International student senator refuses recall

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February 1, 2019

For the first time in Student Union history, a Union senator has been recalled in an election. International Senator Linfei Yang ’20 was recalled from the Student Union, after a recall vote was called during the winter elections that took place Tuesday through Wednesday.

Since the announcement of the recall, Yang told The Brandeis Hoot that he will not be accepting the recall and will stay in the Senate. A recall petition circulated around the international constituency at the end of last semester, citing reasons such as carelessness and disrespect for reasons why Yang should be removed from office.

In the winter elections, a total of 66 members of the international population voted, out of the total 725 international students at Brandeis. Out of the 66 voters, 42 voted in favor of recall while seven did not. Yang contests the vote, saying two-thirds of the entire 725 international students, or 484 votes, would be needed to recall him.

President Hannah Brown ’19 and Vice President Aaron Finkel ’20 said Yang does not have a choice on whether or not to accept the vote. “If he has a problem with the vote, he needs to take it to the Judiciary,” Brown said. “If he has an administrative problem, he can talk to me.”

Finkel added that Yang can no longer attend the Senate meetings. The bylaws of the Student Union allow for a public comment, open forum section in Article V, Section 6, Subsection J. The Constitution does not explicitly prohibit non-senator students from attending Senate meetings.

The recall vote began with a petition, created by Leigh Salomon ’19 and Kent Dinlenc ’19, which was sent to Yang’s constituency, the international student population, with the help of former Secretary Lian Chen ’19.

Zosia Buse ’20 and other students also assisted Salomon and Dinlenc in writing and sharing the petition. Wilson Chen ’20, a member of Yang’s constituency, was also part of the initial email that was sent to Yang.

Article X in the Student Union Constitution is the procedural followings for Removal of Office. Each of the three different sections in the Article provide three different methods of removal from office. Salomon and Dinlenc utilized the first section, Recall, in an attempt to remove Yang from office.

In order for a recall vote to be called, “A petition signed by fifteen percent of an elected official’s total constituency shall mandate a recall vote,” according to the Student Union Constitution. The petition would then be submitted, in person, to the Secretary of the Student Union, who is charged with certifying the petition. Since Student Union Secretary Qingtian Mei ’21 is a member of Yang’s constituency, the responsibility of verification was shifted to Student Union President Hannah Brown ’19.

Salomon told The Hoot in an interview that their petition received 128 signatures. With an international student population of 725, according to the Brandeis Factbook, the petition received support from 17.7 percent of Yang’s constituency.

Brown took all the names on the petition to the University Registrar to certify all the names on the petition, she told The Hoot in an interview. All the names and emails that were given on the petition were university-verified as international students to guarantee the 15 percent student support on the petition. Out of the 128 signatures, 110 signatures were verified, and with a 15.2 percent support rate, the recall vote was set into motion.

“Anything that motivates 15 percent of an entire constituency to sign a petition of recall should be given weighty consideration,” Brown told The Hoot when asked about the significance of the recall vote.

Dinlenc and Salomon reassured the international constituents that supported the petition that their names would be kept confidential. According to Salomon, the only people who had access to the names were him, Dinlenc, Chen, Brown and the Office of the Registrar.

In a packet of information that was sent to The Hoot, Yang had noted that “Furthermore, there has been at least one example where an international student’s email—that of the Student Union Secretary, Qingtian Mei’s—was put as a signee without their permission.” Yang told The Hoot that Mei had told Yang this, given that he does not have access to the list of students who signed the petition.

Mei told The Hoot that even though he physically did not sign the petition, he was with a friend who signed the petition for him with him present and with his consent.

The Constitution further states that “once a recall petition is certified, a vote for recall shall then be held for that official whose name appears on the petition. This vote shall take place within ten academic days of certification of the petition. The official shall be recalled if at least two-thirds of the official’s constituents vote in favor of recall.”

“Two-thirds of the official’s constituents” caused issue with all of the parties involved, including Dinlenc, Salomon, Yang and Brown. The Hoot reached out to the Judiciary to clarify the wording of the Constitution to define what constitutes two-thirds of the official’s constituents.

