Student Government discusses bills, possible impeachment at closed informal meeting

LAUREN RAMSEYER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF and ERIN MADDEN, SPORTS EDITOR

 

The members of Student Government discussed and debated the possible impeachment of a senator during their Monday night informal meeting that was closed to the public.

Sen. Zacchaeus Lock is under inquiry for his alleged “reprehensible actions and comments” against Student Government and its members.

After a discussion of the bills that will be voted on during the closed meeting on Wednesday, President Ben Stroka reminded everyone that it was a closed meeting and that all who were not members of Student Government had to leave the room, with the exception of the Rev. Shawn Roberson, TOR; club representatives; and members of The Troubadour.

Vice President Christian Ferris, exercising his rights under Robert’s Rules of Order, relinquished the gavel and his chair to Chief Justice Tommy Valentine. For this to happen in the middle of a meeting is a rare occurrence.

Before beginning, Valentine outlined some rules of decorum for the senators to follow while discussing the “unpleasant” situation.

He began by reading the Letter of Removal put forth by Senators Gabe Gessler, Conall Hughes, Sarah Sperduto and Stephen Shaw:

“Article VIII, section A. of the Student Government by-laws stipulates that ‘a Senator may be removed from his office for charges of malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance.’

“We members of the Senate respectfully seek the removal of Senator Lock from the FUSG due to numerous reprehensible actions and comments that have led to the intentional degradation of FUSG and its members. Over the past months serving in the Senate, Mr. Lock has slandered and encouraged slander of Student Government as a whole and of specific members with regards to their faith, intelligence, and intentions.

“Senator Lock has encouraged the questioning of specific Senator’s love and understanding of their faith, has inexcusably and wrongly accused the FUSG of inappropriate behavior, accusing the intentions of all members of FUSG as self serving, labeling FUSG in its entirety as lacking intelligence, and accusing the FUSG as not representing the student body (sic).

“Mr. Lock has shown an utter lack of respect for the organization of which he is a part and who’s members elected him with full faith (sic). These very same members who elected Mr. Lock have found themselves and the FUSG under constant defamation by said senator. Therefore, in order to avoid scandal, we request for Mr. Lock to resign. If the Senator does not resign we motion to remove Senator Lock from the FUSG.”

The problem discussed in the meeting was brought about by anonymous and non-anonymous comments on the social media outlets Yik Yak and Facebook.

Justice Liz Costello led comments by saying that although people have been hurt or personally offended and that there may have been instances in which Senator Lock “overstepped,” she also said that a “similar argument could be made for a lot of us in the Student Government in various aspects.”

She added that it may be more beneficial to lay out stricter guidelines for what the Student Government deems to be “appropriate behavior both in and out of the meetings in regards to Student Government business.”

Sperduto then replied that she was “clearly in support of this (letter of removal); I wrote this,” but that the petition for removal was not something that she wanted to do from the start. She mentioned that, a few weeks ago, Lock was asked to stop using social media in this manner and did not do so.

“Speaking personally, yes, I did get involved in some of the arguments on Facebook, but that was after I had been pulled into it,” said Sperduto.

She continued by saying all members of certain clubs should be trying to uphold the image of that club.

“Speaking poorly about the Student Government on Facebook just shows a lack of respect for your position in Student Government,” Sperduto said.

She said she had to block every person that was involved in the online dialogues because she was getting harassed via Facebook and text messages.

“I was personally offended,” said Sperduto.

She also said that members of the Priestly Discernment Program were called out online for not understanding the Eucharist and she thought that was completely out of line.

Sperduto added, “I think most things that were said on Facebook were completely disrespectful.”

After addressing each person present as a brother or sister in Christ and as a friend, Sen. Dan Smith said, “I do have qualms with this … letter of removal. (These qualms) come from the fifth chapter of Matthew,” which he then read.

Smith continued by saying that the way social media was used in this case was unacceptable but asked if there was another way that the issue could be reconciled.

Lock said that the intention of his social media activity was not to be disrespectful or to accuse Student Government but to inform the members about the harassing posts on Yik Yak and that he believed it violated the Student Code of Conduct.

It was made known at the meeting that one person who made defaming remarks on Yik Yak about Lock had made a confession to him on Sunday and was not a member of Student Government as originally believed.

