With less than two weeks before next year’s student government is sworn in, the Associated Students of Southern Oregon University is yet again embroiled in controversy after Speaker of the Senate Kirby Rider was suspended following an investigation into alleged misconduct.
“The truth is, I did violate the rules,” said Rider before the ASSOU Senate during the April 26 dismissal hearing. “I do apologize for my actions, for not bringing this issue to the senate when I realized I had done wrong. I did what I did in an attempt to be fair to everyone in this body.”
The decision by the Senate to suspend Rider came after the ASSOU Judicial Branch determined he had violated several clauses of the ASSOU Constitution.
The Judicial Branch’s investigation was based on a grievance filed by former Stevenson Union Senator Paul Jenkins, who asserted that the Senate had violated his student rights by re-appointing Fiona Mattson to the position of Education, Health, and Military Leadership Senator without properly advertising the opening, and accusing Rider of professional negligence by not requiring new Senators to submit two faculty recommendations with their application.
The Judicial Branch delivered their verdict to the Senate on April 19, ordering them to revise their appointment process for new Senators and schedule a dismissal hearing for Rider.
The hearing was held on April 26, where the Senate voted to suspend Rider as an ASSOU officer until the end of the term.
ASSOU President Stephen Land vetoed Senate’s decision via email on April 27, claiming the trial was not conducted properly and that the integrity of the hearing was therefore suspect.
“Professionalism and proper use of parliamentary procedures were not used in accordance to Oregon Public Meeting Law or Robert’s Rules of Order,” the veto said. “The improper discussion from the gallery on the senate floor will not be tolerated… My decision was not influenced by anyone, but rather the issues were brought to me by several upset students and members of ASSOU.”
The Judicial Branch invalidated the president’s veto on April 29, explaining that he couldn’t veto a decision made by senate during a censure or dismissal hearing.
“The process they’re supposed to go through is the Judicial Branch,” said Chief Justice Aram Morgan, explaining the judicial appeals process. “I think [the veto] was inappropriate.”
“In my professional experience, it is unusual for the president to take action against the legislative body,” said Rushton Johnson, Executive Director for Student Life. “Is it good government for the student body president to veto a disciplinary action taken by the Senate?”
Rider has filed an appeal with the Judicial Branch, challenging the validity of the dismissal hearing.
“I’m very disappointed with the ASSOU organization,” said Rider. “I think there are a lot of flaws that need to be fixed.”
“I really hope that the events in the last couple months really open our eyes to the flaws in our process,” said Rider. “We need to band together to fix this issue, rather than tear each other apart.”