ASLC vice president elected, Cabinet member resigns

Image from Pioneer Log archives

At the Nov. 21 Associated Students of Lewis & Clark (ASLC) Senate meeting, vice president elections were held for the spring semester, since current ASLC Vice President Jacob Musceralla ’21 (also an Opinion editor for The Pioneer Log) will be abroad. Two candidates ran for the position: Jeremiah Koshy ’21, who served as a senator during the 2017-18 academic year, and Nick Gothard ’21, who served as student organizations coordinator (SOC) this semester. 

The Senate elected Koshy to serve as vice president in the spring. Gothard stepped down from his position as SOC after the meeting.

At the Senate meeting, Koshy stated that his first goal as vice president is to ensure a smooth transition into the spring semester. He also hopes to make the Senate process more efficient, providing more continuity between generations of senators.

“Senate as a whole has a lot of great ideas every single year,” Koshy said. “But big projects don’t happen in a year. They happen over a span of three, four years, and that means someone needs to be able to communicate those ideas to future generations of senators.”

Koshy took a hiatus from ASLC during the 2018-19 academic year to focus on being a Resident Advisor (RA). He sought to rejoin ASLC to influence the community in a tangible way and encourage more collaboration between members of ASLC and RAs. 

Koshy was also motivated, in part, by the recent incident in the ASLC office that was deemed racist by several student organizations. He plans to prioritize inclusivity in ASLC, however he understands that this is a difficult goal to accomplish.

“I like to think of myself as someone with a healthy dose of cynicism, and so I do not think I, or we, will ever get to the point in which the senate becomes a platform for all voices to be heard equally,” Koshy said in his candidate statement. “Neither do I think that I would be able to perfectly facilitate any and all senate endeavours. It is a journey that by virtue of our role within the student body of LC, we are obliged to undertake, but can only dream and hope to come close to ‘achieving’ that goal.”

In the Senate meeting, Koshy questioned why there has not been an official ASLC investigation or statement about the incident. Facilitated by Director of Elections Mary-Claire Spurgin ’21, questions were asked by ASLC members and anonymously. 

In response to the vice president special election at the beginning of the fall semester, Spurgin and her committee created a channel for questions to be submitted anonymously. She explained this in an interview with The Pioneer Log.

“Senators expressed that they were uncomfortable with the lack of information (during the vice president election earlier this fall), and they felt like there were things that weren’t being said,” Spurgin said. “So I talked to my committee after the vice presidency election had ended, and I wanted to sort of have a solution to the fact that senators and other people that attended the meeting weren’t comfortable asking questions.”

The link to submit questions was shared with members of ASLC, as well as with the public through ASLC’s social media. Gothard received several questions related to his involvement in the recent ASLC incident deemed racist by many student organizations, in which he was a bystander.

Gothard referenced his participation in the systemic barriers committee that were created in the wake of the incident.

“I think that (the incident has) yielded a lot of personal and professional sort of lessons, and seeing it as an opportunity to learn to be a better ally on this campus has been why I have gone to as many systemic barriers committee meetings as I can, why I’ve listened to as many students as possible and gone through these lengths to better understand how ASLC can work for the folks who feel like ASLC isn’t working for them,” Gothard said. “And it’s not something that can be done, you know, in a few weeks, or in this semester, but I think, personally, I’m more committed than ever to making sure that something like that doesn’t happen again within ASLC.”

Since the incident, Gothard faced scrutiny in his former role as the student organizations coordinator (SOC). Spurgin commented on this as the ASLC director of elections.

“I think there’s a perception that the SOC, even though they’re a non-voting member of the committee, is ultimately the student who’s responsible for budgets, and they’re very much the face of that process,” Spurgin said. “So that role always faces a lot of criticism and the incident very much heightened that because Nick (Gothard) was in the room for it. The fact that he was running in an election also brought it to the front.”

Since the incident itself, the conversation within Senate has moved from specific details of the event to conversations about broader systemic issues at LC. Gothard brought this perspective into his candidacy, and hoped that Senate would as well, as he later explained in an interview with The Pioneer Log.

