ASUC reflects on bylaws’ effects on neurodivergent students

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Priya Sundaresan/File

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At the ASUC Senate’s special meeting Thursday, a resolution to pay the rest of President zaynab abdulqadir-morris’ stipend was voted down because it was against bylaws — a reflection of the bylaws’ intolerance for neurodivergent students, according to multiple ASUC officials.

The resolution says abdulqadir-morris was present at 28 of the 29 senate meetings to deliver her oral report and that she has experienced academic and financial difficulty because of her role as president. Although only six out of 15 present senators voted “yes,” most senators were in agreement that abdulqadir-morris deserved full compensation for her work, according to Senator Josh Wilson.

“It really comes down to the fact that (abdulqadir-morris) without a doubt deserves a full stipend,” Wilson said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt about that from in our senate class. … It came down to people wanting to follow the rules.”

The ASUC bylaws say officials who receive stipends incur a decrease on their stipends if they submit their written reports late, with 2 percent being deducted every day after seven days and with officials receiving a 48-hour notice of lateness.

abdulqadir-morris said she turned in some of her written reports late because of a psychological disability, which makes it difficult to write, and that her disability has been recognized by the campus’s Disabled Students’ Program, or DSP.

“Traditionally, people who struggle financially or people who struggle academically don’t even have the time or opportunity to join this organization,” abdulqadir-morris said. 

ASUC Senator Hani Hussein also noted that “the ASUC doesn’t have accommodations for anyone with DSP accommodations.”

A YouCaring fund was set up to pay for the rest of abdulqadir-morris’ stipend, organized by Hussein, former ASUC senator Alyssa Liu and current Academic Affairs Vice President Andrew-Iyan Bullitt. As of press time, the YouCaring has raised $1,287 of its $1,944 goal.

Chief Personnel Officer Evan Cui, whose job is to calculate every stipend-receiving official’s deductions and hold ASUC officials accountable, said he has considered suggesting changes to stipend bylaws in order to balance the importance of written reports and oral reports.

“(abdulqadir-morris) lost her stipend money based on the bylaws in a fair and legal procedure,” Cui said. “From a personal, humanitarian way, (abdulqadir-morris) should get that money. This is a full-time job.”

Had the resolution passed, Cui said he and the chief legal officer would have had to challenge the resolution, and the Judicial Council would have had to hear the case.

While she said she understands how not having written reports hurts the ASUC’s transparency, abdulqadir-morris added that the bylaws should be changed to be inclusive.

“Most tragically, (deductions) happened to senators who are really grossly underpaid for the work that they’re doing, but in the past year, I finally became recognized with the Disabled Students’ Program,” abdulqadir-morris said. “I realized that we aren’t compliant and that we don’t think of how we support students who are not neurotypical.”

Sakura Cannestra is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SakuCannestra.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this article may have implied that Jen Shi would be continuing as the ASUC’s chief legal officer in the 2018-19 school year. In fact, Claire Goudy will be the 2018-19 ASUC chief legal officer.