, Inéz Nieves and Clara Nithiaparan, are also writers for The Collegian. Kathleen Forrest, the Editor-in-Chief of The Collegian is also the treasurer for one of the clubs discussed, the Non-Traditional Student Union.
The Dec. 2, 2021 Associated Students of Willamette (ASWU) meeting primarily focused on discussions regarding the bills to Solve Conflict of Officerships, Establish Transparent Government Proceedings, and to Establish the Proper Use of Pronouns. The first two bills were tabled for discussion at the following meeting, and after tense discussion, the Bill to Establish the Proper Use of Pronouns was passed.
The meeting was called to order by Vice President Angel Park (‘22) at 7:03 pm, and then roll call was taken. All senators were present, except for Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24), who sent proxy Sally Wooster (‘24), and would arrive later. After the agenda was approved, Park opened the floor to public comment.
Zeke Druker (‘24) [a former ASWU senator], was one of the few members of the public in attendance at this meeting, and the only to speak during this designated time. Druker addressed the senate’s [failure to pass a statement on Transgender Awareness Week] during the previous Nov. 18 meeting. Addressing the senators, they said, “I urge you to oppose measures...tonight to strip ASWU of their authority to uphold equity in student organizations and answer to the demands of trans students...Furthermore, I urge you to support critical measures to ensure that ASWU fulfills constitutional commitments of upholding equity, transparency, accessibility, and accountability” They went on to condemn Senator Kasey Englert (‘23) for his ASWU Statement against Harassment, Bullying, Intimidation, Discrination, and Violence, tabled the previous week, which Druker called “an insult to trans students.” Druker also said that the issues of wording that Senator Hannah Purdy (‘24) had with the statement the previous week was an attempt at disrupting the means of ASWU to uphold accountability.
After the public comment closed, President Giovanni Bautista (‘22) read his Officer Report, which consisted of an update on Phase 2 of Strategic Planning, Learning from One Another and Defining a Shared Vision. He invited everyone to RSVP for interest sessions because “it is important that you as students take part in those conversations and have your voices heard and provide input so that you can play a part in shaping the direction of the university.”
The meeting moved on to the report from Treasurer Michael Burke (‘23), who said he responded to all feedback he received on the Finance Precedent resolution from the previous meeting, made very minor changes and believed it was ready to be voted on at this meeting. Treasurer Burke also introduced two new clubs for approval, Skate Club and Non-Traditional Students Union. Skate Club was described as a sports and recreation club for ice skating, rollerblading, roller skating and other forms of skating, and Non-Traditional Students Union a social and support club whose mission is “to create a safe space for non-traditional students to connect with each other and share experiences, while also connecting to the larger Willamette community.” After minimal debate, both clubs were approved.
Chief Justice Alexander Knorr (‘22) was absent from the meeting, but delivered his report via Justice Jack Randall (‘23), in which he reminded senators that “when abstaining from votes, it’s really something that’s meant for when there’s a conflict of interest. If you disagree with a piece of legislation or anything that’s being voted on, it would be prudent to vote ‘no’ unless you have a conflict of interest.” By proxy Senator Nieves questioned the state of judicial proceedings, and Justice Randall responded that he could not answer to that. Senator Ainsley Moench (‘24) requested that precedents be added to the shared ASWU Google Drive, and after brief discussion it was clarified that they would be made available. By proxy Senator Nieves also asked what the average time of response was to a judicial complaint and how these complaints were responded to, and Justice Randall stated that they were responded to “as quickly as possible” through a meeting with those who filed the complaint.
Senator Moench started the Senate Reports by discussing the progress of the Trans Advocacy Committee, mentioning their planned town hall on Tuesday Dec. 6. She stated that several administrators were invited to attend, including Vice President of Student Affairs Lisa Landreman, Dean of Students for Community Care and Inclusion Abbas Hill, and President Stephen Thorsett. Senator Moench also clarified that an anonymous Google Form would be sent out for students who wanted to share their opinions but felt unsafe doing so at the town hall.
Senator Athena Marvitz (‘22) gave a brief report on the Senior Survey, Senator Moench on the Equity Committee report, and Senator Colby Alexander (‘24) urged the senators and justices, if they had time over break, to “take a while to read constitution, read bylaws, read the Democratic Rules of Order.” Senator Nieves reported that the Disability Advocacy Club had reached out with ways to improve ASWU accessibility, and that the club would be taking Winter Break to flush out goals and actions. Senator Nieves told the group to talk to Vice President Park about attending an ASWU meeting as a guest.
After Senate reports concluded, old business was voted upon. The Finance Precedent of the previous week was approved (14 yeas), but the ASWU Statement against Harassment, Bullying, Intimidation, Discrination, and Violence failed to pass (3 yea, 10 nay, 1 abstain).
