2 ASUC senators receive notice of potential removal, 1 later excused

Update: This article has been updated to reflect new information. 

Two ASUC senators were notified of their potential removal from the senate due to a number of unexcused meeting absences, one of whom was later excused Thursday evening.

Upon further review, the Office of the Attorney General Natalja Karniouchina announced that Student Action Senator Bo Nguyen would not be removed from office. Student Action Senator Paul Lee’s case, however, is pending further investigation.

At the Wednesday senate meeting, Karniouchina and Heidi Kang, chief accountability officer, announced notices of potential removal for Nguyen and Lee.

Student Action Senator Eric Gabrielli was also named but later cleared that night after proving that he had actually been present for one of the reported absences.

According to Karniouchina, this year, the Office of the Executive Vice President implemented an unofficial policy regarding absences that is slightly different from the bylaws.

The ASUC constitution states that a senator can be removed in the case that he or she fails to attend 70 percent of regular senate meetings. Pursuant to the internal policy from the executive vice president’s office, the notice of removal considered absences from the Senate Leadership Institute, the senate training sessions that took place before the start of the school year in August.

But Karniouchina believes that including the institute absences is unfair as the senators were still senator-elects at that time. Furthermore, the EVP policy clashes with the existing bylaws.

Both Lee and Nguyen each had three senate meeting absences and one institute absence. Their third absences took place at the last senate meeting Wednesday when they missed the first roll call. Nguyen’s has been excused for academic reasons.

There were 13 regular senate meetings this semester.

Nguyen said he had also received explicit verbal excuse of his prior two absences. The last and only time he had been shown his attendance log was in October with zero absences.

“The system could have been more transparent, and I hope it does become so for future senate classes,” Nguyen said, expressing how the issue could have been easily avoided if a live attendance log, such as one in the form of a Google Sheet, had been shared with the senators.

The constitution states that senate vacancies are to be filled by “the person receiving the greatest number of votes for Senator who did not become a Senator.”

According to Senate Vice Chair Alek Klimek, the policy for granting excused senate absences has been more lenient this semester — allowing for last-minute emergencies and academic conflicts to be excused with documentation. Traditionally, excused absences have been restricted to written religious and medical reasons with a strict 48-hour notification.

Last year, former Student Action senators Eric Wu and Quinn Shen were removed from office after exceeding their number of unexcused absences at senate meetings. But this took place in May toward the end of their terms.

Although this was the final senate meeting of the year, an additional special meeting will be held next Wednesday to discuss several bills including one expressing no confidence in the UC Board of Regents and UC President Janet Napolitano.

Heyun Jeong covers student government. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @heyunjeong.