by Matthew Taylor
The first of this semester’s weekly Associated Students (A.S.) meetings ended in frustration, tears, and calls for the president’s own resignation.
Conflicts between members arose when President Jeremiah Finley refused to hold the official meeting. His own requirements mandated that the group make in-person quorum; he stated that the student body members which attended the meeting via Zoom would not count. Most members of the present student body and the guest speakers at the meeting voiced disagreement.
“It’s not fair to place the blame on us,” Kate Bourne, Parliamentarian, said through Zoom. “You just won’t make this hyflex, you can’t just force people to come here. The quorum is met, we’re just not in person, we are all members of this.”
It was only due to the arrival of Social Justice and Equity Officer Lizbeth Cano Sachez moments later that the meeting was allowed by President Finley to properly take place.
Multiple different issues were discussed regarding the amount of power that President Finley has been exercising during his period of presidency. Issues such as his sole power as the Chair to pick and choose what goes on the agenda of meetings, and to choose which representatives may go to the A.S. & CPH Leadership Meetings.
An expressed lack of communication and ignored emails towards the R.O.S.E House were also present. Director Payton Wills of the organization stated they had been trying to get in contact with A.S. for over 2 months. Members anxious about the eventually demolish of their house and subsequent subpar relocation adding more stress to the tense meeting.
Emotions ran high when Sachez had to leave to host an event for El Centro, another important student-run organization. She explained that she would continue to participate via Zoom, but under his own ruling on in-person quorum not being met, Finley attempted to end the meeting prematurely.
Due to the collective stress of the meeting, Sachez began to break down and pleaded with the president to allow her participation through Zoom.
“I hope I’m not failing any of the members-” Sanchez said, holding back tears.
“You should be allowed on Zoom. There’s no reason for that to be other than preference.” Kate Bourne said.
Vice President of Student Affairs Chase Marcum also offered his support, pleading with Finley to make an exception for Sanchez. Still, the president refused.
“Everyone on Zoom wants this meeting to continue and meet the quorum,” said guest speaker Payton Wills, adding their own opinion. “Lizbeth wants it to meet quorum. All of the people sitting here want it to meet quorum. You are the only person, sitting here, against continuing this meeting. It makes no sense.”
“Seeing as I’m not leaving, we can continue our meeting…” she said, sitting back down.
Arguments between members continued to escalate, both Bourne and Sachez accused Finley of refusing to accept not only their previous work experience at A.S. but specifically their roles as female leaders. The angry scraping of chairs could be heard across the room as almost all people present begin to leave the room.
Unofficially the meeting was adjourned only halfway through the agenda. Only members Marcum and Finley were left, tidying up the room in complete silence.
In the aftermath of the meeting, Vice President Marcum and President Finley had very different takes on what had occurred.
“Being Black and in this leadership role I bear a weight that many will not understand,” President Finley said. ”Still, I know the work must get done and solutions to issues must be given. So, when my fellow board members and cabinet members won’t show up in person not because they are not able, but because they have something better to do, I still make sure students’ requests are fulfilled because that is why I do what I do and where I find joy.”
On the other hand, Marcum accused Finley of abusing his power as President and personally apologized on behalf of the A.S. to students and staff members who have suffered hardships under the organization’s current leadership.
“I truly believe that [Finley] should step down in a dignified fashion,” he said. “Embrace humility, be humbled. It is the most important of all characteristics to carry with you once it is obtained.”
The Associated Students’ next meeting is planned to take place this Friday, at 3 pm in the same location of Siemens Hall 117.