In the Executive Board meeting on Monday, September 23, Todd Troester ‘15 presented a letter calling for the impeachment of Student Government AssociationPresident Hayim Wolf ‘14. As a result, SGA Executive Board voted to reconvene senate for this upcoming Sunday at 8 p.m. to call a vote for Wolf’s impeachment.
Troester’s proposal addresses the executive board’s decision to suspend senate and the constitution. The letter was initially sent to Executive Board in addition to the Dean of Students, Assistant Dean of Students, Special Assistant to the President, College Chaplain, Director of Student Engagement, Assistant Director for Programming and Orientation, Program Coordinator at OSE, Associate Director for Community-Based Learning and Community Service Programs, and the Assistant Vice President for Student Life.
“The current SGA president, as the Chair of the Executive Board, has the duty to uphold the SGA Constitution and was elected to uphold the very Constitution he has suspended,” the letter reads. “The current SGA president has failed to take responsibility for his unconstitutional acts.”
Troester had an opportunity to present his proposition to approximately one-hundred students who attended the meeting.
“I have nothing to gain and nothing to lose from this,” Troester stated. “I do not intend on being on Exec Board. I do not intend to run for president.”
Rather, Troester’s frustration stemmed from the lack of communication, representation, and adherence to the Constitution by the president and Executive Board. Troester intended for the letter to serve as a warning to the rest of Executive Board, noting in a private meeting that according to the constitution all members of the Board are impeachable. The constitution does not give Executive Board the power to dissolve senate or to suspend the constitution.
Wolf responded to the letter of impeachment openly.
“I appreciated that you sent this letter; I appreciate that you sent it to me,” Wolf said. But the SGA president took issue to the “presentation of this as a unilateral decision by me. … I try very strongly to take account of the voices of dissent.”
In a private meeting, Wolf argued that Executive Board’s actions were necessary.
“Is it constitutional to call a non-representative body that [last year] agreed that it is non-representative? No, probably not. Is it constitutional for the Executive Board to dissolve the senate or to dissolve the Constitution and hold a convention like this? No, absolutely not. … It was the choice to try and tackle the issue head-on,” he said.
Wolf also attempted to clarify Executive Board’s actions at the meeting.
“The Constitution was changed last year to redesign the way representation worked. … When it came time to hold elections for senate positions it was discovered that we couldn’t do that,” Wolf said, referring to the house representation system that was passed last spring. Under the system, each house would have elected a representative for senate.
“[The system] wouldn’t work because there was no structure,” explained Lenna Blaser ‘14, who resigned from her post as clerk of elections on September 15. “Also, Community Living had never been talked to about the changes in the constitution.”
Because the new positions could not be filled, senate would not reach quorum, the two-thirds of the body required to attend to make a meeting official. Therefore, senate could not be convened, and the Executive Board was unable to revise the constitution.
“It was basically a huge catch-22,” said vice president for clubs, Olivia Shestopal ‘15, in a private meeting.
In response to the situation, Executive Board polled at their September 2 meeting between three options offered by Wolf: ignore quorum and call senate with only club representatives, dissolve senate and rewrite the Constitution using a separate forum, or gather a group of students separate of the student body to rewrite the constitution. One Board member voted for the first option, five for the second, and two for the third. At the September 9 meeting, Executive Board voted 6-2 to continue with plans to dissolve senate and rewrite the Constitution.
Prior to the final vote to reconvene senate, Board members and students who attended the meeting had the opportunity to respond to the proposition.
“We are not being represented at all,” said a student in support of impeachment. “[That’s] the thing I’m most horrified about.” The student’s comments reflected a common objection to SGA’s current state.
Students also objected that the meeting was not publicized to the entire student body. Wolf asked each Board member to personally invite five students. Although the SGA president said the number was simply for reasons of space, some attendees felt the process excluded certain student leaders and the majority of students who normally aren’t involved with senate.
“Freshmen were not told about this [meeting],” said Erin Snyder, Class of 2017 President. “It kind of feels like we were kept in the dark.” However, other students were less negative, even expressing firmly that impeachment is not the answer.
“Impeachment is a band-aid solution. … I don’t know what would be accomplished by impeaching anyone,” Christina Kim ‘15 said. “Impeaching someone, it will not solve anything.”
Vice President of Programming Board Torri Hughes ‘14 focused on clarifying the Board’s decision-making process.
“We are not throwing away the constitution, we are adding to it,” Hughes explained.
It appeared that all members of Executive Board felt responsible for the lack of communication with the students. Vice President of Communications Jen Pelizza ‘15 specifically explained her regret. “This was a really difficult situation we were in. I wish I had communicated better.”
Shestopal agreed with Pelizza that SGA as a whole neglected to keep the students in the loop. But she also expressed her objection to suspend the Constitution and senate in the first place.
“It’s really important [to note] that this really was not a unanimous decision,” Shestopal said in the meeting. “I say this as the major dissenting vote.”
Shestopal also explained her discontent that SGA’s current function is exclusively funding clubs.
“[Currently] we are quite literally functioning as an ATM … that dishes out money with no human interaction,” she said.
In addition, Blaser mentioned that student positions on administrative committees are yet to be filled.
However Vice President for Social Justice Ananas Mustafa ‘14 brought the conversation back to the impeachment expressing that there is a “huge gap between [fixing the constitution] and an attempt to impeach Hayim. … There needs to be a conversation before we attempt to overthrow. I want people … [to have] a dialogue rather than an attack.”
In preparation for Sunday’s senate meeting, Executive Board recommended that all clubs register and send their SGA representative to the meeting. They also suggest that each student should only represent one club.
In the event of impeachment, Troester’s letter requested the election of a new President. In the interim, he recommended that the Director of Student Engagement, Stacy Cooper Patterson, who is also SGA’s advisor, act as Executive Board chair to reimplement the constitution and Senate. But Troester’s letter did not ignore the need for Constitutional Reform.
“The efforts of students to rewrite the Constitution should not be abandoned,” the letter reads. “A constitutional ad hoc committee should be proposed and voted on by the Student senate. We recommend Hayim Wolf as chair of this committee.”
Despite the varying opinions, students expressed a common goal in the meeting: to improve Goucher’s student government.
“Let’s use this opportunity to make [SGA] something better,” Eric Sargent ‘15 said.