Senator Leaf Zuk will remain in his current position as Pro Tempore.

ASPSU vote to retain Leaf Zuk as senate leader

Chaotic meeting highlights inner conflict in Senate

Turmoil broke out at the ASPSU Senate meeting on Feb. 28. Senator Cindy Reyes, along with three other supporting senators, made a motion to remove Leaf Zuk from his current position as the Senate Pro Tempore.

Chaotic meeting highlights inner conflict in Senate
Senator Leaf Zuk will remain in his current position as Pro Tempore.
Corinna Scott / Vanguard Staff
Senator Leaf Zuk will remain in his current position as Pro Tempore.

Turmoil broke out at the ASPSU Senate meeting on Feb. 28. Senator Cindy Reyes, along with three other supporting senators, made a motion to remove Leaf Zuk from his current position as the Senate Pro Tempore.

The senators cited problems with adhering to the Senate Coordinating Committee meeting bylaws, but one main reason for the motions was, according to these senators, Zuk’s “failure to facilitate open communication, a safe space and a productive working environment.”

Particular emphasis was put on the events that took place during the Senate Coordinating Committee on Feb. 20. Slated to address newly proposed executive board bylaws, the meeting took a turn for the worse as insults were thrown, leaving hurt feelings and tarnished reputations.

At the meeting, built-up tensions and personality differences mounted in what many ASPSU senators called a “bashing session” against Senator Erasmo “Mo” Ruis, causing the senator to resign as a Coordinating Committee member, and setting off a string of other grievances. Along with what some senators see as personal attacks on Ruis, the allowance of these attacks, inaccurate meeting minutes and other interpersonal tensions also emerged during the meeting.

According to the recorded minutes for the Feb. 20 meeting, Ruis entered 27 minutes tardy, exhibiting a concern allegedly expressed about him by other senators. The discussion that followed concerning Ruis’ job performance resulted in the so-called “bashing session.” Among other things, some senators allegedly expressed reservations about Ruis being their Coordinating Committee member, complained about his lack of reaching out to senators, frequent tardiness and his unwillingness to join the rest of the Coordinating Committee with functions asked of it by senators.

Senator Diamond Zerework, who was present at the meeting, described how the discussion devolved: “All of the CC members were talking about the things they did not like about this particular CC member, and it was all personal stuff,” she said.

Although the minutes do recall some of the more personal comments against Ruis, according to Zerework they leave out some of the more notable comments, specifically the character attacks against Ruis. “All of us that were present at the meeting—even some of the CC members—would agree that these words were said about not liking this member’s entire existence, his being and his personality was difficult to work with. The passive aggressiveness never stopped,” Zerework said. “It wasn’t constructive at all.” The misquoting in the minutes remains a point of contention among senators.

The controversial committee meeting minutes quote Ruis as addressing Senate Pro Tempore Leaf Zuk, who facilitated the exchange, in a manner threatening his position. “There have been several complaints about you,” Ruis purportedly said. “We are forming a group that is thinking about impeaching you, Leaf.”

In an email correspondence between senators, Ruis questioned the accuracy of the minutes. “I would like [Senator] Bear’s comment about having a problem with my entire existence and my personality reflected in the minutes of Feb. 20, 2012,” he said. “Also I don’t recall ever saying that I was forming a ‘group’ to impeach Leaf.”

Apart from accuracy issues with the minutes, Ruis’ quote in the minutes does reflect a rift between senators who see Zuk as not being suited for the pro tempore position and those who do. “When I saw how the pro temp facilitated that meeting, and I would even argue encouraged it, that’s when I said this has got to stop,” Zerework said.

The vote to remove Zuk as pro tempore failed in the senate meeting, needing a two-thirds majority. Zerework expressed that members did not necessarily expect to get that majority, but instead wanted to raise awareness. “What I wanted to do was to bring attention to this matter so that everyone can look at this position that this gentleman has and see for themselves whether he’s abusing this power,” Zerework said.

Zuk maintained that he strives to emphasize openness and communication in response to the motion to remove him from the pro tempore position and the general concerns expressed by senators like Zerework about his limiting of speech and safe space.

“I have stated numerous times that I am open to criticism, that I want to hear concerns, that I am willing to work to change, but that I won’t violate my integrity and my core beliefs are unlikely to change,” Zuk wrote in an email interview.

According to Zuk, the way that the issue was brought to the senate floor didn’t adhere to the ASPSU Constitution. “The proper method for removing an officer is impeachment, the process for which is in the constitution,” Zuk wrote. “Also, in Robert’s Rules of Order it states that officers who have fixed terms (as all of us do) may be removed only through a process akin to impeachment (RORN 11th Section 64 pp 653-54 “Removal from Office for officers with fixed terms”). Since our rules do not say that a person serves ‘a fixed term OR until their successor is elected’ the method for removal is in the next point and that is impeachment.

“It was a trial held outside the norms of a trial and that is unfortunate,” Zuk continued. “I find it ironic that they speak so much about safe space and abuse of power, yet their actions created a very unsafe space and made a strong attempt to abuse power through circumvention.”

As much as Zuk and those who see him as unfit for the pro tempore position hold diametrically opposed views on the matter of his job performance, there is some ideological overlap.

“What I want is, as the largest university in the state, as the most diverse university in the state, that all of our voices have validity,” Zerework said. “I want as much input and suggestion and constructive criticism and ultimately help in serving the greater PSU community as possible,” she added. “Collective action is what it is all about.”

Zuk echoed Zerework’s sentiment of teamwork. “I hope that we can come together, seek solutions and also recognize and respect that we won’t always agree,” he said.

ASPSU Communications Director Anthony Stine used the words “growing pains” to describe the general feeling of the executive staff on the matter. “There are 25 people in the Senate who are passionate and highly driven people. As the senators gain experience and grow as people and as a group it is expected that things like this will happen,” Stine said. “We are confident that this will be fully resolved by the end of finals week.”