The Judiciary’s first interpretation of the wording of the Constitution certified that two-thirds referred to the senator’s overall constituents. “We feel that in reality the voting body that day for a recall, may not represent the entire constituency, as some constituents may choose not to vote or may be unable for whatever reasons,” said the Judiciary in an email to The Hoot.

In response to this decree, Brown disagreed with the interpretation set by the Judiciary, saying in an email, “I find this explanation extremely concerning given that ALL elections depend on whatever constituents vote that day. Holding this vote to a different standard based on this explanation is not in alignment with any other voting procedures in place.”

Dinlenc also challenged the Judiciary’s interpretation. “Nowhere in any election, both in the Student Union and in real politics, does a ballot require a minimum number of votes by a constituency. The foundations of democracy were built upon the consensus of the majority of a voting body,” Dinlenc said in an email.

“According to parliamentary procedures, any constituent who decides not to vote is deemed the abstention, which does not count towards the final tally of votes. A minimum percentage of the body represented in the petition makes sense … But to assume that more than ever 50 percent of a constituency will vote on an issue is ludicrous.”

Following the emails sent by both Brown and Dinlenc, the Judiciary issued a final decree saying that, “Constituency as it stands now is represented through voting bodies as seen at Brandeis. Members of the constituency may have graduated and/or went abroad from their voting election and the process must be done efficiently and inclusive of new members of our Student Body as well.”

Last semester’s recall petition cited multiple reasons why Yang should be removed from office.

According to the petition, Yang was said to have “exhibited a carelessness and lack of respect for the rules of conduct and decorum of the Student Union, the Brandeis administration and the university community as whole.”

Last semester, Yang had been the sole administrator of the MyDeis Facebook pages for the Class of 2019 and 2020. Since the release of this article, Yang is no longer the administrator of either page. In an interview with The Hoot, Yang said he made himself administrator of the page because he saw that there were no other administrators of the page and felt the responsibility to maintain order in the groups.

When Dinlenc asked Yang for administrator rights, Yang refused, saying, “We can’t get all the positions we want sometimes, however qualified we may be.” Yang told The Hoot that he did not want to give anyone that power, even though Dinlenc had been voted on as the class of 2019 senator in the previous election cycle.

The final part of the petition calls upon Yang’s misconduct throughout his two years in the Student Union. “He [Yang] has been warned multiple times regarding his disrespectful demeanor for his colleagues and chairs during Senate meetings and committee meetings,” read the petition.

Following the verification of the signatures, Dinlenc and Salomon had reached out to Yang to ask him to resign, rather than going through the procedure of the recall vote. “Out of respect for these ideals, upheld by both yourself and the Student Union, we kindly ask that you resign from your position as International Student Senator to provide the place for new members of our international undergraduate student community to join the Senate and fight for what they believe in,” the resignation email to Yang said, which was obtained by The Hoot.

Yang politely declined the resignation request.

Yang also noted in the packet, “I think that the real reason that this petition exists is the result of a personal vendetta against me by Kent, with Leigh acting as his accomplice … After not responding out of concern, I was repeatedly harassed by him on Facebook messenger.”

“Linfei is demonstrating reckless behavior, and I fear he is spiraling out of control from his decision, and based on everything he has said and done, it may be necessary to appeal to a higher level of authority if Linfei refuses to follow the Constitution that we have,” Salomon told The Hoot in reaction to news that Yang would not be accepting the recall.

“He’s basically exhibiting the lack of respect that his constituents recalled him for,” said Dinlenc. “There is no respect for decorum, no respect for the system, no respect for democracy. And that’s troubling to say the least. I am confident that he will be removed from any Senate meetings if he is being rowdy or unpleasant, even as a regular student.”

Even though Yang told The Hoot that this recall vote is invalid, Brown emphasized that if Yang takes issue with the vote, he should take his concerns to the Judiciary.

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