SA Confirms New President Pro Tempore and Parliamentarian Amid Backlash From Predecessor

The Student Assembly (SA) of UGBC confirmed Leonardo Escobar, MCAS ’22, as president pro tempore and Aidan Mallon, MCAS ’22, as parliamentarian on May 27.

The positions of president pro tempore and parliamentarian were previously held by Dennis Wieboldt, SA representative and MCAS ’22, in the 2020-21 academic year. 

Wieboldt and SA Representative Lorenzo Leo, MCAS ’23, released a statement on May 26 voicing their concerns about UGBC Vice President Gianna Russi’s nomination decisions.

“In declining to re-nominate [Wieboldt] to the positions he formerly held, the Vice President has chosen to sideline the only member of the Student Assembly who has prior experience upholding UGBC’s rules and regulations on the Parliamentary Board,” the statement read.

Four members of the 2020-2021 SA leadership team—including Laura Perrault, MCAS ’21 and president pro tempore prior to Wieboldt—sent a letter of opposition to Russi, MCAS ’22, on Thursday before the meeting.

“We implore you to put student interests before your administration’s political gain,” the letter read. “Choose the most qualified candidate for these positions and lead an Undergraduate Government that actually serves students.”

In the SA meeting, Russi said that she did not nominate Escobar and Mallon for political reasons.

“I want to make clear, the decision was made in the absence of political motivations, but based on … leadership style and previous experiences that would aid them in this role,” Russi said. 

Escobar said he has been elected to the SA four times and has done his best to serve the community from his positions. 

“BC has given me a lot, and I want to seek out a way to give back through student government,” Escobar said. “So the student assembly has been my niche, my place, where I’ve thought about how I could best serve the community in a lot of ways.”

By nominating Escobar and Mallon, Wieboldt said the administration is not supporting students’ best interests and is trying to “pack the board” with its friends when nobody’s looking by nominating them over the summer.

According to Wieboldt, the only plausible explanation for the administration’s choice not to renominate him to either of these positions is for its own advantage.

“I’d encourage anyone if they believe that a nominee is more qualified than I, for example, to serve as parliamentarian and interpret the rules that I spent over two years writing, I’d encourage you to please speak up so I can understand,” Wieboldt said. 

Nick Claudio, SA representative and MCAS ’22, said that Wieboldt’s argument—that Escobar should not be president pro tempore because he believes himself to be more qualified—is illegitimate.

“This is not a legitimate argument for a confirmation hearing because that’s a political argument,” Claudio said. “We’re supposed to be talking about [Escobar’s] qualifications and not qualifications of other people.”

Removing himself from the equation, Wieboldt said there are others who deserve the position of president pro tempore more than Escobar.

“I’m looking at two people on my screen in particular, from my class, who have put in more work in one year than I think the nominee has in two,” Wieboldt said.

Escobar’s confirmation failed in a roll call vote with 15 out of the 16 votes needed. A motion to reconsider then passed.

Escobar said he has been involved in various community engagements and initiatives within UGBC, including sustainability efforts and taking collective action in response to recent racially biased incidents.

“I’ve advocated for these communities on campus while at the same time also adjusting to how the Student Assembly can function and imagining the president pro tempore role differently from how it has been in the past,” Escobar said.

In response, Wieboldt read from Perrault’s resignation letter in which she expressed concern about the lack of action within the Academic Affairs Committee of which Escobar was a member.

Mitzy Monterroso Bautista, former AHANA+ Leadership Council policy coordinator and MCAS ’22, said Wieboldt failed to mention that Perrault was asked to resign and does not think her letter is a credible source.

“If you’re referencing somebody who was literally asked to resign, I don’t think that’s really a credible kind of source,” Monterroso Bautista said. “I think that if you’re being asked to resign, then that’s kind of something that you should really consider for yourself and again doesn’t really pertain to [Escobar].”

Escobar was confirmed as president pro tempore in a roll call vote on May 27.

Following Escobar’s confirmation, Mallon said he came before the SA seeking confirmation for the role of parliamentarian to serve the student body. 

“I appear before you tonight seeking this position, not for title or prestige, but for the opportunity to work and serve the student body in a way I believe I can provide a unique perspective to,” Mallon said.

Mallon said this year will be his second term in the SA. Mallon also said he was a seated SA member when the new constitution and standing rules were first drafted, where he met with drafters and advocated for changes to the structure of the parliamentarian.

Referencing Wieboldt and Leo’s social media pages, Mallon said it seems that some of the members of the SA came to the meeting with their minds already made up.

“As the parliamentarian, I can assure you that I will not approach situations with predetermination before I even heard what others have to say,” Mallon said. 

Wieboldt reiterated his belief that Mallon is not the most qualified for the position because he has not been part of the SA in over a year. 

Because he has spent two years working with the UGBC Constitution and Standing Rules, Wieboldt said he is the most qualified to serve as parliamentarian.

“The purpose of the parliamentarian is to be the person who’s most qualified and most adept at understanding the rules,” Wieboldt said. “Respectfully, I’d say that is myself.”

Yosan Tewelde, SA representative and MCAS ’24, said Mallon seems qualified for the role.

“It seems like [Mallon is] very well prepared, and I feel like … not being in the assembly last year shouldn’t stop him from being considered for this year,” Tewelde said.

Mallon was confirmed as parliamentarian in a roll call vote.

Following the confirmations, Wieboldt and Lorenzo released a final statement.

“While both nominations passed by slim margins (and one nomination, in fact, required procedural reconsideration), [Wieboldt] and [Leo] respect the decisions of their peers and hope that the newly confirmed President Pro Tempore and Parliamentarian fulfill the responsibilities of their offices with students’ best interests in mind,” the statement said.

Correction: A previous version of this article misattributed Nick Claudio as the current chair of the council for students with disabilities, and that error has been corrected.

Featured Image by Amy Palmer / Heights Editor

June 4, 2021