ASUA officials reinstated

By Zach Colick
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, January 13, 2006

Five student officials were reinstated to their positions by acting Student Body President Erin Hertzog yesterday, just two days after being fired by Cade Bernsen, the student body president who is on leave.

The reinstatements are in accordance with the university policy, which allows fired officials to retain their positions while the Dean of Students Office conducts an official investigation, said Fernando Ascencio, one of the Arizona Students' Association directors who was fired Tuesday.

Ascencio and fellow ASA directors Andrew Record and Christopher Dang resumed their jobs, along with cabinet coordinator Breanne Bushu and assistant elections commissioner Rebecca Rodl.

Hertzog did not return messages left on her office phone and cell phone yesterday.

Melissa Vito, the dean of students, said in an e-mail yesterday she is "unable to comment on any individual cases."

Bernsen said he fired the appointed officials because his personal attorney said to fire them in light of evidence that he claims proves the officials had spread lies concerning the sexual harassment complaints made against Bernsen in November. Bernsen has denied the charges.

Bernsen agreed Wednesday to leave office for five days while the Dean of Students Office investigates complaints made by both Bernsen and the officials he fired.

Bernsen said yesterday that he would be willing to remain on leave longer if it would help the Dean of Students Office conduct its investigation.

Ascencio said there is a clause that protects individuals on campus whose employers unfairly terminate their employment and who use retaliatory efforts to remedy a situation.

"We all thought Cade's actions were baseless and (we) were never warned about these grievances," Ascencio said.

Ascencio said he believed he was being persecuted for supporting colleagues who sought justice for the alleged sexual harassment.

Ascencio and his two other ASA constituents filed a report with the Dean of Students Office to get their jobs back.

"This was completely unfair and I was happy to see the dean saw it our way," said Ascencio, a political science senior.

ASA director Andrew Record said he was legally allowed in the ASUA offices anyway because he holds other positions within the student government.

"I didn't think (the decision) would stand," he said.

Record said he is excited to have his position back for now and will continue lobbying to make textbooks more affordable and lower tuition dollars for students.

"I'm ready to hit the ground running," Record said.

Record said he was unsure about whether working with Bernsen would be intimidating or uncomfortable when he returns from his hiatus, but he hopes to immediately establish a professional, hard-working environment and put differences aside.

Though Bernsen can't fire the student officials again without merit, Dang said any possible replacement Bernsen would have named wouldn't be able to perform at the same level as the current ASA directors, who have been trained for the job and working since August.

"They would've been starting with a clean sheet and new resources," Dang said. "I think the learning process would've really set back student needs."

Bushu and Rodl were unavailable for comment.

Vito added that "student government is not an employment situation, but rather is a co-curricular involvement opportunity for students."