Wednesday’s ASPSU student senate meeting was highlighted by outbursts and outrage for the second time in three weeks. Senator Demitrius Desyllas walked out mid-session in protest, along with roughly 25 members of the audience.
The controversy revolved around a conflict between the Formation of Independent Student Tenants (FIST) and College Housing Northwest (CHNW). FIST addressed the senate last week to express frustration at alleged poor treatment by the management of CHNW. The discussion at that meeting involved Desyllas, who initiated the issue, and Senator Chris Moller, the vice executive chair for CHNW. Each side provided a different perspective, in what was classified as an “informational” discussion. Approximately 25 students were in attendance at that senate session. Also speaking at that meeting was Trevor Bryant, the founder of FIST.
This week, the crowd turned out again to hear a 10-minute presentation by Bryant. Moller again supplied evidence on behalf of CHNW. Bryant circulated a packet to senators, reiterating the problems that students have with CHNW. Many points made by both sides were similar or identical to those made the previous week.
At the end of his presentation, Bryant asked the senate to form a subcommittee to further investigate the matter. That was when the trouble began.
A motion was brought to table the matter until next week. The motion failed. Another motion was brought to continue the discussion. That too, failed. As the next item of business came up, the roughly 25 students who came to the senate meeting stormed out, led by Desyllas.
“Sorry, the senate does care about you guys,” Desyllas said to the dejected crowd as they filed for the exit.
“You’ve got 25 people here waiting and the entire senate doesn’t want to listen to the students?” asked an incredulous Desyllas as he himself marched out. “I’m not a senator for that,” he fired off, while heading out of the room and the senate meeting.
Senate president Emily Garrick returned the meeting to order, and things continued as such until the topic came up again. Senator Cory Murphy made an appeal to extend next Wednesday’s senate meeting in order to give more time to the representatives of FIST.
At this point, Senator Marc Hinz made his disapproval of the senate’s actions felt. “I’m pretty disappointed. Not disappointed in specific people, but I’m disappointed in the senate,” Hinz said.
Hinz went on to say the issue was not in which side the students were taking, it was in letting them be heard.
“It’s a rare fucking moment when we have 20 people come to our meeting to talk to us,” Hinz said. “They came here to talk to us and we just told them to go away. We just told them to get out. To me that’s tragic.”
Senator Shane Jordan, who moved to create the subcommittee requested by Bryant, then explained his reason behind not wanting to continue the discussion. He believes that the issues should be discussed, but that a subcommittee was the proper place for it. Both sides had been heard, and the senate had a full agenda for the afternoon.
The subcommittee motion brought by Jordan passed easily, with only Murphy voting against it.
“They asked us to form a subcommittee and I’m in favor of that,” Jordan said.
“I respect all of the people here,” Jordan continued, “but we were asked to create a subcommittee. We were not talking about anything close to that. We were still talking about the issues.”
Senator Keyoshia Vaughan agreed with Jordan, and emphasized the other agenda items to make her point. “It’s not that their issue is not important,” she said. “We have a lot of other things we have to address, and we have to be equal to everything that is on the list.”
Vaughan went on to question the results of past senate subcommittees. “I feel that a lot of our subcommittees fall through,” she said. “I didn’t see a lot of people stepping up, I didn’t see Dimitrius (Desyllas) stepping up, saying ‘I want to head this subcommittee,’ or even bringing the motion to the floor.”
“Having them come here every week and not handling their issues is disappointing them even more,” Vaughan continued.
Jordan spoke again to reinforce what Vaughan had said. “The senate is not the place for this discussion … She is absolutely right,” Jordan said. “We are here for the entire student body, and when we don’t get to other agenda items, continually having this not very useful discussion, we are doing a whole lot of other students a disservice.”
Jordan went on to say that getting bogged down in these discussions often keeps the senate from accomplishing other important things.
The subcommittee formed at Jordan’s request will include Hinz and Desyllas. Desyllas, who left the senate meeting midstream, was nominated to head the committee in his absence.