Jumping the gun — Unfounded claims divide SGA

The forcible removal of an elected official from office always attracts attention no matter what the level. From the impeachment of President Clinton to the successful recall of California Gov. Gray Davis to the recent threats of impeachment and votes of no confidence in the matter of Student Government Association (SGA) President Pedro Khoury, such procedures often become quite heated and sometimes out of control.

Several weeks ago, a group in SGA presented a list of grievances regarding the president’s character, dedication, experience and other points that are now moot anyway.

Initially supported by a significant number of SGA senators, the symbolic vote of no confidence in their chief executive was on the table for discussion this past Wednesday in Brower Student Center in front of a full house of boisterous yet concerned students.

As the testimonies and speeches from students and SGA members were presented, several claims became clear. Representatives complained that the formation of cliques had halted progress and students expressed sincere doubts about SGA’s effectiveness and its racial tolerance and ethics.

In my mind, however, the real injustice was that this event was completely blown out of proportion by both Khoury’s opponents and his supporters.

I am not involved with SGA, so unfortunately I am not privy to all of the inner workings of the organization. Still, it does not take a rocket scientist to tell that SGA has factionalized on this issue and perhaps now on others. Khoury’s supporters in the senate stood and applauded those in the audience who praised the president while those who wished to stay out of the matter abstained from voting on preliminary measures and Khoury’s opponents kept quiet under the largely hostile crowd.

It was also brought to my attention that still another group named the Student Reform Movement, calling for more direct student involvement with SGA, has formed.

The real problem here is not the president or reform; it is with communication. If SGA members talked to each other and worked out their differences, I do not think we would be seeing these drastic resolutions of no confidence and impeachment, let alone the formation of wide chasms between members of the organization.

I agree with several dissenting SGA associates citing the hastiness and childishness of the procedure. I believe that this matter could have been talked out and negotiated. The president had been in office for only two months and already the call to remove him was made.

Come on, that’s a little premature folks! How much damage could Khoury have done in two months? He was not embezzling funds or abusing his office, so there was no need to remove him with such haste. Given that SGA was still accomplishing next to nothing regardless, how bad could he have been?

Nonetheless, I am not going to completely disregard his critics’ comments either. Yes, there is a possibility that he was not experienced in SGA affairs or protocol. There is a possibility that he was not handling the office as well as expected.

Yet one rather damning question needs to be asked of Khoury opponents: why didn’t you defend your own resolution? If you feel so strongly that the president needs to go why didn’t you present your opinion despite the hostile atmosphere?

I fear that this hasty action with no defense by its proponents may have aggravated the clique situation to a status that will be difficult to repair.

To the president’s credit, I believe he handled himself extremely well under these trying circumstances. Apologizing for losing his temper and calmly stepping aside for another member to preside over the procedures, he appeared calm and confident. I was also impressed by some of the words of support from his friends and allies.

What most impressed me was his decision to set aside his stipend and contribute it back into programs for students.

What I am not impressed with, however, is how this situation was completely blown out of proportion in regard to race.

Once news of the upcoming vote became public, letters and e-mails were already circulating from the president to his allies in minority groups such as the Black Student Union and Union Latina. His request for support from his friends and allies, I feel, was completely justified.

On the other hand, the comments and counter-resolutions either outwardly or implicitly accusing the president’s opponents of racism were not. I think that these accusations or thoughts stem from misunderstanding and passions were intentionally fanned creating an unnecessarily hostile atmosphere.

I feel that this was a clique issue and a communications failure, but not a racially motivated action. The president himself stated that the resolution was not a racial issue and that there was no valid evidence of a conspiracy. His responsible comments did not seem to get through as student and professorial speakers made remarks about supporting Khoury because of his Hispanic background.

This is when I became a bit puzzled. Isn’t it enough to stand behind a person because he’s competent, a friend, innocent of the charges against him and a good leader? Why, after Khoury said that this was not a racial issue, did it suddenly become one anyway?

My friends, racism is a very serious allegation and should not be portioned out lightly. Solid proof needs to be presented to validate such claims, not speculation, spin or coincidence. SGA is ineffective, broken into factions and perhaps in need of reform but there is absolutely no evidence of it being racist.

When groups or individuals begin pointing fingers and distancing themselves along racial and cultural lines our community does not become closer, but drifts further apart.