At marathon meeting, KU Student Senate grapples with impeachment of student body leaders

At a frequently contentious Student Senate meeting with an overflow crowd on Kansas University’s campus Wednesday night, senators introduced a bill of impeachment against three student body leaders after they declined recent calls to resign.

Last Friday, the Student Executive Committee voted 6-3, with one abstention, to adopt “a motion of no confidence in the leadership of Student Body President Jessie Pringle, Student Body Vice President Zach George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon.” As part of that motion, the committee asked Pringle, George and Moon to resign by 5 p.m. Wednesday or face impeachment.

Those actions followed a forum on race, moderated by KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, that drew a crowd of 1,000 people one week ago.

Wednesday night in the Kansas Union, which remained open after midnight, well past its usual closing time, Pringle, George and Moon took turns addressing the Senate, speaking of their desire to continue in their current positions and addressing race-related issues brought forward by the executive committee, student-led group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk and fellow senators.

Kansas University student body president Jessie Pringle gives her officer's report during a senate meeting Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 in the Big 12 room at the Kansas Union.

“I did not resign, and I’m not leaving the student body behind, because I still have work to do,” Pringle told the crowd, expressing a desire “to commit myself” to the discussion of greater inclusiveness on campus.

“In order for us to make real progress on campus, we have to come together,” George concluded. “We can’t be tearing people down, and we can’t pit students against each other.

“We need improvement, not impeachment,” he added.

A bill of impeachment was introduced during Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted more than five hours. One-fourth of the Senate’s voting members must sign the bill, according to the body’s rules, and those required signatures were attached to the document that circulated throughout the audience and on social media Wednesday night.

Senator Shegufta Huma outlined the executive committee’s grievances.

“The committee found no confidence in the president, vice president and chief of staff,” she said, “based on the lack of action from the three officers throughout their terms to address issues facing multicultural and marginalized students.”

The process next continues to a committee phase that leads to an official hearing with majority support. A two-thirds majority vote, on roll call, is required to formally pass an impeachment.

“We are going to continue to work to take actions to address these demands,” Moon told the Journal-World after the impeachment bill was introduced.

Quote of the night

Just before hour five of the meeting, while members of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk had the floor, the Senate was informed that an anonymous donor had ordered several pizzas delivered for the governing body and audience. That announcement elicited displeasure from group member Kat Rainey. “I don’t want to sit here and wait for you all to eat pizza so I can affirm my humanity,” she told the gathering.

A majority of the Senate also voted in favor of a resolution supporting further discussion of the demands issued at last week’s forum by Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk.

“You’re not listening, and you don’t believe us every single time we have an issue,” said Ramiro Sarmiento, of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk, specifically addressing Pringle, George and Moon. “It’s insulting and degrading. I’ve been here four years, and I’m tired.”

Added Kat Rainey, another member of the group: “Us being in one space does not equal unity.”

The issue of racial tension on university campuses came up earlier Wednesday at the Kansas Board of Regents meeting in Wichita, where Pringle, who is chairwoman of the Regents Students’ Advisory Committee, told the board some students are “hurting.”

A day earlier, in a message to campus, KU Provost Jeff Vitter announced the university has assembled an advisory team and plans to deliver an action plan by mid-January to address racial disparity and inclusion on campus. Some Republican state lawmakers took issue with that announcement Wednesday, saying they feared diversity training would squelch conservative thought on campus.

Points in this story have been clarified to reflect that the impeachment process began Wednesday with the introduction of a bill with the required number of signatures.