Massachusetts Daily Collegian

ALANA seats removed after student vote

By Alyssa Creamer

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The results are in. The ALANA Caucus appointed seats are out.

At the Student Government Association (SGA) Election held earlier this month, SGA representatives were elected through the contentious new online voting system. But this semester, many SGA officials believe the most controversial ballot item was referendum number two, which discussed the removal of the African, Latino/a, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Caucus appointed SGA seats, which dictated that 13 percent of the Senate be appointed by the ALANA Caucus.

On the spring 2010 ballot referendum, University of Massachusetts students voted 1707 to 626 in favor of removing the ALANA Caucus appointed seats.

The referendum results will alter the SGA’s by-laws and a legal review by the General Counsel of the University had previously determined that the ALANA Caucus seats are unconstitutional under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because they “discriminate on the basis of race specifically noting ‘that the approval of the ALANA representation provision by the Board of Trustees would be unconstitutional.’”

The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment states that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The final bill that passed declared that the seats reserved positions in the student senate “on the basis of race or ethnicity.”

The approved bill further stated that Student Legal Services, the SGA’s legal counsel, had informed the SGA in a memo entitled “ALANA appointed Senate seats” that the seats violated the SGA Constitution and its by-laws.

“Appointed seats are also quite literally unconstitutional as our SGA constitution does not recognize senators except through election, yet our by-laws do,” said Yevin Roh of the Center for Educational Policy Advocacy (CEPA). “This lack of congruency makes appointed seats unconstitutional.”

According to a document titled “Summary of CEPA Research on ALANA Caucus Appointed Seats,” based on research done throughout 2009 by CEPA, all appointed seats, particularly the ALANA Caucus and Area Government appointed seats, are deemed unconstitutional. The Area Government appointed seats were not removed in this referendum; those particular appointed seats were not up for referendum on this year’s ballot.

During the March 3 SGA meeting, several members of the SGA were upset at the way in which the discussion of the ALANA seats’ legalities occurred.

One of the reasons the removal of the seats is controversial, according to several SGA members, is that the ALANA Caucus has, for many minority students, been a gateway into student politics by introducing the existence of the SGA and providing a guaranteed opportunity to join its body.

According to these same SGA members, who wish to remain anonymous due to of the sensitive nature of this issue, many minority students on this campus may not have been aware of the opportunity to participate in the SGA because of international backgrounds or disadvantaged socio-economic and educational opportunities.

In 2000, the legality of the ALANA Caucus appointed seats was discussed by the student judiciary. Members of the student judiciary at the time found the seats permissable under the SGA’s Constitution. However, due to the sensitivity of the conflict, they decided to bring the vote to a referendum. The spring 2001 ballot referendum ruled in favor, 1678 to 797, of preserving the ALANA Caucus appointed seats.

According to Senator Derek Khanna, the Office of Civil Rights has been investigating the legality of the ALANA Caucus’ appointed seats for over seven months. Khanna explained that he had been in direct contact with Michael Joyce of the Office of Civil Rights, who, according to Khanna, found the seats to be illegal and “did not understand why the seats were up for referendum.”

Any changes to the SGA bylaws and Constitution must initially be passed in referendum and then approved by Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Jean Kim.

Attempts to contact Michael Joyce from the Office of Civil Rights were unsuccessful because comments about the ALANA Caucus seats were instead directed to the Office of Civil Rights’ press office.

Khanna also stated that he sought guidance about the legality of the ALANA appointed seats from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and that the ACLU supported the proposition that the seats were illegal.

However, according to Christopher Ott of the ACLU of Massachusetts, the ACLU “took no further action” deciding that the union “did not take a position” about the ALANA seats.

Kim had set in place a plan to remove the appointed ALANA Caucus seats by March 1. Although the seats are vacant, several senators say the ALANA appointed seats were vacant mainly because of concerns surrounding the legality of the seats and knowledge about their pending removal.

When asked if he believed the SGA would remain as diverse should the ALANA seats be removed, Roh said, “Diversity has always depended on the students, the ALANA Caucus was not the sole arbiter of ensuring diversity. Each senator as an individual brings a great amount of diversity, each having their own unique life experiences.”

“It is not up to CEPA or the SGA to try to get the seats back,” added Roh. “If the need arises for the seats in the future, and students fight for them, anything is possible.”

Of the campus’ 18,263 undergraduates, 2,662 of them voted in the University’s trial-run online Student Government Association elections, meaning the voter turnout, according to results released by the SGA’s Chancellor of Elections Jitesh Khushalani, was 14.58 percent.

Election results were approved at the SGA meeting held last Wednesday.

Hannah McGoldrick can be reached at [email protected] Alyssa Creamer can be reached at [email protected]


6 Responses to “ALANA seats removed after student vote”

  1. The Advocate on March 30th, 2010 1:12 am

    Disadvantaged socioeconomic class would not effect those joining the SGA, rather the ineptness of the SGA itself regarding these seats would keep them from being filled. Economics don’t have to do with it either, since the Senate is a free to join body, and the SGA even pays for the campaign portion. Also, international status shouldn’t effect anything at all, that makes no sense. I think instead, however, the fact that these seats went to friends and campaign workers are reason enough.


