Post the publication of The Knight News’ features on the Student Association’s newly instated vice president, Akila Wazeed, and her forced-out predecessor, Marco Sin, allegations of “fake news” and more resignations by SA chairs have ensued.
To recap, when initially questioned about the process of becoming VP, Wazeed affirmed that a vote had been administered to determine whether she would take Sin’s newly-vacant position, a position he claimed was unfairly taken from him.
According to the SA Constitution, “In the event of a vacancy in the office of Vice President, the Student Senate shall elect a person to serve out the remainder of the term.” As such, Wazeed’s appointment as VP required approval by student senate members prior to her officially serving duties as second-in-command, with meeting minutes documented as proof of the vote. When The Knight News was unable to acquire student senate meeting minutes from the alleged election, we personally reached out to Wazeed for the document, however she failed to respond to our request; an editor’s note in her article consequently stated that there was no official proof of her nomination.
On Monday, October 2nd, less than a week after word of Wazeed’s illegal appointment as VP was released, the SA executive board held a mandatory meeting for all members of the organization. Present at the meeting was Emerald Cazeau, then-chair of academic affairs, who spoke to The Knight News about what SA’s president, Japneet Singh, had to say about the newspaper’s allegations against Wazeed and the organization.
“I questioned Japneet about [Wazeed’s vote] at our team dinner, but he claimed that The Knight News lied because Akila never said that we all voted. I informed him that I was skeptical about that, and he quickly turned the conversation into one about Marco’s article and how [it was] a plot to support Marco and make SA look bad,” she began. Unsatisfied by Singh’s response, Cazeau brought up the vote during the chair holder dinner and asked attendees in the room whether they had ever been at a meeting for a VP vote, but no one responded saying they had. In response, Singh had suddenly taken a different position on the situation. “Japneet didn’t say that The Knight News lied, as he told me previously, but this time he said that he’s supposed to elect the new VP, it’s not up for vote,” Cazeau stated. Yet again, after receiving no response when quoting the SA Constitution’s clause about a required student senate vote for VP, Cazeau eventually threw her keys on the conference table, resigning from her position.
Ultimately, Cazeau was frustrated with the lack of transparency within SA, as none of the SA members were even aware that a constitution existed. “Not one person in that room other than Japneet knew about the Constitution—I didn’t either until the [first] article came out. Before the article even came out, I told Japneet that it was disrespectful to not even consider our opinion on who our new VP should be. [When] I knew that we held the power to choose who that would be, it baffled me that no one spoke up about it,” she said.
Ultimately, Cazeau holds Singh accountable for the lack of transparency SA has with both its own members and the student body, and cautions against his abuse of power. “I decided to resign from student government after that meeting because it became evident that Japneet will not bring awareness to pressing issues, because in doing so his power could potentially be diminished. It’s easy to sit by and take everything he says for granted when, one, you’re not aware when he’s overstepping his boundaries, [such as having] no access to the constitution, and two, you don’t take SA affairs personally. [In other words], not seeing any wrongdoing on SA’s part as a partial reflection on yourself.”
After hearing Cazeau’s side of the story, The Knight News reached out to SA and Singh with questions regarding Wazeed’s VP appointment and the meeting minutes. While he neither explicitly confirmed nor denied that a vote for Wazeed had taken place, he evaded all personal responsibility for the meeting minutes. “I, Japneet Singh am not responsible for the minutes and/or in anyway in charge of calling Student Senate meetings in general. However, the entire Student Association team has noticed an inconsistency in the way meetings have been recorded, so much so that we will be holding another Student Senate meeting and having a re-vote for the position of Vice President. There is a strong consensus that Ms. Akila Wazeed has been doing an excellent job upholding the duties of Vice-President, and will continue to do so.”
The Knight News reached out with follow-up questions, which included a request for a description of the process Singh would take to re-elect VP, but a comment was not returned.