by Matthew Taylor
It felt like he had become a completely different person. This was a sentiment that current and previous A.S. members echoed in detailing their experiences with ex-A.S. president Jeremiah Finley over the years.
On Sunday, Feb. 20, Finley was officially impeached and removed from his office. Due to the Legislative Vice President role being empty, the role was given to previous Social Justice and Equity Officer, Lizabeth Cano Sanchez. A unanimous vote on an impromptu Feb. 8 meeting approved this decision. Currently, six positions within A.S. remain open, with an important and daunting budget season right around the corner.
Many inside and outside A.S. remain both worried and hopeful for the association, along with many still healing from their time serving under Finley’s terms.
“I have witnessed many great powerhouses of [the] Associated Students’ with strong voices drop off of the A.S. Board [of Directors],” Representative Tashenea Burns Young said. “Because of the negligence, [disrespect] and [inability] to do their job to their full potential, because of President Finley.”
For longtime members of A.S. such as Malluli Cuellar, Finley’s change in demeanor beginning in the Summer of 2021 was both shocking and confusing, akin to a light switch being flipped.
“If we ever had any disagreements it was still very respectful,” Cuellar said, explaining his previous demeanor. “He was still actively listening, I felt like he was taking in a lot of the feedback that we would get back then and you would see your feedback implemented into the work.”
For Cuellar, much of this seemed to change after the pre-agenda meeting of August 2021, which can be read about in our A.S. impeachment article. However, for previous Administrative Vice President (AVP) David Lopez, this had begun as early as June that year.
As AVP, Lopez was expected to be the head of the association’s yearly budget proposal. This was a task he took very seriously and based on feedback he had assumed he successfully did that year. A phone call from Finley days after the budget books should have been closed and signed told him differently.
Under the advice and pressure of the university, Finley had almost completely revised the budget without Lopez’s or the Board’s input. When asked what changes he had made, Finley refused to respond until the next board meeting two days later.
“I’m not ready to share those at the moment, I’ll bring them up tomorrow at our meeting,” Lopez said, directly quoting Finley’s words at the time.
Huge cuts were made to General Operations, and funds given to student employees under A.S. programs such as WRAPP and CCAT, along with money taken out of the reserves for reallocation. Lopez also expressed that over the pandemic, Finley repeatedly proposed legislation that directly or indirectly centered power into his presidential position.
“He’s not like that,” Lopez said. “He doesn’t portray himself as someone who is into power [in that way], he’s the perfect politician.”
Despite the turmoil, both past and present A.S. members have hope for the future of the organization.
“As for Associated Students, we are working together to further engage in collaboration,” Burns-Young said. “Understanding that we are students and most importantly we are human. With the support of our advisors, core programs, and staff we are the Associated Students who will once more rise above the conflict to further empower our student body.”
The next A.S. meeting will be March 4, at 4 p.m. in Siemens Hall 117.