After being removed from her job presiding over Student Union Assembly (SUA) meetings, previously elected SUA Parliamentarian Amanda Pepe took to the public comment microphone and called out the man who fired her — SUA President Alfredo Gama Salmeron.
As SUA President, Gama Salmeron assumed the position of SUA Parliamentarian, the officer who schedules and chairs SUA meetings, after he fired Pepe on Sept. 29. In the first meeting since, he presided over a meeting that spiraled into chaos.
“This assembly wants to vote to remove you, and you need to let that happen,” Pepe said in public comment at the Oct. 18 meeting.
The meeting at Oakes Learning Center (OLC), which was attended by up to 150 people in person and 250 people on Zoom, dramatically ended when the room of people left in protest after a failed last-ditch effort by leaders of UC Santa Cruz’s Big 5 Ethnic Organizations to remove Gama Salmeron.
Despite numerous calls for his impeachment and removal, Gama Salmeron holds his office for another day.
Motions to remove Gama Salmeron as SUA President were attempted under Article Two, Section H of the SUA Constitution, which allows for the removal of any Executive Officer of the SUA through a three-fourths vote in the presence of quorum. A letter of no confidence by SUA Executive Officers Dora Rasch, Jimmy Gomez, Mitra Zarinebaf, and Amalia Bostian urged Gama Salmeron’s removal.
Front: SUA officers and contributors of the letter of no confidence, Jimmy Gomez and Dora Rasch. Behind: SUA President Alfredo Gama Salmeron and SUA Executive Officer Miguel Salcedo. Salcedo and Gama Salmeron convene as the governing board addresses the president’s denial of multiple motions to impeach. Photo by Mia Pabros.
The letter cites Gama Salmeron’s failure to perform constitutional responsibilities, his invoking of power imbalances, and his verbal dismissal of cultural and racial identities of Native American and Indigenous students on Instagram.
A motion to remove Gama Salmeron was first made during the meeting by Rasch. After the motion was seconded, Gama Salmeron used his powers as SUA Parliamentarian to deny the motion. He used that power to deny every following motion to remove him as president, denouncing it as “out of order.”
“Tonight was the perfect example of an abuse of power by the SUA President,” said Pepe in a text message to City on a Hill Press. “While it was moving to see so many students speak up about their concerns regarding the issues surrounding him, it was extremely disheartening to see him blatantly ignore their voices.”
According to an email sent to SUA representatives by SUA Executive Officer Jimmy Gomez on Oct. 4, Gama Salmeron removed Pepe without consulting other officers. Pepe was “removed and never attributed to their employment performance,” said Gomez in the email.
As a result of Pepe’s removal, the SUA canceled its first scheduled meeting on Oct. 4 due to what Gomez called the “instability of the unethical decision.”
The first hour of the Oct. 18 meeting was spent by the assembly attempting to set the agenda for the night. Rasch’s first motion to remove the president was denied by Gama Salmeron for not being part of the official agenda. In addition to denying every new motion to either remove him as president or amend the agenda to add a removal vote, Gama Salmeron attempted to preserve the set agenda by proposing a motion for approval as parliamentarian and seconding it as president.
Gama Salmeron repeatedly invoked the Brown Act in his reasoning for denying the motions to amend, claiming that the body did not give sufficient notice in substantially altering the agenda. However, it is SUA Executive Officer Amalia Bostian’s opinion that this is not an accurate application of the act.
“We, as officers, checked with [UCSC Chief Legal Counsel Lorena Peñaloza] and they confirmed that the Brown Act, as the way that [Gama Salmeron] is interpreting, does not apply to the SUA,” Bostian said. “His claims tonight about the amendments to the agenda not being allowed, referencing [the Brown Act] for firing [Pepe], the former parliamentarian, has no basis in reality.”
The Brown Act is a law in California that guarantees the right of the public to attend meetings of legislative bodies. Sections of the Brown Act include, but are not limited to, public comment, public criticism allowed, and no action or discussion shall be undertaken on any item not on the agenda. Exceptions to the final right mentioned include: responses to public testimony, emergencies, when two-thirds of the legislative body agree there is a need to take immediate action that could not have been known prior to the meeting, or when the item is held over from a previous meeting.
Space for public comment finally began around 8:53 p.m. — almost an hour and a half into the meeting — and lasted for nearly two hours. Many students were highly critical of Gama Salmeron’s past social media posts towards the American Indian Resource Center (AIRC), in which he denied the validity of ethnic backgrounds of Indigenous student interns on Indigenous People’s Day. There was further critique of his concurrent handling of his political positions.
Former SUA parliamentarian Amanda Pepe, who is one of many students calling for Gama Salmeron’s impeachment, is pictured holding a list of students who are waiting for their chance to make a public comment. Photo by Mia Pabros.
