Part 2: The ASBSU Review Board ruled in favor of an ethics complaint filed against ASBSU President and AVPEA

Photo by Corissa Campbell

This article was revised at at 6:58 p.m. on March 29, 2024 to include new statements from Zane Rivers, which are vital for full context to the events described in the article.

While the Review Board did determine that Sheen and Hoang had failed to recognize the Senate’s decision, the ruling wasn’t made until March — over four months after the complaint was filed. 

The delay 

The process of getting a ruling on the complaint took months. According to Engstrom, the Review Board was only operational for two weeks out of the first semester. Part of the delay in the ruling was the fact that the Review Board was incomplete. 

Sheen appointed members to be confirmed for the Review Board, so the complaint could be decided with a full Review Board, but her first two appointments were denied by the Senate. 

Her first denied appointment for Review Board Chief was the former Chief of Staff, Zane Rivers. 

When asked by LaHaug during his confirmation hearing if his resignation was due to a “serious ethics breach”, referring to filing a complaint against Engstrom and recommending Sheen fire the SFB officers, Rivers stated he sat down with Engstrom and they “talked like adults” and “worked it out”. 

Engstrom was then asked to speak on the issue, and summarized the events that transpired. When asked to respond to Engstrom’s accusation, Rivers stated he did not disagree with what Engstrom said.

“I told you what I thought Chief of Staff was. My job was to protect Chey [Cheyon Sheen] and that is what I did,” Rivers said during the meeting to confirm or deny his appointment. 

Rivers was not confirmed, with one member voting yes, seven members voting no, and three abstaining. 

“I appreciate having been nominated. The confirmation process is one aspect of ASBSU that’s more about internal dynamics than broader student concerns. At the end of the day, we’re all friends and committed to the university’s wellbeing. I look forward to supporting our awesome campus community in other ways,” Rivers wrote in an email to The Arbiter.

In an interview with The Arbiter, Rivers claimed he was not given enough time to address everything he wanted to say about the claims Engstrom made during the meeting. 

“I think it’s important to note the distinction that the account of events he provided in my Senate confirmation hearing is very different than the account events I now see him claiming. And I was constrained in that Senate confirmation hearing and limited in my ability to respond in fact, I wouldn’t have had a chance to respond at all had it not been for the advocation of a of a senator and even so I only got a brief few seconds to to respond to what had been a multi minute rant,” Rivers said. “The account of events Mr. Engstrom in that Senate confirmation hearing, I did not dispute his account of events, I highly dispute his characterization of those events.”

Sheen then appointed Adele Stireman, who is one of Sheen’s roommates. When asked about whether or not this posed a conflict of interest, Stireman said she believed she could remain unbiased and had told Sheen there is “no communication about ASBSU in our house”. While deciding whether or not to confirm Stireman, members expressed concern over a potential conflict of interest. 

Hali Higgins, Graduate College Senator, asked if anyone knew why they “kept getting people who are a huge conflict of interest”.

Everest K.C., Graduate College Senator, responded, “Because the complaint is against Chey”. 

Engstrom and LaHaug also expressed discontent with the appointments. 

“As a person I definitely like her but I am concerned about a conflict of interest,” LaHaug said during the meeting to confirm. “I am not a fan that Chey is appointing a friend.”

LaHaug had previously spoken in favor of appointing Max Harris during his confirmation, someone he openly described as his friend during Harris’s confirmation hearing for the Review Board. LaHaug claims he has not spoken to Harris since, and does not hang out with him as friends to avoid bias. 

Engstrom said it was “disrespectful” they were not getting appointments “an arm’s length [away] at all”.

Mark Nelson, a COAS Senator, said he believed if they found someone for Sheen, she would be amenable to appointing them. 

“If we’re gonna mow down everybody that Chey says, then it would become our responsibility to give her a list of values that we wanted. I mean, they should be the same ones that are written in the rules. But you guys go find them,” Nelson said. “Like while even in the Senate today, people were making accusations [and] that deal, saying well, if the President doesn’t sign up by five minutes, ‘screw her’ kind of deal. That stuff should not be in there.”

