UC Santa Cruz student body government members announced Wednesday that they had successfully recalled Student Union Assembly President Alfredo Gama Salmeron by gathering signatures from more than 5% of registered undergraduate students.
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After a week of chaos within UC Santa Cruz’s student body government, Student Union Assembly officers say they have recalled president Alfredo Gama Salmeron and named an interim president.
SUA officers and the Dean of Students office announced Wednesday that they had gathered 1,221 confirmed signatures — more than the minimum needed to recall a sitting president. The current number of enrolled students is 17,566, and 5% of that is 879 students — which the SUA constitution says is needed to recall an executive officer.
They named Jimmy Gomez — SUA vice president of internal affairs — interim president of the student assembly.
The recall comes in the wake of an Oct. 18 meeting where students loudly accused Gama Salmeron of poorly managing the role and unconstitutionally removing SUA Parliamentarian Amanda Pepe. Many also spoke out against Gama Salmeron for making what they said were hurtful comments toward Indigenous people on a UCSC Instagram post marking Indigenous Peoples Day.
The university’s Office of the Registrar told Lookout that staff had verified the validity of the signatures to ensure students who signed the petition were registered students.
Pepe confirmed that she had been reinstated to her role. Gama Salmeron had removed Pepe from her post in a move other SUA officers said violated the student government’s constitution.
Gama Salmeron was not immediately available for a comment but posted a statement on Instagram. Gama Salmeron told Lookout they prefer he or they pronouns.
In their statement, Gama Salmeron said they were elected by almost 60% of the votes and they will continue fighting what they allege to be corruption at the university. They didn’t say whether they would challenge the results of the recall, but encouraged students to sign their petition calling for the removal of the SUA officers who had worked to recall them.
“As Student Body President, my goal is to not represent you, but to engage you in TOPPLING the rich and their rubber stamping politicians,” Gama Salmeron wrote. “An SUA title does not define our movement.”
The SUA constitution gives several options for filling the vacant president’s role, and the officers said they want feedback from students regarding which option they should pursue.
“We intend to dedicate time in the next SUA meeting to having a community discussion as an agenda item with ample time for students to share their opinions,” read the statement signed by Gomez, VP of Student Life Amalia Bostian, VP of External Affairs Mitra Zarinebaf and VP of Academic Affairs Dora Rasch.
Gama Salmeron launched their own petition last week for the removal of the four officers who wrote the letter calling for their resignation — Zarinebaf, Gomez, Rasch and Bostian.
Zarinebaf told Lookout that the student government is planning to have another meeting before the end of the month. In their statement, the students said they intend to hold the meeting next week or the week after.
“The sequence of events associated with this process has been drawn out and complicated, and we also recognize that the SUA space and our relationship to our fellow students is now a bit tumultuous,” the students wrote on Wednesday. “As we tread the next steps, we want to proceed with intention and care, in respect and admiration of student input.”
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SUA officers and representatives from student organizations first tried to remove Gama Salmeron during a meeting last week, but Gama Salmeron refused to allow a vote.
Chief Campus Counsel Lorena Peñaloza told Lookout she didn’t know on what grounds Gama Salmeron fired Pepe. Peñaloza also said she wasn’t sure on what grounds Gama Salmeron rejected the officers’ motions to hold a vote to remove them when Gama Salmeron acted as parliamentarian during last week’s SUA meeting in the wake of Pepe’s removal.
In their petition, Gama Salmeron accuses the students and Dean of Students Garrett Naiman of using money from the SUA budget to pay the students a $900 stipend during the summer, saying the SUA constitution authorizes stipends for only fall, winter and spring quarters.
Gama Salmeron also accused the group of giving the school’s administration $123,000 to hire an advisor — money the president said they had allocated for rent and basic needs for students.
In response to Gama Salmeron’s claims that the group had illegally paid themselves over the summer, the four SUA vice presidents said they began receiving the stipends when they started working in their roles July 1, based on a longstanding precedent that officers begin receiving pay when they start their work.
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They said the stipends represent a fixed amount for officer’s salaries that run out in March and that they will be receiving the same total pay for the school year. They added that they’re considering changing the constitution to reflect that students sometimes work during summer quarter.
The group also disputed Gama Salmeron’s claims that they had been “illegally” paying themselves money that Gama Salmeron had allocated for rent relief and basic needs for students.
They added that the $123,000 that Gama Salmeron claims they gave to the university administration actually represents the salary of a budget advisor, a position that has existed at the SUA for at least 20 years. The group said the SUA had voted in May to increase the salary for the advisor’s position by around $24,000, to $123,134, in a bid to reduce turnover in that job.
“The position has been vacant most of 2022 and has turned over three times in the last five years,” they wrote. “It is important to note that this position is still currently vacant and needs to be filled as soon as possible.”
Gama Salmeron is a 26-year-old legal studies major whom undergraduate students elected in the spring to oversee the student government, including a $623,000 annual budget, on a promise to focus on ensuring students’ basic needs are met. They also emphasized a bigger goal of reallocating the university’s funding from administrator salaries to students.