ASI Tensions Escalate to Racial Slurs and Miscommunications

The ASI board turned the meeting space into a community circle to discuss how to get the Resolution of No Confidence in President Covino on the Academic Senate agenda.

Marisa Vasquez, Managing Editor

Last Thursday’s Associated Students, Incorporated (ASI) board of directors meeting was met with the Golden Eagle Justice Coalition in public attendance. The Coalition has been working alongside President Nia Johnson on the Resolution of No Confidence in President William Covino.

For weeks prior to the creation of the resolution, the coalition petitioned and organized students against Covino, Provost Dr. Lyn Mahone and Vice Provost Tom Enders.

After Covino finalized campus-wide impaction with help from Dr. Mahone and Enders, student activists within Cal State LA and the surrounding community took it upon themselves to retaliate against the president by creating the resolution of no confidence in Covino. If processed fully through the Cal State University system, the resolution could be considered by the Cal State University Chancellor, Dr. Timothy P. White, who would then approve or deny the resolution.

The resolution was approved by ASI’s board of directors on Friday, May 29, in a special meeting which was scheduled solely to amend and vote on the resolution as an action item.

According to protocol, from there the resolution should have been placed as a First-Reading Item on the Academic Senate, but was left out of Academic Senate’s agenda as it was released a week before its scheduled meeting.

Upset and confused, the Golden Eagle Justice Coalition returned to ASI’s board meeting for answers as to why the resolution was not scheduled as a First-Reading Item on the Academic Senate’s agenda.

Johnson began their bi-monthly meeting by stating her frustrations working with her board of directors, more specifically their Interim Executive Director, Marcus Rodriguez.

“This office is still severely understaffed, and as president, I have taken it upon myself to try and meet with as many of the members that do lack a support staff… but with us being under-supported, I thought that I could seek that support from our Interim Executive Director.”

Johnson continued, “Unfortunately, because we have not been able to have our one-on-one meetings, I have not been able to seek that support.”

In her opening statements, Johnson explained that the miscommunication within ASI led to the resolution of no confidence not making it to the Academic Senate’s agenda. In addition to the initial frustrations expressed by Johnson, she went on to accuse the board of using a racial slur against her during office hours.

“I have heard racialized slurs and language used from students and ASI members that congregate at the front office… It is very important that you consider which language is appropriate to use in this office and which is not. For instance one is not associating myself and my actions, or characterizing me as an ‘angry black woman’ or anyone who is black as being angry because of their ethnicity,” explained Johnson.

Johnson added, “It wouldn’t be necessary to bring these issues to the public if communication was effective internally.”

The three-hour long board meeting continued as a round table for the ASI board to communicate effectively and to resolve the issue regarding the resolution of no confidence in President Covino, which took up the entirety of the meet’s time.

Though the scheduled agenda items were tabled for a later date, the result of the meeting ended on a more positive note than it had started with. Academic Senate Chair, Veena Prabhu stopped by the board meeting minutes before its conclusion to explain some misinformation about the Academic Senate agenda item.

“Usually when ASI passes a resolution, the ASI president is supposed to just email me, copy the author of the resolution, and then we put it on the agenda,” Prabhu explained.

Though such an email was never sent out, according to Prabhu, it is still possible to get the resolution on the Academic Senate’s upcoming agenda, so long as the ASI follows her direct instructions. During public comments the ASI board must request that the resolution be added to the Academic Senate’s agenda. With a motion of at least one senator, the resolution can be voted on and added as an item.

Satisfied with this plan of action, Johnson adjourned the meeting, happy to have collaborated with the public and the Academic Senate Chair to come to the conclusion.

Golden Eagle Justice member and Psychology Graduate Student, Kola Ludwig, explained to the UT that though the meeting was productive, his concerns lie within the board themselves.

“I don’t know all the details, but it sounded a little bit more than a miscommunication [between Johnson and the ASI board members]… There’s still a lot that needs to get done, between the board members… they need to figure their stuff out,” Ludwig explained. “A lot of that stuff sounded unacceptable.”

In regards to the racial slur accusations made against the ASI board, Rodriguez told the UT in an email that there is an ongoing investigation and will be dealt with accordingly.

“I affirmed that these allegations were a serious concern and would be treated as such,” Rodriguez continued,” In addition to one-on-one meetings with students, we have scheduled time with our staff to further discuss the issue,” Rodriguez said in an email.

The Academic Senate’s next meeting is on Tuesday, April 23 at 1:45 p.m. in the Golden Eagle Ballroom 3.

Brian Delgado
Golden Eagle Justice Coalition, Danielle Mayen, speaks with Undergraduate Academic Senator, Diana Chavez about the Academic Senate meeting.