ASI Executive Committee Meeting Spikes Conflicts

The Executive Committee Meeting took place in the afternoon of Tuesday, April 26. The action items on the agenda include student body fee indexing proposal, President Covino’s vote of no confidence press release, disciplinary action of board member Cynthia Alvarez, and removal of Charter College of Education Representative Roger Buena.

Members present at the meeting were ASI President Ejmin Hakobian, Vice President for Admnistration Samuel Garza, Vice President for Academic Governance Nicole McCue, Vice President for Finance Antonio Canzona, Vice President for External Affairs and Advancement Angel Sanchez, Secretary/Treasurer Joselyn Diaz, Chair of the Cabinet of College Representatives Sean Weerasinghe, University Designee from the Office of the Dean of Students Dr. Jennifer Miller, ASI Staff Dena Florez, Marcus Rodriguez, and Intef W. Weser. Also with the presence of College of Natural and Social Sciences Representative Jannah Mae De La Cuesta, College of Business and Economics Representative Cynthia Alvarez.

The student body fee-indexing proposal was approved by the Executive Committee, which will increase the student fee based on inflation. Vice President for Finance, Antonio Canzona, hasn’t made any comments so far.

The Executive Committee approved the press release of President Covino’s vote of no confidence very swiftly with no discussion or objection. The draft press release mainly noted President Covino’s long-term conflict of interest regarding funds to the Anna Bing Children’s Center that spiked heated disagreements with ASI, campus parking issues, and his lack of leadership on the controversial Ben Shapiro event. The press release has not yet been finalized; it is scheduled to be released on Thursday, May 5 on their website.

Although there was no discussion at the meeting, University Designee Dr. Jennifer Miller expressed her objection in a later interview through email with the University Times, saying that ASI President Ejmin Hakobian put the press release on the agenda on his own without consulting with the ASI Executive Committee. Dr. Miller stated, “The draft press release is rife with false and inaccurate comments.”

She also criticized Hakobian himself. “I am also very concerned that the individual action of ASI President Hakobian have overshadowed the good work of other ASI students who have worked collaboratively with President Covino to achieve great things for our students such as the increased number of news bins on campus, additional parking options and messaging,” said Dr. Miller. “It’s a disservice to our students for ASI President Hakobian to let his personal feelings get in the way of our work together towards these important initiatives.”

ASI President Hakobian, who started the petition to get more parking spaces, commented regarding the press release that it “will be on our next Board meeting agenda for approval and will be available to public as an official statement from ASI.”

In regards to the meetings and administration staff, he also stated “I requested the assistance of the Human Resources office to help me address the interruptions caused by the President’s designee during our board meetings since it is becoming more frequent and disruptive as we are discussing issues that pertains to the University Administration and President Covino.”

The Executive Committee meeting spent most of the time debating on business etiquettes. The two action items were disciplinary actions on board member Cynthia Alvarez for repeatedly breaking the Roberts Rules of Order—raise your card vertically before you speak—and the removal of board member Roger Buena for not fulfilling his position duties.

A majority of the board members agreed on removing Roger Buena as Charter College of Education Representative due to his lack of effort to fulfill his duty. Buena declined to comment.

On the contrary, reaching a decision regarding Cynthia Alvarez’s administrative policy violation drew a sharp divide among executive members.

Cynthia Alvarez, College of Business and Economics Representative and assistant of the Office of Public Affairs, was determined that it was President Hakobian’s way of silencing her.

“The issue is not the failure of members to raise their cards at one meeting or another, but the frustration level that has been reached within the Board due to President Ejmin Hakobian’s uncivil and autocratic leadership this entire year,” said Alvarez.

Alvarez thought that it’s normal for people to speak out of turn in politics, it is a non-ASI issue, and her objection to President Hakobian’s comments on USU Board landed her in this position. “Many ASI members have spoken out of turn during a meeting, but since [Hakobian] has a personal issue with me, he has chosen to single me out.”

President Hakobian presented at the meeting that Alvarez had been warned numerous times before for her multiply interruptions, but she replied in email “I only have five weeks left of school and I’m going to say and do whatever I want.”

He later explained the issue, “the first time [Alvarez] interrupted our board meeting, she was advised to conduct herself in a professional manner. However, she continued interrupting the meeting for five times while another board member was speaking and others were waiting to speak. This is disrespectful to the board members and the students who we are representing. She has interrupted other public meetings in numerous occasions. The notion that a student can conduct herself in that manner and get a special treatment due to their working relationship with the administration is false.”

Some members sympathized with Alvarez. Samuel Garza, Vice President for Administration, expressed at the meeting that Alvarez’s behavior might result from “holding in.”

“Robert’s Rules of Order establishes that all members of the committee are entitled to the floor. I believe it’s important that all comments of business be spoken whether they be of concern or of a constructive nature.” When asked how he thinks the efficiency can improve in ASI meetings, Garza said that he would still prefer the rules of raising cards before speaking. “It is my perspective that if policies are utilized in conjunction with Robert’s Rules of Order, an organization can operate at maximum efficiency internally.”

Some addressed the importance of keeping meetings business-oriented and waiting for your turn to speak, but suggested it was not necessary to make an example of Alvarez since she wasn’t the only one breaking the rules.

The discussion resulted in no action taken.

As the school year subtlely approaching the end, the conflicts among ASI executive members and administration staff have clearly taken shape. More meeting coverage will follow in the next weeks, stay informed.

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