Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU) Vice President of Student Relations Xandra Pryor has been censured by the U’s Student Senate and has been called on to resign by members of the ASUU body. Pryor could not be reached for comment. A formal censure, according to ASUU President Connor Morgan, is “like the Student Senate is passing a resolution to express their opinion on a subject. The Student Senate has previously passed resolutions about carbon neutrality, the student mental health fee, public lands, etc. This case is similar — the Student Senate is just expressing their dissatisfaction with the perceived job performance of the Vice President of Student Relations.”
Assembly Meeting on Tuesday, April 9
Prior to the assembly meeting last Tuesday, ASUU Attorney General Cole McCubbins messaged the assembly representatives regarding what he believed were impeachable offenses allegedly committed by Pryor. She denied the allegations. According to undergraduate studies Sen. Kaden Madson, in the letter, McCubbins “apologized for not bringing the information forward earlier, but he didn’t know that it was as big of a problem until recently. He said he was just doing his duty … We should all be doing our duty even though it’s the end of the year and there’s [sic] only two more weeks.”
During the meeting, an assembly representative went to bring forth articles of impeachment, however, “There was a little hiccup … He took his seat and was preparing to do them formally in accordance with the rules,” Madson said.
The assembly representative stepped out of the room for a moment and Morgan allegedly tried to convince him not to go forward with the impeachment. At that time, “The student body president got in an argument with [Madson about] how appropriate it was to get legislative representatives to not go forward with a check that is supposed to be on the executive branch,” Madson said.
Because of the amount of time left in the meeting, the impeachment did not go forward. The vice president was present at the assembly meeting, but it was purportedly only the second meeting that she has attended this year. According to Madson, the only reason she attended this meeting was because “she knew that they were bringing something up relating to impeachment with her.”
Morgan said, “I think that many of the issues that came about and were discussed last night are rooted in miscommunications. The Vice President of Student Relations was alleged to have missed important meetings and deadlines. While elements of these allegations are true, it is important to note that, in many cases, the Vice President was excused (or was made to believe that she was excused) from these meetings.”
It was brought up to the assembly chair, Mitch Kirkham, that they should hold a special session to hold an impeachment trial in the assembly, but he refused.
Thursday, April 11 Senate Meeting
Two days later, “At the Senate meeting, people were still very upset with what the vice president had done,” Madson said. Pryor had been invited to attend but did not come. The Senate concluded in the session to censure vice president Pryor and to call for her resignation. Madson brought forth the censure “and was the main point of debating against those defending the actions of Vice President of Student Relations besides the Vice President of University Relations [Maggie Gardner].” Madson also noted, “No senator voted ‘no’ in the censure.”
In their formal censure document, the Senate wrote, “We the Student Senate at the University of Utah hereby condemn the behavior of the Vice President of Student Relations. We believe that the Vice President has failed to fulfill her duties of office, and has not served the University to the capacity which it deserves … The Students of the University of Utah deserve better than what they have gotten. We believe the finding of the Attorney General and find it troubling that an executive member of the Student Government has acted in such a manner. It is in the defense of our respective colleges, the students of the University of Utah, and the ASUU Student Government that we call on the ASUU Vice President of Student Relations to resign.”
Implications and Opinions
According to Madson, through the censure, “[The Student Senate] basically just disavowed [Pryor’s] work, or her lack thereof, that she has done this past year and that it’s basically disservice to the student body.” When asked if the censure would include retribution to the student body, Madson said, “No. In a perfect world, I would make her do that, and a student after the meeting expressed their wish that that would happen because the students that do know about it [are] pretty rightfully upset and they did express that they did wish that that could happen. I just didn’t think that that was going to be something that was possible or passable by the Senate.”
Madson believed that it was important for students to know about what had happened because Pryor is paid $750 a month as a salary from student fees.
It was also brought up in the discussion to start a vote to censure the Student Body President for obstruction of justice because of his attempt to dissuade the vote for impeachment, but the vote did not proceed.
Vice president of university relations Maggie Gardner said, “My personal opinion is that the censure was just — due to the evidence of this year — and necessary for the Senate to issue to make sure these positions aren’t taken lightly. Our salaries are paid by student fees and if we aren’t fulfilling our jobs it would be unfair to the student body. I think the Senate did what it believed was best for ASUU and the University of Utah.”
“The Student Senate had a thoughtful and deliberative debate over whether to censure the VP,” Morgan said. “I think they acknowledged that arguments were presented from multiple perspectives in this case, and they acknowledged that these differing perspectives were legitimate, well-founded, and given in good faith. The Student Senate debate and vote was an effective way to resolve this internal dispute. It is my understanding that this dispute is now resolved and closed, and proper accountability for the VP will be maintained as we conclude our term in less than two weeks.”
Damon Ngo, who will be the Senate Chair next year remarked, “I found the entire ordeal to be quite emotional and very draining, especially for all who were directly involved. It has clearly taken a toll on many and was clearly a large point of contention.” Ngo took over the chair position during the debate and discussion of censure so that Kaitlin McLean, the current Senate Chair, could participate. He continued, “In the two meetings I sat in on, the tension was palpable. It will be interesting to see what the next course of action is and how it will shape ASUU in its final weeks. I hope that this tension and divide won’t create any rifts in ASUU for the coming year and into the future.”
In an earlier version of this article, Kaitlin McLean’s name was incorrectly spelled. We regret the error.