“I thought it was definitely something that we should talk about and we should address on the sort of general consensus the Senate had conferred on … there were issues at Lewis & Clark and within ASLC that, with the right vice president, we could begin to address and we can begin to focus on,” Gothard said. “I don’t know exactly how much the Senate chose to focus on that which they agreed, as opposed to this specific incident.”

After both candidates responded to questions, they left the room so ASLC members could deliberate.

Immanuel Harice ’22, co-president of the BSU and its representative to the ASLC Senate, read a statement on behalf of the Equity, Inclusion and Justice Committee (EIJC), of which he is a member. The statement first clarified an aspect of the EIJC’s mission: “to support historically underrepresented students groups, especially those whose voices have frequently been missing from the senate space.”

This year, many students have come to the EIJC to share concerns about ASLC.

“This speaks generally to the fallacy of the ASLC as a whole, an organization who claims to and even more importantly has the responsibility to represent the entire student body,” the statement said. “However, more pointedly the frequency of student concerns raised to the EIJCspeaks to the current state of affairs which is such that the EIJC has exceptional insight into the depth of student concern about the conduct of ASLC members and the organization in general.”

The statement mentioned that the EIJC had heard concerns from students, who expressed interest in attending the Senate meeting to voice opinions about the election.

“Taking into consideration the numerous concerns we have heard about the Student Organizations Committee & Coordinator (Gothard) in the last few weeks, we think this group would do well to have more conversation about what it means to be in power, how we wield that power often without realizing it, how people who feel threatened by that power behave, how are we communicating about the initiatives that we are considering versus actually working on, how we actually make sense of what equity and justice mean, what loyalty do we have to the structure of the current ASLC and, independent of the current rules, what changes could we make to be the most productive,” the statement said.

In an interview with The Pioneer Log,EIJC chair Elizabeth Gillingham clarified the purpose of this statement over email.

“Our statement was neither intended to detail any wrongdoing by a candidate nor to be an endorsement, but more about a call to action for the Senate to be doing their own investigating and finding ways to be knowledgeable about the campus climate,” Gillingham said. “At the end of our statement, we do refer to the concerns we heard about the SOC but wanted to use that as a launching pad for the kinds of conversations that we believe ASLC would benefit from having — each of which relates back to our committee’s purpose & scope.”

After Harice read the EIJC statement, senators and representatives deliberated, and ultimately Koshy won the majority of votes for vice president. Gothard, however, returned to the meeting to discuss the proposed changes to the SOC bylaws, intended to further democratize the committee and make the budgeting process more equitable.

“I had our huge bylaws overhaul that I was walking through during that meeting, and I’m a member of the cabinet, so it was my intention to, win or lose, go back into the room and finish that work,” Gothard said. “The reaction from the majority of the Senate who had shown up to the meeting was just complete indifference about the work that we’ve been doing all semester … it’s just not a productive or a healthy space to be in, and I don’t know why anyone in my position would keep going.”

Ultimately, the Senate voted in favor of the proposed changes to the SOC bylaws. Gothard resigned as SOC shortly after the meeting.

Although he is no longer a member, Gothard valued his time on ASLC.

“Everything is so accessible and I think in this environment student governments are best positioned to be able to create radical, beneficial change for the student body,” Gothard said. “I hope that that’s what ASLC will start to do in the future.”

After Gothard’s resignation, France Haase ’23, the former vice chair on the committee, took over as acting SOC. At the Senate meeting on Dec. 5, special elections were held for SOC, in which Mikah Bertelmann ’21, the former ASLC community service & relations coordinator, was the single candidate. Elections were also held for a senator position, as a senator recently took a leave of absence. Olivia Weiss ’23 ran uncontested. Both were elected.

ASLC President Helen Hitz ’21 appointed Quentin Gaul ’22 to the director of elections position for the spring, as Spurgin will be abroad. The Senate confirmed this appointment at the Dec. 5 meeting.

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