AS Senators Allege Attempted Abuse of Power Ahead of Election

AS Senators Allege Attempted Abuse of Power Ahead of Election

Two Associated Students Senators have alleged that A.S. Advocate General Hannah Kreitman has taken steps to increase future Executive Board powers and has been recruiting students with little A.S. knowledge to join a potential slate ahead of the 2020 A.S. Elections in Spring Quarter. These actions are allegedly taking place to allow Kreitman and others elected to the Executive Board to have the ability to more easily pass their own rules of conduct.

According to two Senators who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, Kreitman has been contacting students with little to no knowledge of or experience with A.S. Council to run in a potential, unannounced slate. Recruitment is not considered to be a form of campaigning, something which is prohibited from taking place outside of the allotted campaign period. This year’s period begins on Feb. 24.

Kreitman was originally appointed to the Advocate General position in January 2019, and has also been serving as the Chief of Staff for the Office of the President. The Advocate General is a completely neutral position that serves to offer guidance towards decisions made within A.S. Council and the Standing Rules Committee.

Allegedly, the potential slate will include Kreitman running for Vice President of Campus Affairs and Campus Wide Senator Kimberly Giangtran running for A.S. President. Neither Kreitman nor Giangtran confirmed or denied any intentions to run for these positions. However, Kreitman did comment on the separation of the roles one has as a candidate and as a student leader in a statement to the UCSD Guardian.

“I do … want to reiterate the importance of separating a student leader from their current role within AS and any potential future roles,” Kreitman wrote. “There is a hard line drawn, separating one’s current position and any work they do for their role, from their role as a candidate and what they potentially can do in the future.”

According to the anonymous Senators, Kreitman has been actively recruiting people to join a potential slate, predominantly by adding first-year and inexperienced students on Facebook and reaching out to them via Messenger. Kreitman has also allegedly maintained a standard of not disclosing who else would potentially be running to the recruits.

One student, who requested anonymity because they agreed to join Kreitman’s potential slate if it manifests itself, spoke about the draw that Kreitman’s recruiting methods had.

“I decided on joining Hannah’s slate because I felt that I had no chance at winning if I didn’t, since running as an independent is so much harder,” they said.

Angel Gomez, a John Muir College sophomore and the Environmental Advocate for Muir College Council, spoke to the Guardian about how despite having no interest or experience with A.S. slates, Kreitman attempted to add him on Facebook.

“I denied her friend request on Facebook because I felt uneasy about the whole thing,” Gomez said. “It was only once [a Senator] told me about all of the slating issues within AS that I remembered Hannah requested me. The timing of it is close to when [a Senator] told me this was all happening. [They] told me this last week that Hannah had been approaching members to slate the weeks prior, which was around the time when she requested me.”

Gomez went on to comment about Kreitman’s recruitment strategy at large.

“I find Hannah’s strategy extremely immoral,” Gomez said. “She is only gathering slate members so she can have a constant presence on Library Walk for tabling come election season … She is targeting inexperienced people because they are believing in her promise of power, but it’s unlikely that a slate comprised of these people will bring about anything substantial.”

One of the anonymous Senators told the Guardian that they felt these recruitment practices were being utilized in an effort to fill the potential slate with students who would be less likely to question the authority of Kreitman and Giangtran.

“Why would you want an executive board that’s super experienced and knowledgeable but trying to fill the slate with people who have no experience,” the Senator said. “They are reaching out to people and purposely keeping them in the dark. Imagine being on a slate and not finding out who the president is until election season comes around.”

In a statement to the Guardian, Giangtran neither confirmed nor denied any of the allegations, although she did comment at large on the practice of recruiting first-year students and students with little to no experience with A.S. Council to run.

“I believe that any individual interested in running for office has the right and should be able to ‘recruit first-year and inexperienced students,’” Giangtran said. “Students without student government experience have served to be just as valuable to the student body once they term into office as those with student government experience. First-year and ‘inexperienced’ students provide an extremely overlooked and necessary viewpoint that is essential to making Associated Students a productive body that represents and advocates on behalf of the entire UCSD student body. By restricting candidates to a limited and exclusive pool, one is doing a great disservice by leaving out students who come from underrepresented and underserved communities that need a seat at the table.”

While these recruitment efforts have been taking place, members of the Standing Rules Committee have been pushing for an amendment to the A.S. Constitution that would allow the VPCA to have the ability to decrease the pay of Senators and A.S. Executive Board members. The Standing Rules Committee is comprised of Kreitman, A.S. President Eleanor Grudin, A.S. Vice President of Campus Affairs Melina Reynoso, and several other A.S. members and advisors.

The proposed amendment, which was outlined in documents obtained by the Guardian from one of the anonymous Senators, reads: “Pay can be withheld at the discretion of the VPCA, who will be responsible for reporting deductions to the Clerk, for the following work related expectations based on the following criteria: Pay will be reduced by a factor of 0.25 of the original amount for each of the following: Outreach hour not completed, Weekly report not completed.”

