In a unanimous vote, the ASSU Constitutional Council, a five-person judicial body in charge of interpreting the ASSU Constitution, ruled in favor of hearing The Stanford Review’s case against the Students of Color Coalition (SOCC). The case arose after the Review requested documents related to alleged misconduct at a SOCC endorsement interview, in which Molly Horwitz ’16 claimed that she was asked an inappropriate question that targeted her Jewish faith.
Although the case arose out of the controversy, it will not determine the validity of Horwitz’s allegations. Instead, it will rule on The Review’s claims that SOCC violated Article I, Section 7, of the ASSU constitution by not handing over SOCC endorsement related documents, such as interview notes and emails. Article I, Section 7, stipulates that, among other things, the records of any “Association entity” must be made available to the public, excluding certain things such as Legal Counseling records and the personal records of employees. However, in order for SOCC to fall under the jurisdiction of Article I, Section 7, they must be classified as an Association entity.
“This case is going to decide what is an Association entity and then what is a record,” said ASSU Constitutional Council Chairman Geo Saba. “It will have a lot of implications for all student groups, including SOCC. If an Association entity is any student group, any [Voluntary Student Organization], that means that all of those records, notes and documents will have to be made public.”
“It is not about whether a certain question was asked at an interview,” he added. “What the Council will be deciding is the language of the constitution, which will have implications for all student groups, including SOCC.”
Before the vote on whether or not to hear the case, the Constitutional Council voted on whether councilwoman Ireri Hernandez ’15 should recuse herself. Brandon Camhi ’16, the Stanford Review’s representative in the case, stated that Hernandez had a clear conflict of interest, given her ties to Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA), one of the six organizations that make up SOCC.
“We have no doubts about [Hernandez’s] abilities to handle the case objectively,” Camhi said. “However, given the fact that the case has already attracted national attention, we strongly believe that we want the result, whatever it be, to have as little bias as possible.”
Hernandez, however, felt that there was not a substantial conflict of interest and believed that she would be able to rule without bias.
“SOCC is composed of six groups, which in itself represent six communities of Stanford, and that is almost half of campus,” Hernandez said. “I would say that [my] being part of one of these organizations should not exclude me or make me biased with what is going on with this specific case.”
“Also, I would like to point out that ultimately this case is about the interpretation of the constitution, and the decision again will not only affect the groups here but any Stanford group,” she added.
Camhi identified Hernandez’s past connection with SOCC leadership, citing the SOCC authored Stanford Daily op-ed “unSAFE Reform,” which listed Hernandez as co-chair of MEChA. However, Hernandez emphasized that this was from last year and that she no longer holds a leadership position in MEChA.
Councilman Stephen Richards, who is a third-year Stanford law student, weighed in on the debate, explaining that in the federal court system, it is typically up to the justice herself to decide whether to recuse herself.
“I’m convinced by what [Hernandez has] to say about this not being about SOCC per se,” Richards said. “This case, as [Hernandez] pointed out, will apply to a whole lot of organizations.”
“If I were in your position, I think that recusal would be appropriate,” he added. “That said, I wouldn’t vote to recuse you from the council if you genuinely believed that you wouldn’t be biased.”
The Council voted that Hernandez should not recuse herself, with three members voting against her recusal, and one abstaining.
While Camhi said he believes that Hernandez’s decision not to recuse herself is troubling, he stated that he respects the Council’s decision and looks forward to the coming debate.
“The Stanford Review is looking forward to having a debate about how transparent student groups that receive student funds should be,” Camhi said. “If we are victorious, we will ask other student groups for their endorsement proceedings as well.”
Camhi further elaborated by saying that the Review hopes to examine the endorsement process in general, not just SOCC’s.
“We think that as a student publication on campus it is our obligation to look into this critical part of student elections by trying to get this critical information,” he added. “We reject the notion that this is a smear campaign against SOCC. ”
Contact Sam Reamer at sreamer ‘at’ stanford.edu.