ASUO Vice President Montse Mendez announced her resignation in a public letter Thursday, citing what she described as a “hostile work environment” created by ASUO President Sabinna Pierre.
In a letter linked in her Instagram biography, Mendez said that the rift between her and Pierre began with an “internal mistake” that she said she admitted to and has tried to learn from.
Mendez’s letter did not specify the nature of her mistake, which she described as administrative, but said that Pierre described it as a crime. Mendez said Pierre threatened her with expulsion and legal consequences “which she knew could affect my immigration status - unless I resigned.”
Pierre and Mendez did not respond to requests for comment.
Upon consultation with ASUO advisors and the code of conduct, “[i]t turns out there were no consequences and this was simply an internal conflict,” Mendez said in her letter.
[Read Mendez’s resignation letter here]
Becky Girvan, director of Student Government Engagement and Success, said she wouldn’t call the incident referred to in the letter a crime, but she declined to elaborate upon the circumstances of the dispute.
Mendez said that over the course of the summer, Pierre spread “false narratives” about her to ASUO alumni, student leaders and mutual friends “in hopes to turn them against” her.
“I am resigning because I did not run for office to fight another student,” Mendez said in her letter. “I don’t want to spend any more time on what happened here because while this is devastating, student clash (sic) distracts from the bigger problem.”
A vacancy of a high-profile ASUO position like vice president is not common, Girvan said. The ASUO Constitution does not have a succession plan like the U.S. Constitution, in which a previously elected official takes office.
“We haven’t seen a VP vacancy in at least seven years,” Girvan said.
The vice president position is now open to all eligible UO students and on the job searching app Handshake. Applicants may apply for the position and will be subject to interviews conducted by the ASUO executive and a confirmation from the ASUO senate. The student that best matches the skills and qualifications for the position will be presented to Girvan, or someone on her team, to be verified as eligible.
Mendez and Pierre ran under the Ducks Empowered slate during the 2019 ASUO Election and received 58 percent of the vote, or 955 of the 1,646 votes cast for the executive position. Among Ducks Empowered’s goals were ensuring that marginalized groups on campus received equal representation in classrooms and access to mental health treatment.
The slate also advocated for increasing stipends for student leaders and fair pay for students.
“Again, in retrospect I can see our politics and values never aligned I was just manipulated by her throughout the campaign,” Mendez said in her letter, “and I will not go into detail of her true politics and why our vision and values do not align as I believe these will become obvious to those who voted for the Ducks Empowered platform on their own with time.”