The Student Government (SG) Senate voted to say it has confidence in Ethics Chair Melanie Marshall at its meeting Tuesday night. However, this was a highly debated conclusion to reach.
With an ultimate vote count of 13-9, Marshall kept her position despite senators expressing concerns about how she’s run the committee and decisions regarding an investigation that started over summer.
The Ethics committee is responsible for reviewing constitutions of student organizations, confirming the executive branch’s cabinet and having investigations brought to it.
This last area is where Sen. Aladdin Hiba, who called for a vote of confidence (VOC) against Marshall, said she had lapsed in her duties.
“I take the Vote of Confidence very seriously,” Hiba said. “I’m not going to send one in unless I really don’t have confidence and I don’t have confidence in our investigation process. I feel like if one of us sent in an investigation, I would not have confidence that the investigation would be played out in a decent manner for the filer, the committee members and everyone involved.”
Meanwhile, Marshall argued that she couldn’t continue the investigation while still providing both parties with due process.
“They (investigations) are not simple, not yes or no, not black or white, not wrong or right,” she said. “There are a lot of things that need to be considered, and every single side – the filer, the respondent, everybody involved – has an equal right to due process, to respect, to have the ability to be heard.”
The investigation in question was filed on June 17 – and reviewed by four committee members along with Marshall 10 days later – and officially closed on Oct. 10.
According to Hiba, this span of time is unacceptable and the fact that the investigation was archived without a conclusion showed Marshall wasn’t fully doing her job as Ethics Chair. However, the final straw for him was that she closed the investigation without discussing it with the committee first.
Marshall said that during that time, the Ethics Committee was working on a total of 33 confirmations, which is ongoing, and that it wasn’t uncommon for meetings to run long due to the amount of time each confirmation takes.
At the Oct. 10 Senate meeting, Marshall announced that the investigation had been closed based on advice from the SG Attorney General. She explained how out of the four committee members that originally heard the investigation, only one was still on the committee. She said one of the members recused themselves due to a conflict of interest, one had to leave the committee at the beginning of the fall semester due to class and one resigned from SG in September.
“It is the opinion of the Attorney General that an investigation shall be closed and archived if an investigation’s initial committee has been exhausted and now does not meet quorum,” the Attorney General wrote as Marshall presented on Oct. 10. “Allowing the investigation to continue without meeting quorum and adding members after an investigation will violate due process as described in our statutes.”
Hiba and other concerned senators argued that she should have put the investigation as a priority over confirmations or called special meetings to ensure it received proper review.
“She could have extended meeting times just like every other committee,” Nnaemeka Nwoke, Relations Committee chair, said. “She could have called special sessions. Are you telling me that during these four months, she couldn’t have called at least one special session that would be devoted to making sure this investigation was completed?”
However, some senators argued that while Marshall hadn’t done everything within her power to properly conclude the investigation, this wasn’t a reason to remove her from her post as she was fulfilling the other requirements of her position. Additionally, they brought up concerns that it may be an issue within the system rather than something with Marshall.
“They didn’t have those people hired yet so they couldn’t confirm them until the investigation was already underway,” Sen. Sarah Lucker said. “There wasn’t enough time. It was like nothing, nothing, nothing, bam you have to do a hundred things. It’s not her fault and it’s not the committee’s fault either.”