Senator Zyanne Cervantes resigned from the Associated Students of the University of Montana during public comment at its first meeting of the semester, citing isolation from other senators and disagreements about the executive team’s actions during her time on the body.
“I made a mistake,” Cervantes said after providing a content warning for suicidal ideation in her statement on the Senate floor. “From the very beginning, I’ve understood the need to accept responsibility for my actions.”
The Kaimin reached out to Cervantes for comment on her resignation. She did not respond in time for publication. She also never directly shared what “mistake” she was referring to in her statement.
Cervantes started serving on ASUM at the beginning of last semester. As a member of a hiring committee, Cervantes shared interview materials of new applicants for ASUM outside of the body. That led to ASUM vice president Alexandra Berna dissolving the entire interview committee on Oct. 5.
ASUM also voted to demote Cervantes from her vice chair position on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee on Nov. 2. Cervantes said she had been an ineffective communicator in her capacity as vice chair and that it was the best decision for the committee moving forward, according to ASUM’s minutes.
“All of you sealed my fate on Nov. 2 with your vote,” Cervantes said on the Senate floor. “You are all responsible for the students' lack of trust and faith in this organization.”
Cervantes criticized the executives in her resignation, stating that instead of deciding to demote her from the DEI committee because of concerns about her conduct, they should have called an ethics violation review board.
That process is laid out in Article VI of ASUM’s Code of Ethics. Berna told the Kaimin that Cervantes “specifically requested” her removal from the committee at the time. Her removal from the committee for ineffective communication did not require a board to be called, according to Berna.
Cervantes said she doesn't feel that the executives act in the best interest of the senate or the student body.
“We all put our trust in the executives, in believing they knew what they were doing,” Cervantes said. “Your lack of proper proceedings led to not only distrust in the organization, but also left a sour taste in my mouth.”
Berna said there are other matters regarding Cervantes’ time in ASUM that she didn’t mention in her resignation, but Berna said she will not share them because she wants to maintain her “respect for privacy” for the students she serves.
ASUM illegally closed its Nov. 30 meeting for an hour and thirteen minutes to discuss disciplinary actions for Cervantes. That meeting has since been voided by ASUM for violating the public’s right to know.
Cervantes said she received two separate emails from two senators last semester. One senator asked for her resignation, while another demanded it and threatened to call an ethics review board that “should have been held at the beginning.” Cervantes said this dynamic between her and her fellow senators had personal impacts on her.
“A student club should not confer shame, humiliation and the worst mental health I’ve had in my 20 years of life,” Cervantes said. “For the first time since I've been teaching adults, I thought about dying, killing myself. I was begging for help and a hand to hold through it all.”
After giving her resignation, Senator Adrian Cook raised his placard requesting Cervantes to stand for questions as she was walking out.
“I think after making a statement like that, the speaker should be open to question,” Cook said. Cervantes walked out of the room without acknowledging his request.
Berna said everything pertaining to Cervantes’ resignation has been tremendously difficult for the senate, her fellow executives and ASUM staff to navigate, interpret and act upon.
Cervantes said she hopes that ASUM understands that someone else will inevitably make a mistake, and it is no longer her job to worry about it and she needs to value her time and needs.
“I'd like for you all to stop and think how you've treated me, a fellow senator, a fellow student and a fellow human,” Cervantes said. “The sooner you're realizing you’re just a student like me, the sooner you'll be able to make a real change not just within this campus, but hopefully within yourselves as well.”
ASUM will reconvene on Jan. 25, where it will likely consider a resolution authored by senator Garrett Miglin that would clarify how senators can be removed from committees via full senate votes.
If you need help, call the 988 Suicide Hotline.