The meeting then moved on to new business. The Bill to Amend EDI Committee Enforcement of Anti-Racism Plans was tabled for the following week.
Senators then debated on the Bill to Solve Conflicts of Officerships, a bill that would allow the senate to reassign or revoke officerships if it became apparent that a senator had a conflict of interest. Senator Englert took issue with the bill, explaining that he “recognize[d] that there may be a problem,” but committees get appointment from each class, so it seems “inappropriate” to take authority from the class. He also stated that conflict resolution should be judicial, not through the bill. Senator Moench, a drafter of the bill, responded that she recognized his point, but because officerships don’t only affect classes but the entire Senate, assignment should be left up to “all the people that it affects.” Treasurer Burke suggested adding a defining clause. After some back and forth, including Senator Purdy raising a concern that the bylaw would contradict others, which was subsequently alleviated, the bill was tabled for voting next week.
The Bill to Establish Transparent Student Government Proceedings, a bill that would allow the clerk to record senators’ voting positions in the publicly-available minutes was next discussed. Senator Moench, a drafter of the bill, explained that it was created in response to a lack of accountability within ASWU due to a private vote history. She cited past issues, stating that “the public wants transparency.” Senator Englert proposed an amendment that would allow for senators to vote whether or not to make the votes public, and Senator Moench responded that such an amendment would suggest a need for private votes, which would go against the desire for transparency and serve as a shield for the senators. Senator Englert countered, stating that there are precedents for private votes, and though the need won’t necessarily come up, throwing away the option to vote privately because they are not currently used is foolish. Senator Nieves raised the question of what there would be to hide, and Justice Randall explained that “precedent is public voting for everything.” Senator Moench then further elaborated on her stance, stating that senators should reconsider their beliefs if they do not want their voting record to be public. The bill was then tabled to be voted upon next week.
The senators next debated the Bill to Establish Proper Use of Pronouns, which would allow for senators to be removed from their position for “willfully” misusing a fellow ASWU member’s pronouns, under “disorderly conduct.” Senator Nieves stated that using wrong pronouns accidentally is okay, but “willful is a synonym for intentional” and deliberately misusing someone’s pronouns is an issue of respect. They also confirmed that the bill addresses certain concerns, such as an unfamiliarity of English or a religious objection to pronouns, though they objected to the latter as an excuse. Senator Moench added that though willful intent will be difficult to prove, repeated misuse of pronouns constitutes a removal from the Senate. Senator Nieves then expanded, comparing the misuse of pronouns to the mispronunciation of their name as an accidental versus deliberate action. Senator Englert expressed concerns over the clarification of the phrase “willfully,” and Senator Moench responded, stating that ASWU should not define transphobia. After more brief discussion regarding wording and bylaws, discussion was closed, and the bill passed (13 yeas, 1 nay). Senator Moench called the new bill “a win for ASWU” that shows ASWU is supporting and working towards making the space safe for trans students.
The Bill to Amend Committee Representative Responsibilities, which, according to drafter Senator Hollis Mantle (‘25), would address a lack of communication within ASWU, was the next new business discussed. Senator Mantle, a drafter, explained that the bill would consist of one committee member submitting a report to the President, and then this information would be summarized by the President in a greater report to the whole of ASWU. President Bautista stated that he believed the bill was “great” and that it would “increase communication between ASWU and student representatives.” The bill was tabled for the following week.
The final piece of new business addressed was the Resolution to Purchase Copies of The Democratic Rules of Order. Put forward by Senator Alexander, the resolution would allocate $200 to purchase 20 copies of the recently adopted The Democratic Rules of the Order for the purpose of allowing senators and judges to better familiarize themselves with the material. After some brief back and forth regarding pricing and alternatives, including e-books and PDFs, it was agreed upon that Treasurer Burke would purchase the twenty copies from Amazon. The resolution passed unanimously (14 yeas).
Finally, the meeting concluded with a rather tense for the Good of the Order. Senators thanked each other for the various bills passed, but questioned the discussion and the no vote towards the Bill to Establish the Proper Use of Pronouns. Senator Mantle reminded her fellow senators to take care of their mental health, and Senator Marvitz requested clarification on Senator Englert’s pronouns in light of the Bill to Establish Proper Use of Pronouns, to which he responded “Any.” Vice President Park mentioned the resignation process for a senator, and reminded everyone present of a donation drive for Salem’s houseless population. Finally, Senator Amanda Padgett (‘25) spoke on behalf of herself and Senator Eliza Gonzalez (‘25), thanking their fellow senators for a great first semester, as neither will be in attendance at the upcoming meeting. The meeting was adjourned by Vice President Park at 8:54 p.m.