Impeachment threats: a trendy way to silence campus conservatives
At universities across the country, student senators have faced threats of impeachment for infractions such as inviting conservative speakers to campus and voting contrary to the wishes of liberal student groups.
To keep track of this troubling trend, Campus Reform has created a map of the impeachment efforts that have surfaced thus far, along with a synopsis of the situation at each school.
University of Kansas
Last November, the Student Body President, Vice President, and Chief of Staff at the University of Kansas endured a no-confidence vote and demands for their resignations after they failed to demonstrate sufficient enthusiasm for a diversity ultimatum issued by student activists.
Although the executives did not actually express opposition to any of the initiatives being demanded, members of the Student Executive Committee approved a no-confidence resolution based on the fact that they did not "stand in solidarity with their black peers and proclaim that Black Lives Matter" during a forum to discuss racial issues.
Despite impassioned, even hysterical, testimony from members of the unofficial student group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawks, which authored the diversity ultimatum, the full Senate ultimately voted by secret ballot to exonerate all three officers.
The Dean of Students at Bowdoin College sent a campus-wide email at the end of February announcing an investigation into a potential “act of ethnic stereotyping” involving a tequila-themed party at which several guests were photographed wearing sombreros. Student Government voted unanimously to issue a “statement of solidarity” in support of “all students who were affected by the ‘tequila’ party,” and called on administrators to create a “supportive space” for students who felt targeted by the party.
When allegations surfaced that two Student Government representatives had attended the party, the Senate reacted with similar outrage, immediately filing articles of impeachment against them for “injurious actions to other members of the General Assembly.”
The idea was quickly stymied, however, after the senators realized that their bylaws are “extremely vague” on the issue and concluded that proceeding with the effort would expose them to the risk of legal action.
Colorado State University
In early March, the CSU Student Senate voted against a bill that would have created additional Senate seats reserved for “historically underrepresented” students. Advocates of the measure refused to accept that outcome, however, and initiated impeachment proceedings against 10 senators who had voted against the measure in an effort to contrive passage by eliminating the opposition.
The ploy worked, inducing some of the senators to resign and cowing others into submission. Just days after the original vote, one of the senators facing impeachment reintroduced it for a second vote, at which point it passed by a convincing margin.
University of Southern California
USC student senator Jacob Ellenhorn was confronted in March with a formal complaint from a Student Government executive seeking to remove him from office for “violations” such as providing information to Campus Reform and hosting a lecture by Milo Yiannopoulos through his role with College Republicans.
Each of the charges against Ellenhorn were directly related to his political activities, prompting even some of his opponents to question their legitimacy, warning that impeaching him on such a “flimsy” basis would only confirm the university’s reputation for intolerance toward conservatives.
Ellenhorn’s colleagues ultimately decided not to remove him from office, some of them even citing reputational concerns, but at the same time voted to withhold the $250 remaining on his stipend as punishment for expressing his conservative views in public.
University of Virginia
UVA student senator Erich Reimer attracted the ire of liberal classmates in late March after bragging on social media that his abstention helped to defeat a bill that would have officially recognized a student group dedicated to supporting illegal immigrants at the university.
Despite issuing a private apology to members of the “DREAMers on Grounds” group after some student took offense at his use of the term “illegal immigrants,” Reimer’s detractors refused to back down, demanding not only a public apology, but also that he step down from his position on Student Government.
The Student Council Executive Board responded with a statement acknowledging that Reimer’s remarks were “insensitive,” but also recognizing that they were “hastily written in partisan fueled enthusiasm,” and indicating that it would not pursue disciplinary action against him or any other representatives who abstained.
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