Why I resigned from USG Senate, and why the general public should pay more attention to USG

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Before I begin, I want to make  clear that this has been a living document since the beginning of December. Since then, it has evolved as more events have occurred and as I have become more and more aware of the necessity of this article. 

It took nine days for USG to produce any commentary on the insurrection at the capitol, and I think that perfectly highlights the problems with the organization: an ultra-political hesitancy and, due to that, an apathy for the feelings of its constituents. This article will be split into two parts, the first being the incident that led me to resign and the second being the current situation that only furthers the need for more public scrutiny of USG. 

The event that led me to quit occurred during the last senate session of last semester, when one of my fellow senators made an antisemitic comment. It was a very offensive and very factually incorrect appropriation of the Holocaust, and while I was angry, confused and hurt at the time, I’ve realized since then that my anger should not have been targeted at him. While what he said was extremely offensive, I know now that he did not know what he was saying, and I forgive him for the most part as he’s expressed regret. What I cannot forgive is the silence of everyone else in the call.  The statement was made in front of over 50 people, and not a single person spoke up to say how wrong it was. As it happened I felt incredibly small, betrayed even, and worst of all I knew that I was not alone in this pain. In my three-month tenure as a senator, I had seen events like this multiple times before, and each time a horribly prejudiced comment was made, the silence of USG gave it validity and power. 

USG has a culture problem, plain and simple. In my tenure from October to December, I witnessed racism, sexism, antisemitism and ableism alongside presidential overreach and potential nepotism. I thought this was enough to write a whole article about, but then this week all of the ugliness of USG seemed to rear its ugly head. 

This Wednesday, a piece of legislation calling for UConn to condemn Trump’s incitement of the insurrection and white supremacy passed the senate. It then went to USG President Hernandez’s desk, who decided to veto it without warning or conversation with the authors of the legislation. His reasoning was that he was working to keep USG nonpartisan, and he couldn’t support a call for the conviction of Donald Trump, or the mentioning of the Defund UCPD movement. Well, the first one has no merit, as taking a stance against a decision made by the students is about as partisan as one can get. The second is referring to a movement that’s based on previous legislation USG is in official support of, but the current USG administration and certain senators have taken repeated issue with. Despite continuous majority support for it, certain individuals have dragged people through the mud for hours of conversations on the topic. If the president wants to pretend that he has the best interests of the students in mind, but then chooses to support the continual effort to invalidate a student movement, he must eventually realize his hypocrisy and accept how partisan his actions have truly been. 

As of writing this, on Friday, Jan. 29, the president stands by his veto, and Chief Diversity Officer Douglas supports it as well. They are in direct opposition to what their responsibilities are, to advocate for the undergraduate students of the university, and by taking a partisan stance they are disrespecting the hard work of senators who are trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability.    

The next step in the veto process is for the bill to go back to senate, and an emergency senate meeting has been called for next Wednesday, Feb. 3. If you are a USG senator, I urge you to vote to overturn the veto. If you are not, I urge you to share this article, and come to the senate on Wednesday at 6:30. It’s open to the public for a reason, and this is a matter that deserves the public’s scrutiny. 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Author’s edit here: I forgot to include an edit I made on the published copy to include the names of the author’s of the vetoed legislation, Sarah Hill and Darren Mack.

  2. “What I cannot forgive is the silence of everyone else in the call. The statement was made in front of over 50 people, and not a single person spoke up to say how wrong it was. As it happened I felt incredibly small, betrayed even, and worst of all I knew that I was not alone in this pain.”

    So, did you speak up during this call, or were you, too, silent? If not a single person did, then you did not. Are you beating yourself up too? The bystander effect is a thing. The topic was addressed after the fact and apparently he “did not know what he was saying.” Do not be shocked at silence. Be the change you want to see — or hear in this case.

    “It then went to USG President Hernandez’s desk, who decided to veto it without warning or conversation with the authors of the legislation.”