  2. Brad DeFlumeri on March 30th, 2010 2:14 am

    From the story:

    “One of the reasons the removal of the seats is controversial, according to several SGA members, is that the ALANA Caucus has, for many minority students, been a gateway into student politics by introducing the existence of the SGA and providing a guaranteed opportunity to join its body. According to these same SGA members, who wish to remain anonymous due to of the sensitive nature of this issue, many minority students on this campus may not have been aware of the opportunity to participate in the SGA.”

    In response:

    1. The ALANA-appointed Senate seats did not guarantee minority students a “right” to be in the Senate, a “right” to fly to the moon, or a “right” to play hop-scotch.
    They merely guaranteed the highly partisan and ideological pure, left-wing Caucus the “right” to appoint its hand-picked ideological yes-men and intellectual robots to the seats. I am aware of at least 5 non-whites students who report having asked to be appointed to the Alana seats and having been summarily turned down, presumably because the students did not possess the same views on race and race relations as Caucus leaders. For these students, where was the “right” of participation so celebrated by these “anonymous” (cowardly) student-leaders?

    2. If the Caucus (very debatably) served as a gateway into the SGA/student politics for many minority students, then the elimination of the seats doesn’t change that at all. After all, the Alana Caucus was completely left intact by the bill that the Senate passed.

    And if the Alana Caucus was appointing students to the Senate as a means to *introduce* those students to student politics — i.e., before their appointments, the student weren’t aware of the *existence* of the Senate — then shame on the Caucus for appointing such ignorant, apathetic, and unmotivated students to a legislative body that yearly allocates millions of dollars in student money. (However, such ignorant and apathetic senators would explain the horrendously bloated budgets of agencies like Student Bridges).

    3. I don’t understand how a student with an “international” and/or educationally/socio-economically “disadvantaged” — how the Left LOVES those signpost terms !!! — background would be more likely to be “unaware” of the opportunity to participate in student government than the most “privileged” and/or “American” (or whatever the opposite of “International” would be) student. Surely, admissions isn’t discriminating against poor and/or minority and/or Italian/Swiss/Czech/Portuguese-born students when it conducts new students orientation. So, wouldn’t all incoming freshmen be exposed to the same introductory overview of student governance? What difference in this area would the students’ parental income, ethnic heritage, or background be?

    4. Lastly, if these “anonymous” Caucus leaders are so concerned about students of “international backgrounds or disadvantaged socio-economic and educational opportunities” not being afforded access to or awareness of student governance, then why in the world would they choose to remain “ANONYMOUS” when talking about the merits of their own organization in a story that will presumably be prominently positioned in the Collegian and read by thousands of students?

    Would this not be a PRIME opportunity for these minority-rights heroes to stand up, protest against the racist/bigoted too-white SGA SENATE for taking their cherished slush-fund automatic senate seats away and loudly and visibly proclaim injustice? Would this article not, then, serve as a major recruitment and outreach effort for these oppressed and disadvantaged Caucus leaders? But, DESPITE what can be gained for standing up by name and fighting for their cause, these hypocrites instead decided to remain anonymous? What gives?

    And WHY is the ALANA Caucus theoretically (African, Latino/a, Asian and Native American) restricted to non-White students???? Certainly, a German, Israeli, Italian, Polish, or Irish immigrant could meet the Caucus’s self-declared membership criteria of “international backgrounds or disadvantaged socio-economic and educational opportunities.”

    Truth be told, the ALANA Caucus has been for years and remains to this day a political machine in which a select and exclusive group of race-baiting and avidly left-wing students can find political expression and mobilize on-campus in support of the political interests of themselves and their like-minded friends. It is, of course, not a place for the conservative Hispanic student or the conservative African-American student or the conservative Korean student; or any conservative student whatsoever, regardless of the legitimately disadvantaged nature of that student’s background. The real tragedy here is that it took the SGA Senate and student body all these years to wise up to its illegal, unconstitutional, and racist manipulation of the SGA bylaws to further its own political operation.

    Finally, however — despite the illogical and disingenuous protests of faceless, nameless Caucus leaders — the racist seats are gone and the Caucus will have to earn its way into the Senate’s seats just like everyone else.

    Brad DeFlumeri, former Collegian opinion columnist


  3. Ed on March 30th, 2010 1:10 pm

    The court case, if anyone is interested, is Uzzell v. Friday.

    And the actual law is Title VI of the Civil Rights Act (Title IX of the same act is the women’s equity stuff).


  4. Cato on April 1st, 2010 1:43 pm

    Brad, just a tip – when you write a comment that long, nobody is going to read it.

    “the ALANA Caucus has, for many minority students, been a gateway into student politics by introducing the existence of the SGA and providing a guaranteed opportunity to join its body.”

    that’s nice, but the SGA doesn’t exist to pack anyone’s resume or give anyone an opportunity for an extracurricular. hopefully now they can get back to their job of serving the student body instead of wasting time on their internal drama (and I’m sure they’ve wasted tons of time discussing this referendum)


  5. aaron on April 1st, 2010 1:46 pm

    i don’t see why diversity needed to be guaranteed in the sga, I feel like for the purpose of representing and providing services to the student body, a person’s race doesn’t matter as much. just cause I’m asian doesn’t mean only an asian student understands my needs


  6. involved student on September 28th, 2010 8:21 pm

    Completeley agree with Advocate!
    Coming in as a freshman and hearing about what was going on with our student government, its clear to me that Derek Khanna was the best thing to happen to the sga in a long time. He saw behind the racial bs alana claimed and applied reason and practicality to understanding why the seats were unfair.


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