Vice President of Student Relations Xandra Pryor, President Connor Morgan and Vice President of University Relations Maggie Gardner took office on April 25, 2018. (Courtesy of ASUU)

 

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.”

m.johansen@dailyutahchronicle.com

@MandilynJohans1

In an earlier version of this article, Kaitlin McLean’s name was incorrectly spelled. We regret the error.

9 COMMENTS

  1. If you cannot explain exactly what was alleged (not just saying late to some meetings and then other serious issues that made students upset especially since this is a paid position), then do not waste your time and ours in writing this.

  2. Waste of my time to read this when it doesn’t even say what is going on. Poor job by the author to write this and the editors to let it go through.

  3. What concerns me is LACK of allowing time to improve or correct behavior LONG before 2 weeks before graduation. Especially in a paid position where students are on the line for appropriate behavior in a student government role – a place that COULD have been a learning ground for the future. No preamble about any kind of process after first/second issues arose to allow individual to grow into role remembering accountability. These “charges” brought to light 2 weeks before graduation mean no one gets to learn something our of this except how well a grandstand move–that seems vindictive at worst and emotionally charged at best–hits like a tsunami in a governing body and the students it serves. So sorry to see this result from what could have been resolved in a timely and educational manner for all WAY BACK in the beginning. Good write-up of a disheartening situation.

    • I don’t know how willing the VP was willing to change seeing she showed up to two meetings all semester.
      Also, the charges here were of negligence of duties, and in an affirmation of the allegations, the VP didn’t show for the meeting where she was being discussed.
      This wasn’t bad writing — it’s just the news that the VP got paid $750 monthly all semester to not show up at meetings. I’m sure there’s more to the story than that, but let’s not condemn the writer for shining a light on this issue.

      • Actually, she was present at that meeting, you should read the article again.

        It’s most important to note what the President said, “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.”

        Solid reporting would tell us what was alleged and make it clear that it was alleged other than some meetings.

        And ironically enough, all the officers/administrators involved were negligent if they allowed this Vice President to be excused from meetings (or let her believe that) and not deal with that way before the end of the term of service and at the last few meetings of the semester!

        Within the first two – four weeks somebody should have made it clear to this VP what the job entailed and what was expected long before it got to this point (especially if meeting attendance was the only issue), this is also bad management/leadership.

        What a waste of time and money to have these “representatives” of the student body regardless, just give us all a break on our student fees and get rid of this (plenty of involved students will communicate with University administration and be a conduit for the student voice without these unnecessary positions that seem to exist for no other reason than being able to add an extra line on a resume).

        • Good point about the representatives not bringing this up earlier. But I did read it again, and this is what the author says verbatim:

          “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.”

          Maybe you’re right and this is a bigger ASUU issue; but is it incumbent on everyone else to make sure the VP does her job?

          Also, the latest guest op-ed about the state of the ASUU includes this quote to your point about bringing up concerns earlier:
          “On favoritism, there were numerous examples of myself and many others within the organization voicing serious complaints about the job performance of some of the directors managed by the Chief of Staff, and often we would see our complaints disregarded and even would be punished ourselves, because those individuals that we had a problem with were friends with the Chief of Staff.”

          I don’t see how anything could have been done about a high-level member of the executive branch when even lower-level complaints were met by retribution.

          • Fair enough Peter.

            Whomever is in charge, whether that be the Prez of ASUU or the many paid-faculty administrators should have been on top of this after the first meeting, and no later than the second….one doesn’t need to be told.

            But, management/leadership does need to make clear right away that the behavior is unacceptable and after that warning at the start of her office a repeat offense should have been cause for impeachment (but not a year later).

            And we still should have some type of brief list on what else was alleged, because ASUU does nothing except pay for a few people to visit campus (e.g. a concert) with student fees that we should have back in our pocket, the whole thing is unnecessary and a waste of time and student money (we already have to pay for all these ivory towers and tutors for athletes that do not study, likely will not be pro and are being exploited by the University and they won’t realize it until after college when they don’t have a degree!).

            I’m tired of unnecessary expenses for students, and all this ASUU drama does is epitomize the average student’s frustration with the bloated, and unnecessary cost of college.

            IF state/federal institutions ran themselves like private businesses, we’d see a much more affordable higher education experience (and private University’s are a waste because they are gouging their students for branding, just like when we pay 3-4 times what we should for some ridiculous Patagucci coat!).

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