    I was not aware he had to ask permission, warn anyone, or have a conversation with anyone in order to use his veto. It seems to me that he was just exercising his right as USG President.

    “His reasoning was that he was working to keep USG nonpartisan, and he couldn’t support a call for the conviction of Donald Trump, or the mentioning of the Defund UCPD movement. Well, the first one has no merit, as taking a stance against a decision made by the students is about as partisan as one can get.”

    Nonpartisan, as in the sense of the wider politics of America, not the internal politics of UConn Senate. As for supporting the call for a conviction, I thought we were in America, where citizens are innocent until proven guilty? Unless UConn Senators are judge and jury, they cannot convict Donald Trump, nor any other citizens, of anything. Using the language like conviction when there is no legal basis for it is indeed very partisan. Let politics take its course at the capital. Comment as you will about it but do not think for a moment that USG has some legal power over the judicial system.

    “The second,” which is mentioning of the Defund UCPD movement (as I understand it), “is referring to a movement that’s based on previous legislation USG is in official support of, but the current USG administration and certain senators have taken repeated issue with.”

    I briefly searched the minutes and legislation of USG (link below) and couldn’t find anything regarding UCPD. However, the External Affairs Committee’s Fall 2020 GO LIST (link below) states: “With many discussions had throughout the student body over the status of the UCPD and the Department of Public Safety on-campus, External Affairs is dedicated to ensuring that all student voices are heard and considered on the matter, and wishes for all students to feel safe on campus.” To say that a “Defund UCPD” is not partisan matter would be a lie. Defunding the UCPD stems directly from the larger “defund the police” movement, which is heavily partisan. USG senators voting on a matter does not make it un-partisan, it just means that a majority of USG senators agree on x about defunding the UCPD — I don’t know what they actually agreed upon because I couldn’t find it in the minutes and I couldn’t find a statement on the UCPD. I did find another Daily Campus article (link below) mentioning a “DefundUCPD Steering Committee,” but I did not find the committee within USG’s committees or subcommittees. The DefundUCPD Steering Committee must not be part of USG or USG’s website is not updated.

    “Despite continuous majority support for it, certain individuals have dragged people through the mud for hours of conversations on the topic. If the president wants to pretend that he has the best interests of the students in mind, but then chooses to support the continual effort to invalidate a student movement, he must eventually realize his hypocrisy and accept how partisan his actions have truly been.”

    What percentage is majority? 51 – 49? Majority support does not mean much besides more than half. If the USG Senate spends hours talking about the topic then obviously it is a point of contention. And just because you view his actions in a certain light of hypocrisy because of how you understand his “partisan” actions does not mean that he is pretending anything; he could truly believe his actions are for the reasons he set forth.

    “As of writing this, on Friday, Jan. 29, the president stands by his veto, and Chief Diversity Officer Douglas supports it as well. They are in direct opposition to what their responsibilities are, to advocate for the undergraduate students of the university, and by taking a partisan stance they are disrespecting the hard work of senators who are trying to do their jobs to the best of their ability.”

    To advocate for some of the undergraduate students or to all of them — that is the question! If a majority is some, then all are not advocated for. I admit that on partisan topics all UConn students will not be advocated for, but the USG President’s actions are not in direct opposition to his responsibilities (that is, advocation). They are in direct opposition of your views and those of your fellow senators who agree with you. And hey, that’s okay. If his premise is that the larger politics at play make some of the matters that USG discusses partisan and he acts in accordance with keeping USG nonpartisan by exercising his rights as the USG President, then he is doing what he set out to do. That can be frustrating for getting things done. I don’t understand why led to resignation because now you can’t vote on the topic in the senate.

    https://usg.uconn.edu/minutes/
    https://usg.uconn.edu/committees/external-affairs/
    https://usg.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2759/2020/10/GO-LIST.docx
    https://dailycampus.com/2020/07/16/letter-to-the-editor-defund-uconn-police-invest-in-the-community/

  3. Bro who cares about meaningless statements made by the admin or whoever. Do you job (sorry resume position) to get shit done for students.

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