After a “heated” debate, the Student Government (SG) Senate issued Student Body President Juan Soltero a censure at Tuesday’s meeting, and senators said they won’t waver on their decision.
Senate passed the censure with a 23-17-2 vote because Soltero failed to elect a chair for the Election Rules Commission (ERC), a committee responsible for overseeing all Senate and midterm elections.
SG statutes define a censure as “a resolution passed by the Senate in lieu of impeachment. It is a written reprimand given to an official whose actions may have warranted impeachment, but the Senate felt impeachment or removal from office was not necessary.”
SG officials who receive three or more resolutions of censures during their term will be subject to impeachment proceedings, according to SG statutes.
Senator Dan Shelnutt said he decided to pursue a censure charge instead of an impeachment charge because Soltero did have a nominee for the ERC chair position despite his “very poor planning.”
Shelnutt called the censure charge a “slap on the wrist” and said it is only a written warning to show the Senate’s disapproval.
Soltero said he submitted a memo to notify the Senate of his nomination for the Supervisor of Elections Friday.
However, SG statutes say that when a student body president calls a special session of the Senate to review a nomination, the Senate must be given a 72-hour notice. Soltero only provided 36, SG Senator Abdelfattah Nimer said.
Because the Senate was unable to appoint the ERC chair by the specified time frame, Senators Kelly Budnick and Shelnutt issued the censure to Soltero on the charges of “nonfeasance.”
SG statutes define nonfeasance as “a failure to perform an act that is either an official duty or a legal requirement.”
“I feel like in order for us – the Senate – to do our job we need the student body president to do his job,” Budnick said. “We’ve dealt with issues with the ERC in the past, and I didn’t want to see those things come up again. I didn’t want to see more delay.”
Soltero said he felt that the Senate’s interpretation of the statute was wrong and plans to appeal to the SG Supreme Court.
“It publicly humiliates a public figure, it happens … there will always be opinions about the president, we’re constantly in a fishbowl,” Soltero said. “I think the important thing is to make sure we get the facts and to take it to the court and let the court decide whether the statute is right or wrong.”
Shelnutt said he did not intend to use the censure as a “witch hunt,” and hoped Soltero would view the censure as a “learning experience.”
However, Soltero said the censure was a “waste of time.”
“I think there are a lot of people in Senate who are not very knowledgable about different areas of SG,” he said. “The Senate doesn’t have offices in the suite. They’re not (in the SG offices) on a daily basis. They’re here whenever they have a chance, and for them to be judging whether I did the right thing or not is a little disheartening. But then again, it’s their call.”
Budnick said regardless of the SG Supreme Court’s decision, the censure charges cannot be revoked.
According to SG statutes, “The Student Body President shall nominate, and with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoint a student for Supervisor of Elections by the end of October each year.”
Soltero said he has nominated a chair for the ERC, which will go before Senate for confirmation during a special session that will take place Nov. 13.
Soltero said the delay in the appointing was attributed to a lack of interest in the position. He said only four students submitted applications by the designated due date, thus it was postponed.
SG Vice President Bruno Portigliatti said he felt that many senators were “afraid to speak their minds” because of the heated nature of the Senate debate. He said senators should have allowed more time to make a decision.
“I feel like the decision was a little too precipitated, too premature, and I really don’t think they understand the implications of this,” he said. “Senators sitting in those seats don’t understand the repercussions of something that, to them, may seem small, but in reality is not that small.”