SGA president ousted

Divisive Judicial Council decision splits student body.
Co-authored by Adam Porterie and Shelby Hiens

Last week, Student Government Association’s Judicial Council ruled that Tasfia Hasin and Athan Lau violated the judicial right to confidentiality in contempt of the judicial court. As a result of this ruling, per SGA Constitution Article IV, both Hasin and Lau are unable to hold any SGA office position for violating a court order.

This SGA election has been fraught with complaints filed against both presidential candidates, Hasin and Michael Combs. The second complaint that was filed against Hasin regarded a missing disclaimer on campaign messages she and other students posted publicly. The Elections Committee decided the evidence provided by both parties did not constitute an election code violation. Combs appealed this decision made by the Elections Committee, which triggered the appeals process. This involves a settlement between the parties or trial by the Judicial Council.

In an interview with The Collegian, Hasin recounted her perspective of the events leading up to her democratic victory being nullified. On the evening of Feb. 21, Hasin was called into SGA’s conference room in ACAC for a settlement of the appeal Combs filed, in which Hasin requested a trial take place. At the conclusion of the settlement meeting, “my witness [Lau] and I were told that the Judicial will have a meeting through a passing comment made by the chief justice to another justice. Neither of us were told what the meeting contents were, nor that the trial proceedings would be discussed at 9 p.m. on the same day in the SGA conference room.”

Hasin was given from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. to gather her witnesses and supporting evidence for trial the following day. “Recognizing that we had limited time and resources to meet this evidence/witness deadline, we chose the nearest, closed off room to begin working — the SAB office or Room 222, which you can see from the conference room since the walls are lined with windows. Given that you can watch a person go into the room, it is odd to think that the justices would not tell us this could be detrimental to us.” Room 222 is locked with a passcode due to SAB using the room for their operations. Hasin asserts that in her role as DEI coordinator for SAB, Room 222 is her working office and she is there seven days a week in some capacity to organize events.

By 8:59 p.m., Hasin and Lau finished submitting their evidence for the trial. Hasin states they “stayed in the room to discuss trial prep.” That afternoon, Hasin says “the SAB office and the SAB closet were going through a big transition.” Materials were being displaced from the office where student organization materials are stored. As Lau is a student organization leader that had Lunar New Year items stored in Room 222, they searched the office for his materials because “old items are given or thrown away if not found during office clean ups.” Hasin was also dealing with International Week planning which she is in charge of. Hasin was multitasking her SBA duties with scheduling time with her witnesses for the SGA trial to discuss trial matters before the following evening.

At around 9:20 p.m., Hasin says she and Lau left Room 222 and quickly exited the hallway “once we became aware of the fact that Judicial was meeting in the [SGA] conference room” with the door open.

Hasin and Lau were informed that they had committed a violation on Feb. 23. Their trials were both scheduled for the evening of Feb. 26.

On the evening of Feb. 26, Hasin brought her SAB assistant to the upstairs shared administrative space in ACAC to conduct an inventory check for items that they needed to order Tuesday morning. They arrived as a trial was taking place. “When I asked [Chief Justice Cecilia Gutierrez] if it’s okay if a student walked down the hall, she said that it is perfectly fine and even told me I am free to roam while the other person had their trial in the [administrative] conference room.” In the past, Hasin states SGA “blocked off the hallways from the administrative conference room (the true confidential office) so as not to be in the main shared office” across from Room 222.

The Judicial Council proposed five claims for relief against Hasin and Lau. The claims are detailed in the Opinion on Spring 2024 Tasfia Hasin v. Judicial Council and Opinion on Spring 2024 Athan Lau v. Judicial Council on the SGA student hub. The Judicial Council alleges that Hasin and Lau were “witnessed leaving Room 222… around 9:20 p.m. on Feb. 21, 2024. The Judicial Council trial preparation meeting took place in the SGA Conference Room, commencing at 9 p.m., where confidential materials and discussion were shared, which is audible from Room 222.” As Hasin and Lau were parties “pertinent to the settlement conference that occurred at 7:30 p.m.,” they were “made aware of the upcoming Judicial Council meeting at the conclusion of the settlement conference.”

SGA Judicial Council provides a dissenting opinion purporting that the claims made against Hasin and Lau do not prove contempt of court. One justice argues that “this claim assumes that Tasfia heard our conversation, which we are unsure of.” The Judicial Council is unsure if “she even heard a single word out of Judicial as the evidence provided and testaments show that there is no preponderance of evidence for this claim.”

SGA released a statement on Friday asserting their mission is to advocate and support the student body. They acknowledge that the outcome of these judicial cases were extreme, but followed their constitution and governing documents. The statement says, “Like many of you, some of the SGA Senators were upset by the outcome and brought the opinion to the Senate body. The Senate did not obtain a 2/3 majority vote to overturn the Judicial opinion and instead voted to uphold the outcome of the case, with the intent to improve and innovate on the Judicial Code and its policies regarding disciplinary actions.” The Senate vote occurred on the evening of Feb. 27.

The Collegian spoke with a concerned student who asked to remain anonymous about the Judicial Council’s recent decision. After careful consideration, The Collegian granted anonymity to this student because they wanted to avoid potential retribution from students and SGA as well as any conflict of interest that may arise in future proceedings. The student alleges that the Judicial Council has ignored the democratic process and devalued the votes of the student body with their decision on Tasfia Hasin v. Judicial Council. This student sees a remedy to the council’s decision coming in the form of a referendum. Their proposed referendum would address two points. First, to overturn the ruling on Tasfia Hasin v. Judicial Council and Athan Lau v. Judicial Council. Second, the referendum seeks to honor the vote of the Spring 2024 executive election and affirm the duly elected president.

The student body remains concerned and confused as the Judicial Council has made a decision effectively nullifying almost three hundred student voices.

In response to Judicial Council’s ruling, Hasin states, “As a former cabinet member of SGA, I knew there needed to be changes in the dynamics of people within SGA, but now I realize that the entire institution needs to be reevaluated. Especially for students that are unfamiliar with how these hierarchies and codes work. While I already felt that the space created by SGA was
intimidating to outside students, this election made me feel more ostracized than ever.”

tucollegian | Collegian

Depicted above is the SGA conference room [left] and Room 222 [right].

Post Author: Shelby Hiens