Only one vote stopped ASUW president Bent Wetzel’s girlfriend from being a part of the ASUW Judicial Council.
Appointment of Judicial candidates requires approval of three quarters of the senate and Rebecca Brenner, a former senator, failed to be appointed due to this clause.
Patrick Megown, a junior student majoring in geology, said, “It is a huge conflict of interest. It doesn’t seem right that the person you are trying to appoint, even if she is very well qualified, is in a relationship with you.”
The selection process starts with applicants turning in their resume from which the President can select.
“So that candidate in question [Brenner] hadn’t talked to me, put in an application, and as you can imagine, I was rather surprised when it came across my desktop,” Wetzel said.
Wetzel and Chief of Staff Courtney Thomas-Lichty worked along side each other to decide on potential candidates.
“I actually had her tell me hers before I told her mine, and our top four were identical,” Wetzel said.
“So, we took all four of those, and at that point then, we were still kind of pressed with it. So, we took it to Adviser Aaron Lozano and brought Vice President Welsh in and had a group dialogue around it and we kind of reached the same point that ultimately, we kind of, we had done our part to put our biases aside and
Wetzel said that he took the list that he and Thomson-Lichty had constructed and brought them to Lozano and Welsh to discuss if any personal biases had influenced their decisions. He said a conflict of interest did not effect their decision.
“We went to where the qualifications laid and Miss Brenner was one of the most qualified candidates in the pool,” Wetzel said.
Eight senators abstained from the vote on Brenner’s appointment.
Sen. Sophia Kwende, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said she believed Senators shifted on how they viewed personal relationships and how it affected their voting.
“Personally, I felt that was a double standard and it upset me,” Kwende said.
Kwende gave an example of a similar situation that happened earlier this year.
“I am going to make this example with the Chief of Legislative Affairs Seth Jones,” Kwende said. “When he came up for approval, some Senators brought up the fact that you have three executives on the executive team in the same fraternity as the president.”
When voting on Judicial nominations came around, some senators however, changed how they viewed qualifications versus relationships Kwende said.
“She [Brenner] comes up for approval on the Judicial Committee and suddenly the same people that argued about it being only about qualifications, only about their merits, are suddenly arguing about conflicts of interest,” Kwende said.
In regards to three out of nine members on the Executive Board being from the same fraternity, Taylor Ramshack, a freshman student in engineering, said, “I can see how these people are the best people for their positions, but it still looks suspicious.”
Wetzel said that he understands how having his girlfriend nominated could be perceived.
“I can completely understand how it comes across that way,” Wetzel said. “The major thing to kind of point out is that we had, by our count, more applications to work for the executive branch than the executive branch has ever had.”
Wetzel said that he went through a lengthy process with Welsh, Thomson-Lichty and at least one member of the ASUW Senate to narrow down the candidates they would select from. There was a pool of more than 50 candidates, with some positions receiving up to 13 applicants.
Jean Yazoa, a sophomore student in petroleum engineering, said she was concerned over how well Wetzel could hold members of his executive board accountable when they are his fraternity brothers.
“That is a completely valid concern,” Wetzel said. “I think you can ask Director [Hunter] Rowe or Director [Connor] Bergmann on this. I am actually probably harder on them than I am on anyone else. Being my brothers and being my friends I expect a lot of them.”
Rebecca Brenner and Interim Dean of Students Nycole Courtney and Assistant Dean of Students Ryan Dinneen O’Neil declined to comment.