In an effort to remedy the underlying race issues that have risen within the Student Government Association (SGA) since the announcement that five minority members were being impeached, President Chris Portera announced his decision to delay the trial hearings until the organization’s communication problems could be addressed.
Since the members were first notified of their impeachments, two, Tiffany Meredith, sophomore class secretary and Octavia Smith, senator of culture and society, have resigned and will no longer be involved in the trial hearings.
In place of the scheduled trial hearing Monday night, Portera informed the SGA of the reasons behind his decision.
“This is quite possibly the most difficult moment of my life,” Portera said. “For the past two years I have watched the SGA bounce around the issue of race.”
According to Portera, the impeachment and senate trials have nothing to do with race and that he made the decision to delay them so that the entire organization could take advantage of the opportunity to work on their communication problems.
“Tonight we were to deal with a recall that had nothing to do with race,” Portera said.
“I am tired of bending around this issue,” Portera added. “Why is it that when five black members of one organization are impeached, the issue of race is raised but not discussed?”
Rohit Thawani, student trustee, agreed that the main issue behind all of the organization’s problems is communication.
“We really have to figure out what was communicated wrong,” Thawani said.
“The members with the five worst attendance records were all of a similar race. We acted according to the rules; we had to do what we had to do,” he added.
Thawani said that while, in the end, it looked like the impeachments were strategic, race was in no way a consideration.
“I thought it was inevitable that this would come up. The race card was pulled and now we have to talk about why these things are happening,” he added.
Before deciding on a course of action, according to Portera, he brought his concerns to Kevin Maldonado, student organizations coordinator, Wanda Anderson, director of Campus Life, Mary-Elaine Perry, dean of Student Life and College President R. Barbara Gitenstein.
“Chris always seeks out a lot of input,” Thawani said. “Ultimately it was his decision, but it was a decision he had the right to make.”
Thawani added, “I agree with what he is doing. Chris has a lot of pressure on him. We really have to find out what was communicated wrong.”
As a result, according to Nadia Gorski, SGA vice president, Perry will look for a person to act as a facilitator of a discussion of race, diversity and communication issues at Wednesday’s meeting, previously scheduled as the second day of impeachment trials.
“After discussing with administration and the executive board, we realized there were issues internally, communication wise and diversity wise, that need to be addressed,” Gorski said.
“We recognized that these are more pressing issues. If people feel we can’t do our job for the students then something needs to be done, which is why we are having this workshop,” she added.
“I was surprised at the change of events, but I appreciate what Chris is trying to do,” Lauren LeBano, senator of education, said.
“He is trying to make sure the members keep focused on the right issues. I admire that he took time to address that,” she added.
“While every senator has the right to express their feelings,” Gorski said.
“Chris is president for a reason. I am putting my trust in the fact that he made the right decision and I think that he did,” she added.
“Nothing with impede this organization from moving forward,” Portera said.
At this time there has been no date set for the impeachment trial hearings.
It has yet to be announced whether the Wednesday workshop will be a general body meeting.
SGA general body meetings are held every Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. in the Brower Student Center, Room 202.