Update 08/27/2020: This article has been updated to include additional information from former ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert, ASUC Chief Legal Officer Athalia Djuhana and ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President Nicole Anyanwu.
ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert resigned from his position “in protest” Wednesday after being asked by ASUC Chief Legal Officer Athalia Djuhana over conflict with the student government’s bylaws.
Weichert, who also serves as a chief of staff for the office of the academic affairs vice president, or AAVP, was planning to introduce a bill he sponsored in his capacity as Elections Council chair at Wednesday’s ASUC Senate meeting. The bill would have reformed the process for ASUC candidates seeking endorsements from underrepresented communities.
Djuhana, however, advised Weichert on Tuesday night that serving both as an appointed official and in an executive official’s office violates an ASUC bylaw.
“I was going to give y’all updates on logistics regarding elections tonight,” Weichert said during the meeting. “Having managed to achieve an increase in voter turnout in 2020 compared to the previous year, I didn’t imagine that I would be put in a position where I feel I must resign.”
In addition to the bylaw preventing him from serving in both positions, Djuhana also said to Weichert that she believed there were other conflicts of interest because of AAVP Nicole Anyanwu’s cosponsorship of the bill, the alleged partisanship of the AAVP’s office combined with the nonpartisanship of the Elections Council and Anyanwu’s alleged involvement in a community endorsement process.
Djuhana said she was unaware before Tuesday that Weichert was fully acting in both capacities and thought the Elections Council was dormant until another ASUC member flagged Weichert’s bill to her. In an email to Weichert, she requested that he resign from his position as Elections Council chair or as chief of staff in the AAVP’s office and encouraged him to remain on the bill as a cosponsor.
“I think this is an excellent bill,” Djuhana said. “I hesitated to ask him to resign given that having no Elections Council chair going into this year, that’s going to put us at a disadvantage.”
Djuhana said, however, that she felt she had to address the alleged conflict of interest because of the bill.
Anyanwu said she does not feel there is a conflict of interest and said she was upset by Djuhana’s suggestion that the current AAVP received a community endorsement. Djuhana said she believed Anyanwu’s endorsement by the Panhellenic Council when she ran for ASUC Senate in 2019 qualified as a community endorsement, but Anyanwu disagreed.
“I’m an independent candidate. I’m nonpartisan. I’m not endorsed (by a community defined by ethnicity, race or orientation),” Anyanwu said. “I’m not in Greek life. I don’t understand how Greek life would benefit from me in the future.”
Anyanwu added that Weichert’s bill referred to communities like the Black or Latinx community, which require candidates to identify with them to receive their endorsement, rather than endorsements that do not require membership, like that of the CalGreeks system.
Weichert’s bill currently does not have a primary sponsor, but Weichert, Djuhana and Anyanwu all said they would like to see it passed.
“Reflecting back on the 10 months I was in the Elections Council chair position, it was definitely very much a roller coaster ride. There were some highs, very joyous, but at the same time some very miserable lows,” Weichert said. “My recommendation going forward … (is to) have those tough conversations about, ‘what is our ASUC climate like and what is the detriment of the toxic and petty atmosphere?’ ”