The Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno’s judicial council held a hearing on Sept. 11 to discuss the charge filed by Erin Shaffer, speaker pro tempore and senator of the College of Liberal Arts, against the ASUN Internship Program.
During the senate meeting on Aug. 30, Aween Ali, senator for the College of Engineering, submitted legislation on behalf of Hannah Dayna Alquiza, the vice president of the ASUN and Isabella Hatt, the director of executive affairs. The legislation failed based on a 3-15 vote against the name change and rebranding of the ASUN internship program.
Following this vote, Shaffer filed a charge on Sept. 4 regarding an email that was sent to interns using the “partnership” term instead of calling it an internship. Brayden Taeubel, chief justice of the judicial council, announced at the Sept. 6 senate meeting that the council would be accepting this case to be heard.
The hearing was to discuss the charge that the program violated Chapter 5 of the statutes of the ASUN and Senate Bill 81, To Create a New Title for ASUN Internship Programs.
In her opening argument, Shaffer cited precedent cases that suggested a need for senate approval for title changes, such as SB81’s act of establishing and naming the internship program.
“[Previous legislation] clearly establishes that the executive branch cannot unilaterally change the names for their departments or programs. They require the consent of the senate,” Shaffer said. “There was an attempt for this at the recent senate meeting, nearly four months after the executive branch violated the separation of powers and attempted to change the internship’s name.”
Shaffer referenced the Statutes of the ASUN, Chapter 502, Section 9: “The Director of Executive Affairs is able to market the Executive Internship individually or with other departments.”
However, Shaffer argues the measure gives Hatt the ability to market specifically for “the Executive Internship”. Hatt’s marketing does not give the executive branch the right to change the internship name without legislative consultation.
Shaffer also added that the right to market the internship separately from the executive branch was not extended to other coordinators. Shaffer argued it would not work because the ASUN internship uses one universal application and interview process. She noted that internship coordinators cannot run their internships or market for them separately.
Shaffer said the email sent using the word “partnership” – after the name had been denied – could create “confusion” for applicants since the actual sign-up sheet for interviews labeled it as an internship.
“Various aspects of the marketing that was first labeled as partnership has been changed to internship, but only after the charge was sent in on the night of Sept. 4,” Shaffer added. “This is a step in the right direction, but should now be done to the fullest extent … My intent behind this charge is to hold the executive branch accountable for the disregard of [the] senate, just as the legislative branch would like to be held accountable for our actions if needed to be done.”
When Nathan Noble, associate justice of the judicial council, asked about why action wasn’t taken sooner. Shaffer said she decided it wasn’t something she wanted to support after she and Hatt discussed proposing the legislation. Shaffer tried to find other senators to support the piece, but she struggled in this process. Shaffer also said there was confusion on moving forward for the action on this piece because of this year’s “young” senate.
Amelia Glowniak, associate justice on the council, asked Shaffer to give a specific timeline of the name “partnership” being discussed. During May, a behind-the-scenes group chat presented the name, but it was first publicly posted on ASUN’s Instagram on June 27. Hatt later said she used the name “WolfPack Partnership” simply for marketing purposes at this time.
Also according to Hatt, Shaffer reached out to her to start the conversation of writing legislation on the “partnership” rebrand on June 28. Hatt said Shaffer reached out to Hatt and said a few of the senators said ‘no’ regarding the piece around Aug. 2. Hatt then reached out to Ali so the legislative process could continue forward.
James Greco, the attorney general and spokesperson for the opposing side, said the application should be considered an internship because a legislative presentation is required for an official name change. However, Greco proposed that the marketing of the name “partnership” was separate and did not need legislation for a name change.
The respondent proposed this marketing name of “partnership” to step away from the idea of a “demeaning” name that internship brings and make the students feel more welcome to the ASUN.
Greco also cited Hatt’s term goals when she was confirmed by senate on April 26. Hatt introduced the idea of bringing in the “Wolf Pack Partnership”, and the senators had the opportunity to ask questions about this idea. This partnership idea resurfaced at the ASUN retreat in June, before the first marketing social media post. Greco said no one ever came to him about this, and Hatt clearly showed her intentions and timeline for the partnership from the beginning of her term.
“That presentation at [the] retreat was the opportunity for any director to stand up and say we shouldn’t market like this and they never did,” Greco said.
However, when Glowniak asked why Hatt didn’t bring the name change to the legislation when she originally proposed the goal, Greco said he couldn’t speak on its progress. According to Greco, no one saw it as a problem or proposed an issue with the executive branch about it, so they were just “going with the flow” in that sense.
Greco added that coordinators can call their “interns” or “partners” or “mentees” in their marketing as long as it promotes a better university. SB81 wasn’t about the name – it was about the meaning behind the program.. He said that the partnership marketing poses no issue because it is separate from the need of an official name change on the formal application.
Since the conversation shifted to more in-depth questions about the marketing, Kate Hovatter, associate justice, asked Hatt why she kept marketing the internship as a “partnership” even after the legislation failed. Hatt said she was under the impression they didn’t want to change it in the statutes after it failed. Since marketing was not applicable in comparison to the legal change of the name in the statutes – as Greco argued previously – so she continued marketing it as a partnership.
The decision of the judicial hearing will be announced at the next ASUN senate meeting on Sept. 13.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.