On Oct. 13, 2014 former ASUWT Senator, Melinda Anderson resigned as a result of an alleged hostile work environment with current ASUWT Senator Ben Laskey.
Anderson sent a letter of resignation via email to ASUWT President Jocelyn Patterson that said, “…the [h]ostile work environment has begun to affect the team as a whole and I would rather see the team successful than to continue on in my role.”
President Patterson and Vice President Tyler Bjork were aware that there was conflict between the two senators, but received various explanations as to what exactly occurred between Senator Laskey and Anderson. Although conflict between the two senators was said to have begun summer quarter, meetings were set into place throughout the fall quarter to settle the growing tension between the two. President Patterson said, “I thought it was going to come to a compromise” after one meeting with Anderson. Instead, a letter of resignation was sent days later.
The internal conflict was said to have affected both senators abilities to work together, resulting in ASUWT officials having to generate a “to do” list to organize the next upcoming event, Rock the Vote.
During a senate meeting on Oct. 7 Anderson moved to strike the Legislative Affairs Committee agenda for fall quarter, from that meeting’s agenda. As a result, neither of the two could be held accountable for failure to complete appointed tasks, which later became problematic due to the conflict.
On many occasions ASUWT officials said Anderson demanded Senator Laskey be impeached; however, the bylaws state that ASUWT officials are unable to impeach without a 2/3 vote of the senate. Although Anderson said she is familiar with the bylaws, this request set forth to ASUWT officials is outside of the bylaws. The forms to file for the process of impeachment were shown to Anderson, but no action was taken on her part.
“It is the responsibility of ASUWT to manage their own internal affairs and accountability affairs as set out in the bylaws,” said Student Leadership Specialist, Paul Prociv. During a senate meeting held Oct. 14 Prociv explained that he cannot impeach anyone because it is not in his power.
“I just give advice, that’s really all I do. I help students navigate the bureaucracy that is the University of Washington Tacoma,” said Prociv.
Prociv explained that there are three actions students can take when experiencing internal disagreement. The first being to submit a violation report to the chief of justice; or bring the dispute to the attention of the executives (President and Vice President) who can discuss the internal conflict and provide advice, but are not held accountable for internal matters; lastly, the student has the option to resign.
Prociv as well as other ASUWT officials consulted with Anderson about these actions she could take. In addition, Anderson was given the option of removing herself from Legislative Affairs Committee and joining another committee.
When asking President Patterson if this conflict could have been avoided, she responded, “I think the situation could’ve been a lot better if they examined their tones, and the way they spoke to each other.”
After Anderson resigned, President Patterson acquired some of the responsibilities. The remainder of the responsibilities are in the hands of Senator Laskey, who is now Chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee.
“It’s going to be more work and this was unexpected” said Senator Laskey. “But on the bright side I’ll be working with Jocelyn who has always been an amazing person to work with.”
During the senate meeting Vice President Bjork addressed another matter of concern—tardiness—resulting in a brief review of current bylaws. President Bjork advised ASUWT officials that the bylaws will be strictly enforced going forth and will result in immediate warnings, if not followed.