Student reformers take ASG battle to court

A struggle between a group of reformers and the student government will now be decided in court.

The reformers want Palomar’s Associated Student Government to democratize their process for selecting new members and split off from the college administration. The group, called the Coalition for Democratic Education, asked ASG in November to put those questions before students in a campus-wide election.

Coalition members filed a lawsuit on Jan. 19 against the college demanding the courts intervene and force the ASG to hold a special election to decide the issue.

Click here to download a PDF copy of the lawsuit documents.

“Our hope is that the courts can force the ASG to follow their own bylaws,” said Nestor Venegas, a coalition leader and Palomar student.

Voter initiative

College officials said the ballot initiative, the Proposition for Student Control of Student Government, wasn’t properly documented and couldn’t be put to a vote.

Those documents are required before ASG can take action on the proposition, college spokeswoman Laura Gropen told the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The proposition and a list of 3,000 signatures from students who reportedly support it were officially submitted to ASG at a Nov. 9 meeting.

According to student government bylaws, ASG board members must refer submitted initiatives to their policies and procedures committee. Committee members then have 20 days to review the measure for constitutionality, and the ASG board has another 20 days to call a special election and put the matter to students for a vote.

For more information on how the ASG initiative process works, click here and select Clause IV.

“After we submit our signatures, (the ASG) have 20 days to put the initiative to a vote. The ASG failed to do that. They violated their own bylaws,” Venegas said.

ASG report

In a Jan. 10 report to the college’s Governing Board, ASG President Evelyn Lucero said the Coalition for Democratic Education presented their initiative to ASG on Sept. 28, 2011, prompting the board to put a discussion item for the issue on their agenda for the following three weeks.

According to Lucero’s report, the Coalition did not show up to the next meeting on Oct. 5, 2011 when the first reading was scheduled. The second reading was done at the Nov. 9, 2011 ASG meeting; it was at this time when the required signatures (three percent of the student body) were presented to the board by Coalition members, according to Lucero’s report.

“On Nov. 9, (2011) when the signatures were presented it was not clear whether they were collected correctly. We don’t check that until it’s sent to the policies and procedures committee,” Lucero said. “There was a big discussion between the ASG and (the Coalition) and the ASG asked for documentation to verify that the allegations that they were making were actually true.”

At the end of the Nov. 9 meeting, the ASG board decided to table the item until the allegations set forth in the initiative could be proven true.

The Coalition alleged college administrators, through the Office of Student Affairs, were meddling in ASG actions and influencing board members.

In their initiative, Coalition members asked for the ASG to be separated from the college’s Office of Student Affairs and its administration; mandated the ASG “choose its own advisor(s) from a pool of tenured faculty applicants”; and proposed that ASG officers and senators be elected by a college-wide election.

Coalition members said the documents requested by ASG weren’t necessary to put the Student Control of Student Government initiative to a vote.

“We didn’t submit the allegations. We submitted the proposition. The ASG’s independence, having the ASG pick its own advisor, and having the senators (and officers) elected along with the signatures” are all parts of the initiative, according to Alberto Nunez, another plaintiff in the lawsuit and former ASG senator.

“The documentation that they’re asking for is not necessary. We’re going along with their bylaws.”

According to Lucero, the ASG has no part in the lawsuit because the plaintiffs are suing the school district. Lucero said she hasn’t read the lawsuit, indicating the matter is out of ASG’s hands.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to talk about an ongoing lawsuit right now. It’s against the district, not the ASG,” Lucero said.

It will be up to the court to decide whether the student initiative will be presented before the student body for a vote.

Author: Ian Hanner

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