On January 25th, ASUWT Senator Akua Asare-Konadu left her position in student government with a shocking resignation letter, claiming that other members had “systematically schemed” to remove her from office. While this may sound dramatic, ASUWT president Elizabeth Pierini said the letter was surprising but that a member quitting “is not unusual. Nauman has seen several resignations in the time he’s been here.” That is Rai Nauman Mumtaz, ASUWT Vice President. Although Akua’s resignation letter states that she left under “extreme duress,” and her removal revolved around her recent internship in Olympia, Pierini and Mumtaz were ready with documents to prove they had been trying and failing to communicate her with for months.
“At the end of the day, what it comes down to is us doing our due diligence to students. Students pay a $159 student fee, which in part pays our salary,” Mumtaz said.
“We really respect her and think she’d done an excellent job. We were pleased with her performance,” Pierini said of Akua. “But in ASUWT, there are certain non-negotiables. Meetings, submitting timesheets: basic tenants any student paying their student fees would expect.”
In emails released by ASUWT, Mumtaz attempted to communicate with Akua to schedule office hours for Winter quarter, submit weekly timesheets, and explain unexcused absences from meetings several times, and was given first official warning on November 1st. The last two warnings were in late January, leaving it up to a two-thirds Senate meeting vote whether or not to impeach her.
In one of two email replies, Akua defended herself by saying she never received any of the eight documented emails asking for communication. She accused Mumtaz of “targeting” her because they already knew of the internship she was recently accepted into, which keeps her in Olympia all day from Monday through Friday.
Mumtaz said his “last gasp” of outreach came right before the MLK Unity Breakfast, when he asked Akua to make a meeting with him to discuss her absences and that “she didn’t take it upon herself to meet with me.” He said that the “core responsibility of ASUWT is serving students. I can’t look students in the eye and say we are doing our duty to them if I let this go on.”
“I don’t want this resignation to deter students from applying to ASUWT, thinking that an internship will get in the way at all,” Pierini said. “It’s just that a 40 hour work week is tough: most students take on a 15-20 hour internship is more feasible along with the duties of ASUWT. It’s extremely difficult to complete your duties when you are physically in a different location so much of the time.”
As for Akua’s side of the story, she simply asked, “What problem are you trying to solve?” Making it clear that regardless of how she might defend herself, it doesn’t change the fact that she did in fact resign in the face of impeachment, and ASUWT now has an open Senator position, of which Pierini said, “We’re really excited to fill the position with a really well qualified individual.”