“Tonight, what I saw was just an absolute blatant disregard for the rules that govern the space and a clearly biased performance,” Bostian said. “On behalf of him as the appointed parliamentarian, I’m really disappointed that this is the view of the SUA that most students are getting, because it doesn’t reflect the intentions of other people in the space.”
Many members of the AIRC were also in attendance and made public comments against Gama Salmeron’s statements towards the center. The members called for unity and the importance of respecting and validating Indigenous identities.
SUA Executive Officers Dora Rasch and Mitra Zarinebaf, as well as Gama Salmeron’s Chief of Staff Zyon McMahon, used public comment to denounce his lack of decorum, efficiency, and mutual respect within the SUA space due to Gama Salmeron’s past and present actions. McMahon in particular praised Pepe and her handling of her own removal.
“She should be the one being Parliamentarian right now,” McMahon said.
Hector Marín, who is currently running for Santa Cruz’s District 4 City Council Seat, and SUA Executive Officer Miguel Salcedo were among the few public comments in support of Gama Salmeron.
Salcedo noted the inappropriate nature of Gama Salmeron’s remarks. However, he maintained support of him and reaffirmed Gama Salmeron’s goals of empowerment, unity, and diversity, a sentiment which was met with audible audience disagreement.
More than an hour into public comments, Gama Salmeron spoke. He apologized for the harm his comments caused and asked the AIRC to accept his apology, eight days after his initial comments on social media. This was the first time that he publicly apologized for his remarks.
“The impact of this statement triggered hurt, pain, and feelings of exclusion among students and their families. And for that, I apologize,” Gama Salmeron said. “I love you, I see you, I will stand with you and your hurt as many of you all have stood in mine. My words and beliefs should have never been made under a picture of [the AIRC interns and staff] and [should] engage in a more productive conversation about colorism and mutual existence.”
Members of UCSC’s Big 5, wearing green shirts, arrived at the SUA meeting directly after a Get Out The Vote event on the other side of campus. This is the first time in four years that leaders of Big 5 have taken part in an SUA meeting as voting members. Photo by Mia Pabros.
At 10:30 p.m, student leaders of UCSC’s Big 5 organizations entered the OLC. It was the first time the organizations had been in the SUA space since 2018, after a misuse of Big 5 funds by the SUA led to the organizations removing themselves. Their presence alone was a symbolic stance in unity against Gama Salmeron’s language towards the AIRC.
The Big Five Ethnic Organizations at UCSC are:
- Asian and Pacific Islander Student Alliance (APISA)
- Black Student Union (BSU)
- Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán (MEChA)
- Student Alliance of Native American/Indigenous Peoples (SANAI)
They then took their stance one step further. Under the SUA Constitution, the Big 5 has automatic voting seats in the SUA. Four of the Big 5 organizations reclaimed their seats in the SUA after four years of vacancy, reinstating their right to vote.
By reclaiming their seats, the Big 5 had official voting power to call for a motion of impeachment. BSU President X Starr, who goes by the mononym X, officially called for the last motion for Gama Salmeron’s removal on behalf of the Big 5, which was immediately seconded.
This motion was denied by Gama Salmeron, to which UCSC Dean of Students Garrett Naiman went up to the microphone and affirmed the body’s right to make a motion. Gama Salmeron denied Naiman’s right to speak as “out of order.”
X and Naiman attempted to calm the crowd and come to an agreement with Gama Salmeron. Motion after motion, no matter how fast the second hand was raised.
After the final motion was dismissed, X reassured the crowd that Salmeron’s removal did not need to happen that night but could happen in the next SUA meeting.
“The removal doesn’t have to take place today, y’all. Movements don’t happen in a day, they take place over months and years, and today is just the start of one,” X said.
After multiple attempts to get Gama Salmeron to stop speaking over SUA members and attendees alike, Gama Salmeron’s microphone was physically unplugged. He continued speaking.
With no resolution in sight, the Big 5 left the meeting, followed by the remainder of a majority of the SUA, which resulted in the loss of quorum and the parliamentary end of the meeting.
The end of the meeting culminated in a cacophony of voices and a mass exodus of the audience from the OLC, with the meeting finally ending just before 11 p.m. — nearly three and a half hours after its start.
Co-Editor in Chief Ryan Loyola is one of three co-chairs of Bayanihan, which co-sponsored a statement written by the Big 5 standing in solidarity with the AIRC. He did not take part in Bayanihan’s decision to endorse the statement. He also did not take part in and was not aware of Bayanihan’s decision to reclaim their SUA seat.
Additionally, Loyola is mentioned in a report filed against Gama Salmeron for an incident of verbal misconduct towards a UC Santa Cruz employee. Loyola was not involved in filing the report and is only mentioned as witnessing the incident.