Stireman’s confirmation was denied, with nine members voting no and two abstaining. Gregor Posadas was confirmed as Review Board Chief on Feb. 8. The Review Board was then trained before the hearing finally took place. 

The impacts 

But for Peña, the infighting has had real impacts on the ability of ASBSU to function. 

“I think it’s just generally the attitude, like the culture towards ASBSU. I think that is the defining issue here,” Peña said. “There should be no infighting that can’t be resolved within a single meeting, let alone multiple school years of fighting. It’s completely unnecessary, and it only serves to disbenefit our students. And more and more people, myself included, have raised that concern, and time and time again, the same people, the same bad faith actors who have ignored that concern, continue to ignore it. So that’s where I’m super passionate with ASBSU, that’s what I really think needs to be said.”

Peña stated that some elected officials were “bad faith actors” and “strongly advise[d]” constituents to not re-elect them. Peña also claimed he was told there was “no interest” in finding College of Engineering senators for empty positions when he attempted to do so.

Currently, both the College of Engineering and the College of Education do not have all their positions filled for ASBSU. 

ASBSU has currently spent nearly 80% of its budget, but has only passed seven bills. According to Peña, last year ASBSU passed approximately 30 bills, showing a large discrepancy between what the number of bills the current administration has passed compared to the previous year. 

When asked if infighting has contributed to the lack of bills passed, Peña replied, “100%”.

“We have been working for so long to just get everyone to work together that we have not been able to get stuff done,” Peña said. “Furthermore, I think we need to be proposing more bills. I really really commend Amelia’s Ready for Kindergarten Bill. That was that was the first bill this year and more or less one of I don’t know two or three, maybe the only one that I think would have had any measurable substantial impact on student life on campus”

ASBSU’s struggle with transparency and reaching students is not new, with Nelson describing some members’ methods as “cloak and dagger”, but Peña said he has been advocating for more accessibility to information about ASBSU for students.

“I had a virtual meeting with one of our senators … related to election code stuff. And he expressed a sentiment that I hear, it feels every time I talk to a legislator ‘I don’t know what the hell is going on’,” Peña said. “And we are not telling them and I have had Executive Cabinet members discourage me and criticize me for being as transparent with the legislature as I have been. So those are the dynamics of play.”

According to Peña, ASBSU members are skeptical of the methods Peña has suggested to increase transparency. 

Peña has suggested multiple times that the meetings be live streamed so the information is more accessible to students, but has been met with resistance. 

“Every time since that I’ve made it, the response I’ve gotten from every member of ASBSU is ‘dear god please do not record the meetings’, unanimously. They have said ‘absolutely not, do not do that’,”  Peña said.

Members expressed concern that people would intentionally clip videos or take statements out of context for “smear campaigns”. 

 “Like this is the fear that people have around transparency right now. And as 

someone who you know, is extremely for transparency, but also cares about the privacy and rights of these people and I understand what’s happened in the past — It’s hard for me to say just don’t worry about it. It’ll be fine, right?” Peña said. “It’s really difficult for me to balance, frankly, safety with transparency. But I like to think that I err more on the side of transparency.”

Before the decision on the complaint, The Arbiter contacted Sheen for comment about the complaint. According to Sheen, members had agreed not to speak to anyone not involved in the complaint, including the press, about the complaint until the decision had been made.

“I want to respect the agreement that we came to that the people [on] the complaint and the people were involved like, we came to an agreement that we wouldn’t talk about it outside of the people like parties like relevant parties, and I’m in that respect like their privacy and the fact that I promised not to do so,” Sheen said. 

Sheen said she wished to give no further comment, and did not respond to a request for comment after the decision was made. Hoang also did not respond to a request for comment. 

The complaint has been settled, but months passed before a ruling was made, and members operated with little or no transparency with ASBSU and the larger student body. 

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