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Editorial: Senate: Walk softly and carry a big stick

Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, January 12, 2006
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The case against student government president Cade Bernsen is being pressed in many courts: in the Dean of Students office, in the ASUA Senate and in public opinion.

There are many unanswered questions and allegations against Bernsen, who was recently accused of sexual harassment by two female workers, one of whom is an elected official.

Regardless of which court Bernsen is scrutinized in, he is presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

At issue for the Dean of Students is whether a student sexually harassed his colleagues; at issue for ASUA is whether the president of the student body, charged with furthering the concerns of his constituents, sexually harassed two of his officers.

Because of privacy laws, the Dean of Students' investigation will remain behind closed doors, making any public knowledge of the eventual outcome uncertain at best.

That is why it is so important that senators in ASUA work tirelessly to uncover the truth through the scope of their own official inquiry.

Student senators have the unique opportunity to examine the allegations and demand truth from all parties involved, and to do so in an open and honest matter.

Bernsen has flatly denied the complaints against him, saying that the complainants fabricated their claims and organized against him in an effort to remove him from office.

The women continue to affirm their complaints, saying that they came forward because they wanted people to know what happened to them.

The process taken by the senate should be thorough and exhaustive. However, if impropriety is discovered, the senate must act quickly to remove Bernsen from office.

Critics might argue that the practical purpose of removing Bernsen is limited, as by the time any conclusion is arrived at by the senate, the animal that is student elections will spawn again.

This should not dissuade senators from their purpose, which is to ascertain the truth and act accordingly. If the complaints are deemed meritorious, removing Bernsen would send a clear signal that student government is a place for serious activity.

It would tell students that they elect leaders who care about the safety and wellbeing of other students, and that there will be no tolerance for intimidating or harassing others.

Above all, it would show that the senate cares about justice, and its conclusion would symbolize the values to which students at the UA ascribe.

The issue for student senators is much larger than whether Cade's a cad - it's whether a man's misdeeds make him unfit for office.

When such actions take place between private individuals, they're shameful. When they take place between public figures in places such as the student government offices, they are a very public embarrassment for the university.

Now is not a time for conspiracy theories or battles of competing tales about what happened. Now is a time for conscious deliberation and swift action.


Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Damion LeeNatali, Aaron Mackey, Mike Morefield, Katie Paulson and Tim Runestad.

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