Student and former professor sue Associated Students

Student and former professor sue Associated Students

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Mike Powelson, member of the Green Party, speaks during the open forum at the A.S. meeting last year at the Grand Salon. Photo credit: Loren Townsley / Photo Editor

A graduate student is suing Associated Students in small claims court for not allowing a third party candidate to participate in a Congressional debate held last year.

Ankur Patel, 27, graduate interdisciplinary studies major, is asking for a $100 refund from A.S. after former professor and Green Party candidate for the 30th Congressional district, Michael Powelson, was escorted from the VPAC on April 30, 2012.

Powelson is also suing A.S. for $10,000 regarding the same issue. Patel said that A.S. ignored his and other students’ requests to have Powelson participate in the debate and cited the problem as showing a lack of transparency from the student run organization.

“We went through the process, but it seemed as if the decision had been made beforehand,” Patel said during a hearing Wednesday. “There was no vetting process.”

Patel is the second student to sue A.S. over Powelson’s exclusion from the debate. On July 10, 2012, Edy Alvarez, president of CSUN Greens, also sued A.S. for a $100 refund, but Judge Benny Osorio, who is reviewing Patel’s claims, ruled in favor of A.S.

David Crandall, A.S. general manager, said after the ruling, A.S. President Sydni Powell and Alvarez spoke and came to a resolution. A.S. changed budget language to state that all registered candidates can participate in debates on campus as long as it is within budget limits for any program or event.

The language was added August 2012 by A.S. Senate and is the last paragraph in Article III Section E of the budget, Crandall said.

At the Chatsworth Courthouse, Patel, Powelson and Crandall spoke with Osorio, who remembered the previous case and ruling against Alvarez.

“Why aren’t you in agreement?” Osorio said. “It looks like the school was willing to make changes.”

Patel said the budget amendment had too many holes in it and wanted language included that assured registered candidates would be allowed at any sponsored political event without any problems.

Powelson said if A.S. agrees to rephrase the amendment and refund $100 to Patel, he will drop the case.

“It was only CSUN who excluded me,” Powelson said. “Pierce College and Mission College allowed me to debate.”

Patel said that A.S. is not using student funding correctly and considers them a private corporation, but Osorio said Patel still cannot sue for verbal agreements or written changes in a budget.

Patel had subpoenaed documentation from A.S. to find e-mail invitations to other candidates and letters that students sent to Provost Harry Hellenbrand requesting that Powelson be allowed to the debate.

In response to the requests, Hellenbrand said the final decision to allow Powelson at the debate was left up to A.S.

Osorio decided to rule on Patel’s and Powelson’s cases together on March 26 because they are similar.

“At what point does this case become moot?” Osorio said. “You’re having someone say this may be an issue, but (A.S. is) willing to work it out.”