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Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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SGA budget bill meeting derailed by alleged misconduct


Juana Garcia/The Cougar

On Sunday, the Student Government Association held a special session to discuss the now-overdue budget bill. 

The budget, which according to SGA bylaws should have been submitted to the Senate by Aug. 15 and voted on no later than Sept. 30, is a crucial piece of legislation as the Senate is unable to act on any other business until the budget bill is confirmed. 

However, the meeting got off to a shaky start as management and information systems senior Jack Barsotti took the opportunity to address the Senate. During his speech, Barsotti criticized both the Conscious Coogs and Senate Speaker Ariana Azizi for what he perceived as a failure to act in the student body’s best interest. 

“The incessant cancel culture needs to stop, and I encourage you all to think about the students you serve instead of the petty drama that you create out of thin air,” Barsotti said. “You’re the exact kind of people who do not qualify to be in student government.”

Barsotti’s criticism seemed to stem mainly from an incident that occurred during the meeting held on Sept. 27, in which Azizi ejected undergraduate at-large Sen. Colin Campbell for alleged disrespect towards other senators.

According to graduate at-large Sen. Michael Abel, Campbell’s ejection and subsequent punishment violated SGA’s bylaws. Further, Abel said that the SGA attorney general lacked the authority to discipline senators.

“In order for punishments to be doled out, according to the bylaws, they’re supposed to be conducted in the Supreme Court where students are represented by counsel,” Abel said. “The Justice Department lacked the ability to hand down the specific sanctions that Sen. Campbell was given.” 

The sanctions Abel mentioned include a suspension from two meetings, as well as a requirement to attend a leadership summit. 

Attorney General Tiffanie Gordon defended the sentence. She said that as the attorney general, it is her duty to enforce the law and that she had full authority to reprimand Campbell. 

“When the notice of complaint went to the Supreme Court,  it came back to me I did the investigation,” Gordon said. “The Supreme Court upheld it, all of it, down to the sanctions. So again, in the event that I did anything wrong, it would have been brought to light by the Supreme Court.”

Despite Gordon’s claims, Campbell attempted to appeal the decision. However, according to Abel, this appeal was rejected outright. 

In the six-page appeal, Campbell claimed he was acting well within his rights and that Azizi lacked the power to eject a senator from a meeting. It also cited a text message sent from Campbell to Azizi immediately after his ejection, which some perceived to be a threat.

“This humiliating exchange led me to reach out to Speaker Azizi privately over text. The message stated, ‘Let’s grow up. You wouldn’t have done that if I was in person. Do you feel better now?’” The appeal read. “The message I texted was within my right to voice my general displeasure with how she treated me. Nothing in this message can be construed as threatening.”

Procedural disputes aside, the budget bill was introduced to the senate without complaint. It will be voted on at another special session which will be held on Sunday, Oct. 9.

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