Likewise, this amendment would allow for A.S. Executive Board members to their own rules of conduct for their individual positions up to three weeks into the new Senate term after they are elected.

The proposed amendment for pay reductions for Associate Vice Presidents states that: “a. Pay can be withheld at the discretion of their Executive Officer, who will be responsible for reporting the deductions to the Clerk b. Executive Officers and AVP’s will set performance standards together no later than three weeks after the respective AVP is appointed to office. c. The performance standards will be sent to Senate for approval as a legislative item.”

In regards to pay reductions for Executive Officers, the amendment states that: “a. Executive Officers will set their own performance standards no later than three weeks into their term, Judicial Board will be responsible for reporting the reductions to the Clerk. b. The performance standards will be sent to Senate for approval as a legislative item. c. If the performance of an executive officer does not appear to meet the performance standards, a grievance may be filed to the Judicial Board who would then convene and determine the appropriate deductions.”

Reynoso explained the reasoning behind her personal push for the proposed amendment in an interview with the Guardian.

“I think that it’s really important to have accountability for ourselves to the students because we are elected or appointed officials and we are using student fee money to compensate ourselves for the work that we’re doing,” Reynoso said. “In the past we’ve had exec who do the bare minimum that they can do when they’re receiving such a high stipend … The purpose is to make sure that we’re accountable and that we have people in the positions that are doing the work for the students that the students deserve to have.”

Reynoso said that the reasoning behind having Executive Board members define their own individual rules is because each position on the board varies in responsibilities and commitments, so there is no way to create a standard for every member. Likewise, Reynoso explained that because each elected Executive Board member has the ability to do their own projects from year to year, there is no clear cut way to create a strict standard for any given position beyond a handful of parameters, although having a set of general guidelines was proposed to the Senate.

“To Senate, I did point out that whatever we do, that if we keep the same system that we’re gonna have a clear set of expectations … so that way we’re not able to shirk on our responsibilities,” Reynoso said. “I find it really concerning that [the anonymous Senators] didn’t bring this point to your attention because it was specifically stated and talked about on Senate floor.”

According to the anonymous Senators, having a Senate full of inexperienced members who do not know one another would allow Kreitman and Giangtran to have their drafted rules of conduct more easily passed.

“It seems like Hannah and Kimberly really want to have a stronger executive board and be able to push legislation that they want without any objections, which it would be easier to do with people who don’t have any experience,” one of the anonymous senators said.

In response to this claim, Reynoso explained that a set of standards would be drafted to allow for the future A.S. members to see what each position should be responsible for.

“I think some concerns were brought up … in terms of like, well there’s a new senate so it could come off as they don’t know what an exec should be doing so we could get to a point in a year where an exec could just propose something because they know they can get away with it,” Reynoso said. “[This] is why within the committee we’re going to create a set of standards and have those get approved by Senate in order to see what a good set of standards would look like.”

Reynoso went on to explain that the nature of Kreitman’s position as Advocate General removes any ability for her to push an agenda with any given amendment proposed in the committee.

“Our Advocate General is a completely neutral position,” Reynoso said. “Their job is to not have an opinion, so anything that we talk about or ask about in the committee is more logistical. So any notion of them pushing an agenda just literally would not work especially when our A.S. advisors are in there to make sure that the person in that position is neutral.”

Kreitman reiterated this notion in her statement to the Guardian.

“Compensation procedure, as talked about in standing rules committee, is a direct reflection of an assembly members attendance and therefore would fall under my job description,” Kreitman wrote. “I was a part of that conversation because I, more than anyone, understand attendance protocol. However, the advocate general is a neutral party within AS, so I have no say over whether or not compensation procedure should be changed, I only comment on how it would work if the voting members decide to change it.”

While the amendment was ultimately not voted on when it was up for debate during the Jan. 15 2020 A.S. meeting, Reynoso noted that future discussions on such an amendment would be more inclusive in regards to the timing of the Standing Rules Committee to allow every Senator interested in voicing their opinions on the matter to be able to do so.

Reynoso concluded by speaking at large on the nature of A.S. and the perception that students have of the elected body and its members.

“I feel like there’s this notion about A.S. and exec that we’re doing things to like ‘gain prestige’ or ‘put something on our resumes,’” Reynoso said. “That notion is very upsetting to me as exec because that isn’t our intention at all. We’re literally here serving students, working 40 hours a week, and we’re not getting paid as much as we should be. But we’re doing things to make students’ lives better.”

Neither Kreitman nor Giangtran have confirmed or denied any intentions of running in the upcoming election. Likewise, no discussion on a future amendment in regards to pay deductions has been scheduled at the time of this article’s publication.

Photo courtesy of University Centers at UCSD.

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