“Again, I wasn’t intending to accuse any members of Student Government by posting (the screen capture of the Yak on Facebook), so if that was your interpretation of that, I am sorry,” said Lock. He added that there have been other defaming Yaks that he has not received a confession or apology for at that time.

“I don’t think that using Yik Yak is a reliable source because anyone can write anything on Yik Yak,” said Sperduto. “I think we need to look at what has actually been said on Facebook using names of people.”

Sperduto said that the letter of removal is “not a direct attack at any specific senator,” but as of recently, Student Government has not been portrayed in a good light on social media. She said that as senators, they are held to a higher standard on campus and need to live out the Student Government covenant in their lives.

Lock responded that he has not only posted things for which he is being reprimanded, but that he does post things about the bills he sponsors.

“While I do post some things on controversial issues on Facebook,” said Lock, “and I apologize if they are interpreted in the wrong way or taken to be, as a whole, ultimately defaming to Student Government, but on the other hand, I also post notices of every single routine financial bill for the clubs that I propose. … I have not been merely calling out stuff that has been out of the procedure; I have also been giving a full account of my own actions in Student Government.”

Smith commented that opinions from all the senators present were needed in order to have a greater discourse about the issue.

Shaw, one of the authors of the letter, reminded the members that this problem had been addressed in the past and it has continued.

Sen. Samantha Martinez said that Student Government’s mission is to serve the clubs on campus, not to be seen as such a controversial entity as it has been the past two semesters.

“We need to be more respectful about what we are posting on social media, what we are replying to on social media, because while we can individually reply … it also reflects our organization,” said Martinez. “We are a positive organization.”

Sen. Jonathan Kay noted that it was unfortunate that there was distrust from the student body and that he does “take it personally even though I am not addressed specifically.”

He continued that while Lock may not have made some of these Facebook comments himself, by “liking” the comments as he did, some of which Kay said were “very nasty,” Lock endorsed the comments.

Costello said, “While I clearly agree that there is tension … and some action needs to be taken, I think it important to note that tension is a two-way street.”

She continued by saying that she had been approached multiple times by students who were concerned about the actions of Student Government and also those of Lock.

Hughes, another author of the letter, reminded the members that the senator in question had been issued multiple warnings about his conduct.

Sen. Andrea Moury said that, in a speech made to Student Government at a formal meeting, Lock seemed to indicate that anyone who crossed him would be punched.

Stroka said that this was a serious matter and that he had discussed it with Student Government’s adviser, David Schmiesing, who said that the grounds were solid for impeachment and that he would have Student Government’s “back.” Stroka said he told Schmiesing he could come to the meeting that evening if he wanted to but that it was not necessary for him to be present.

“It’s not with joy that I say this,” said Stroka who continued by saying that Lock was elected by the members present and those same members have since been attacked by him. “As the head of Student Government, it doesn’t please me at all that it has come to this, but the senators at issue with this have legit concerns.”

Smith said that they all should act in charity, prudence and truth and also that he believed Lock should not be impeached, but that this issue should be addressed through some other path.

Lock said he may have made bad comments on Facebook that were “injudicious” but that he was not approached in person “for the most part” by members of Student Government. He also cited the fact that he was new to Student Government and has not had much experience.

Sen. Katie Irvin said she would have been afraid to approach Lock due to her fear of her personal comments being posted on Facebook and ridiculed.

Martinez agreed, saying that people do have fear approaching the senator in question due to his persona on Facebook.

Executive Assistant Elizabeth Collins, who is not a voting member, said that she is proud to be a member of Student Government but that “this is not what we are here to do. This is ridiculous.”

Shaw made a comment to Lock saying that “being new is no excuse or license to be rude. … Our actions have an effect on other people. … We are trying to do our jobs here to the best of our ability” and that these comments and actions do not help.

Hughes mentioned that the head of each branch warned Lock individually.

Ferris added that he advised Lock on three separate occasions via Facebook, directly following a formal meeting and also during a formal meeting.

Sperduto said that she is the “most experienced member of Student Government” and that she was hurt and feels personally attacked by members of Student Government.

She continued, “If this movement doesn’t go through, then I myself will be resigning because I don’t feel comfortable coming to this anymore.”

Lock said that his remark about punching members of the Student Government was an attempt at humor and that he was not intending to be belligerent or combative.

Gessler, also one of the authors of the letter, made the movement to adjourn the meeting and Roberson, who was present for the entirety of the meeting, closed the meeting with a blessing.

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