President keeps job after lengthy absence

Christianne Rojo

The Associated Student Senate reinstated Camila Avendano as senate president Friday by an 11-2 margin, with one abstention, despite having missed four consecutive senate meetings.

Avendano, an international student, left City College on Feb. 26 after her parents had won the immigration lottery – a vital step in order to become a U.S. citizen. She missed three meetings while in Chile, including a trip to Washington D.C., and returned March 24.

“We didn’t receive the visa immediately because of problems within the embassy,” Avendano said. She was originally supposed to stay two weeks in Chile, but Avendano said that lengthy medical and mental exams delayed her return.

The president’s stay in Santa Barbara would, however, be short-lived, as she left for Stockholm, Sweden, two days later in order to spend time with her boyfriend over spring break.

In doing so she missed her fourth consecutive meeting.

“At the beginning of the semester I bought my tickets to have spring break in Europe,” Avendano said. “I tried to change the day of my flight, but it was too expensive.”

According to the student senate by-laws, if any senator or officer misses more than three meetings, he or she may be voted out by two-thirds senate vote.

But Friday’s vote would never get that close, despite mixed emotions during reinstatement deliberations.

Student senators Kevin Fock and Jason Stanley were hesitant to reinstate Avendano. They were concerned that her absence was too long, causing her to miss too much information.

However, senators who had worked with Avendano longer were quick to come to her defense.

“Camila was not out of touch, she let us know what was going on,” said Atty Garfinkel, Commissioner of Clubs and Organizations. “We have removed people for lack of attendance. This is as close as an excused absence as we get.”

“She’s gone through a lot of stuff and she has still not given up,” Student Senator Dano Pagenkopf said. “I like seeing that, she’s a good leader.”

Tram Nyugen, Vice President of Operations and Finances, also explained that losing their president so late in the semester could pose as a larger problem for the student senate. Nyugen said that replacing Avendano would be too time consuming, and may take away time from other important issues.

Student Senate Trustee Sean Knotts praised Avendano’s leadership skills, especially for stepping up and taking on the role of president at the beginning of Fall 2008.

“You can’t expect to find that leadership anywhere else,” Knotts said.

Student Senate Adviser T.K. Erickson told The Channels that Avendano has dropped three classes, leaving her with eight units, but more time to commit to the student senate.

“She has informed me because her school load is lessened she can commit more time,” Erickson said.

After being reinstated, Avendano shared her jubilation with The Channels.

“I’m so happy,” said Avendano. “It’s exciting to see how they appreciate my work, especially after being gone.”

“I’m really impressed that she has handled this so well,” Mike Lin, Vice President of External Affairs, said. Lin had filled in for Avendano during her absence.

Senator Emily Harrington, who’s running for president next year, was the only senator to abstain. Avendano chose not to answer whether she thought the move to be politically based, but did call the move “professional,” since they didn’t know one another before Avendano’s departure to Chile.

City College does not currently have an extended absence policy, however as a general guideline absences are considered excessive after three or more missed meetings.

“I believe the attendance policy is good, but we should consider that the circumstances are different for everybody,” Avendano said.

Avendano said that she will not be returning to City College for Fall 2009, but will continue taking classes in Spring 2010.

– Kenny Lindberg contributed to this story.