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DASB Senate meeting erupts into chaos

October 12, 2016

Accusations and parliamentary misbehavior ruled the day at the DASB Senate meeting Oct. 5.

At issue was a budget request for $7,000 from Umoja, a De Anza program that helps African-American students “increase academic and personal success,” according to its website. Umoja had requested the money to help cover a student trip to a conference at UCLA.

During the debate, Elias Kamal, a student representative on the Foothill-De Anza Board of Trustees, launched a personal attack on DASB President Matthew Zarate, after Zarate suggested a compromise budget of $5,875.

Kamal said what’s wrong with the senate and America as a whole is that black students have struggled to come together in years and that the senate would dare to cut $2,000 from them. “That’s already messed up,” Kamal said.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be a person of color,” Kamal said.

“I’m a gay Latino,” Zarate replied.

Kamal repeatedly disrupted the meeting, violating parliamentary procedures in place to regulate who speaks and when.

Senate member Sobia Chahal also broke protocol during the meeting in order to voice personal beliefs on the Umoja funding. Chahal criticized them for ignoring the suffering of oppressed minorities.

John Cognetta, the faculty adviser for the DASB Senate, addressed Kamal several times, warning him that he could not speak at meetings without being recognized by Zarate.

“I don’t care,” Kamal shot back.

He said he would speak out and fight “the injustices of the Senate.”

He said black people are already “targeted and oppressed,” and that the senate had vowed to represent such groups on campus.

He said the Umoja trip  would be beneficial.

“They’re gonna teach us and better serve,” he said. “Trust them.”

Kamal is not a member of the DASB Senate. He does not have a vote, nor is he allowed to speak without being recognized by the senate president.

“You don’t even know your budget,” Cognetta said, after explaining to the senators how parliamentary process worked, something he said they seemed to have forgotten during the meeting. Cognetta also pointed out their continued violations of the rules, including speaking out of turn and disrupting the meeting with their behavior.

“We need to have a budget session … I’m really worried … you guys don’t know your budgeting,” Cognetta said. He also cited attempts to impeach Zarate last spring, and other significant conflicts within the senate which have prevented senators from getting anything done.

Cognetta indicated that an independent professional facilitator was willing to come in and work with the Senate, something that has been done before, but that it would cost $6,000.

“We go and stay in nice hotel rooms,” Chahal said. “The whole problem with the senate right now is that they are not representing the students. If we can’t give this money to students then what are we doing?”

Several senators hushed her until she quieted down.

“We only have $16,000 in our account,” Zarate said. “We’re already spending around $10,000 in our first meeting.”
He said fall is the biggest quarter for extra funding requests.

At one point, Senator Chi Tran got into an argument with Cognetta over the amendment they were voting on. Tran did not understand the amount of money indicated for the original motion. “It’s wrong,” she said. “Everyone is confused.”

While Tran pleaded for clarification, Cognetta decided it was time to move on. Cognetta disregarded her pleas and had the senate move on; the senators appeared to be still confused about what was going on, so he had to explain the measure once again.

For his part, Zarate spent much of the meeting attempting to maintain order. Things settled after the Umoja delegation departed, their initial budget request of the much-debated $7,000 having been granted.

Two senators, Kevin Hoang and Puneet Kaur, had submitted their resignations prior to the meeting. Their resignation letters were read aloud before the end of the meeting. One letter cited “unnecessary drama” and an “atmosphere of fear that kept them from accomplishing their goals” as the reasons for resignation.

“Each time I come into the Senate office, I hear of new conflicts,” the letter said. “I ask myself, what have we done for the student body … nothing comes to mind. They think they have more power over others. … I feel the student body has accomplished nothing. … They are not fulfilling duties. … I wished to spend my last year with an organization that will make a positive impact.”

Many senators have not attended meetings, and the DASB Senate received a letter from the Academic Senate, which represents faculty at De Anza. The letter explained that they [the Academic Senate] don’t see enough students going to those meetings so they haven’t been involving this senate with their projects.


Editor’s note: La Voz reporters Matthew Granger and Amanda Penrod spoke at the Senate meeting, which is against La Voz editorial guidelines

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