College Council (CC) representative Ali Tafreshi ’15 successfully appealed his expulsion from the Council over attendance issues. Tafreshi faced a possible dismissal on account of absences from mandatory weekly CC meetings accumulated over the course of this past term. Tafreshi held onto his seat by a narrow margin in the Council vote regarding his eligibility for office, with the pivotal vote cast by CC Co-Presidents Adrian Castro ’14 and Max Heninger ’14.
The CC Constitution requires representatives who cannot attend meetings to arrange for a proxy to attend in their place and act and vote on their behalf. However, Tafreshi’s proxies failed three times to attend weekly College Council meetings in his stead.
The CC bylaws lay out the consequences for insufficient attendance, namely expulsion. According to the Article V of the CC Constitution, “any voting member absent and/or tardy at either two consecutive or three total meetings during his/her term in office will be expelled from the Council.” The CC Constitution dictates that a vote to expel the member in question must be held two weeks after the most recent infraction.
On Jan. 22, the Council voted on a motion to deny Tafreshi’s appeal. A “Motion to Divide the Council” was accepted for this vote, disallowing abstentions. The Council voted 14 to 7 in favor of expelling Tafreshi. Despite this, the Council’s “Rules of Order” require motions to secure a super majority, in this case two-thirds plus one, to pass. Heninger and Castro cast the vote against the majority of members to approve Tafreshi’s appeal.
“We value what Ali has done on CC and thought [that] he deserved a second chance but this is his last chance,” Castro said. “If he’s absent or even a minute late to one meeting for the remainder of the term he’ll be automatically expelled without an appeal.”
At the Jan. 22 meeting, Griffith Simon ’15, Class of 2015 CC representative, argued that Tafreshi’s issues with his proxies were preventing him from effectively representing his constituents. Castro agreed that Tafreshi used proxies often. Jake Butts ’14, Class of 2014 representative, questioned Tafreshi’s commitment to CC and Class of 2014 representatives April Jenkins ’14 and Eric Liao ’14 agreed that Tafreshi’s attendance issues should lead to his expulsion.
“Everything we do is about precedent,” Castro said. “We’re concerned about the kind of message we’re sending. CC is in charge of $420,000 of funding and the administration comes to us to decide what to do on a lot of important issues … A lot of people want to be on Council but only so many people get elected. The students elect representatives to represent their interests in important matters and you can’t do that or respect the Council if you’re not there. Come to a CC meeting and you’ll see how important every member is and how important it is to be there.”
Castro and Heninger acknowledged, however, that some of the absences were the proxies’ fault and beyond Tafreshi’s direct control.
“While we didn’t want to set a precedent of tolerating absences, we also thought it was unfair to penalize someone for his proxies’ not showing up when that wasn’t necessarily his fault every time,” Heninger said. “[Tafreshi] put a lot of time into some big issues we dealt with this term and we recognized that. His attendance issues were unfortunate, but I think this was a wake up call for him and he’ll continue to do a good job on Council.” Tafreshi has pointed to his contributions serving the College and its students as evidence of his comitment to CC.
“My claim to the seat has always been that I actually go out and talk to students,” Tafreshi said. “There are a lot of guessing games in Council. A lot of members say ‘I think [that] students want this’ or ‘I heard people support this.’ I prefer to have statistics and to hear the actual opinions of students. So whenever I think there’s a guessing game coming up in a big issue like housing, I try to spend the week before the meeting talking to as many students as possible so that I can know what students really want and bring that information to the Council.”
Tafreshi is running for re-election to CC. If re-elected, his attendance record will be reset and he will no longer be automatically expelled for an absence.
“This has been a learning experience,” Tafreshi said. “I wish I had checked on my proxies more and I will in the future. And part of this is learning who actually shows up and who to trust. I take full responsibility for these absences and I don’t want to make excuses, but these were unusual, unfortunate circumstances that I don’t see happening again.”