Azad reinstated as student body vice president, suspension lifted


File Photo

SGA Vice-President Taben Azad sits in his office. 

Taben Azad’s interim suspension as student body vice president has been lifted. His suspension from his role as chief election commissioner is still in place “due to the immediacy of the election,” Azad said.

Azad said his suspension from the election commission would not be lifted because it is so close to the election next week. He is still being investigated for potential student code of conduct violations stemming from his involvement with the student group We The Students.

Azad said he was told he was suspended from his position as election commissioner when commission observers voiced concerns to Teri Hall about a perceived bias he had for Impact, a ticket running in the SGA elections. Several members of Impact were involved in the Mar. 14 We The Students sit-in protest at WSU President Bardo’s office. It was later revealed that Azad had been an administrator of the student group’s private Facebook page.

Two co-commissioners, Sam Belsan and Terence Truong, both students, have filled Azad’s position as chief election commissioner. Belsan works for The Sunflower.

Belsan and Truong were both election commission observers prior to their confirmations as co-commissioners. The faculty observer for the election commission, George Dehner, a faculty senate member from the history department, said at Monday’s faculty senate meeting that he was not consulted about the decision to suspend Azad or asked if he witnessed any bias before the decision was made.

This exchange between Dehner and Hall followed:

Dehner: If there’s a hearing about whether or not there’s a bias that’s being committed by the election commission — not the other issue about the vice president of the SGA — but the issue with regard to the election commission, the faculty observer should have been included in the discussion of the evidence. And if not invited to the meeting where there were personnel issues being discussed, at least his decision should have been solicited about ‘In your opinion do you think the election commission was biased?’

Hall: There are times when the university feels it should take interim measures, pending an investigation. So that is where we are. So you can participate in the investigation, you can be a witness if you would like to, you can be called as a witness.

Dehner: If there’s an investigation, why, at the very least, wasn’t the faculty observer — me — asked about whether or not I saw any bias? Because that is what I understood as part of my role: to be observing this process. My opinion on the matter was never solicited.

Hall: So we’ll make sure we get your opinion going forward.

Dehner: The horse has left the barn.

Hall: No it’s not. It’s not left the barn.

Dehner: Is the person the election commissioner anymore?

Hall: Pending an investigation.

Hall later apologized to Dehner and said it was “a fair concern” and told him she should have talked to him about the decision last week.

Mandy Hambleton of student conduct said that a temporary suspension could be implemented as an interim measure pending the outcome of a conduct process.

Azad said he thinks the decision to lift his suspension was to allow him to finish his last three weeks as vice president, and that the investigation might be an attempt to “hold something over (his) head to try to keep (him) quiet.”

Azad said Hambleton told him he could go public with the details of the decision as long as they were not viewed as retaliation or interfering in the process of his conduct investigation.

Azad said the reasons he was given for his removal from the election commission were concerns about impartiality and integrity stemming from his involvement with We The Students and its connection to the Impact ticket.

He said he was removed from his role as vice president for his actions on the night of the no confidence in President Bardo vote, which was passed by the student senate 20-4-7.

Mar. 15, four members of We The Students interrupted the normal proceedings of a student government meeting to read a resolution calling for a vote of no confidence in President Bardo and asking for him to resign.

Azad said he is being investigated for the “hostile environment that was allowed in senate, not following the procedure of the meeting, and allowing a group to take over the meeting based on a personal agenda.”

Following the interruption of the meeting, Azad told the speakers from We The Students “the time for public forum has ended; we must ask you to take your seats,” but the speakers remained at the podium and finished reading the resolution. At the meeting, Azad denied knowledge that the group would present a resolution.

Azad said he did not disclose his involvement with We The Students because he didn’t want to undermine, discredit or make it seem like the resolution was something that was not the idea of students outside of SGA.

Azad has moved back into his SGA office and will attend the Wednesday student government meeting. The SGA elections are next week.