Student Senate impeachment effort moving forward
Failing to stand in support of black peers no longer among accusations against top three officers
Later this week a Kansas University Student Senate ad hoc committee is expected to complete its recommendation for the next steps in impeachment proceedings against one of the body’s top three officers, with recommendations for the other two expected later.
It’s an increasingly complicated attempt to unseat the three leaders over diversity issues, which now involves a lengthy list of grievances against them dating back to last spring.
But the effort gained a lot of its early fuel in the Senate following one particular accusation that the leaders say is false: That at KU’s Nov. 11 town hall forum on race, Student Body President Jessie Pringle and Vice President Zach George did not “stand in solidarity with their black peers and proclaim that Black Lives Matter.”
After a group of mostly black students calling themselves Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk temporarily took over the stage and microphones to read a list of 15 diversity related demands for the university, an audience member called for those in the auditorium to stand in solidarity with their black peers.
“Zach and I definitely stood when the call went out to stand for black lives matter,” said Pringle, a senior from Chanute.
The pair did not stand when the call went out for faculty and staff to stand, she said, nor did they stand when the call went out to stand in support of the 15 demands just read by Invisible Hawk.
“At that point in time we really needed to consider all of the demands,” Pringle said. “We didn’t know a lot of the background regarding some of them.”
The accusation that they did not stand was part of a motion demanding their resignation that was presented and approved two days later at the Senate’s Student Executive Committee meeting.
Pringle likened it to the childhood game of telephone.
“It was a really emotionally intense atmosphere,” she said. “There was a lot of miscommunication that traveled through a lot of different channels.”
The accusation of failing to stand for black lives matter is not found anywhere in the most recent bill of impeachment against Pringle, George and Chief of Staff Adam Moon. The bill features a list of 17 reasons — filling five pages — that the three should lose their positions.
That bill was introduced at the Nov. 18 full Senate meeting, and signed by enough senators for impeachment proceedings to continue.
Some charges list specific accusations, including an alleged misstep during an April discussion about the Senate’s director of diversity and inclusion, and tweeting support of University of Missouri Legion of Black Collegians without taking “substantive” action to address needs of black students at KU.
Other reasons are broader, such as being the figureheads of an organization that students complained at the town hall forum excluded them and did not represent their voices, according to the bill.
Pringle declined to comment on any of the accusations, saying Senate rules call for those to be addressed if and when they come before the full Senate. George referred questions to Pringle, and Moon did not respond to email requests for an interview.
It initially appeared that a single impeachment committee would prepare a report and recommendation for all three officers.
But in an email last week, Senior Senator Lauren Arney, who’s in charge of the process, said the impeachment investigations will not run simultaneously.
“Each individual that is up for impeachment will have a separate impeachment committee as the violations included in the impeachment papers are specific to each person,” she said.
Moon is up first, and his committee plans to present its report and recommendation to the full Senate on Dec. 9, Arney said.
According to Senate rules, at that meeting the accused can make his case without debate. If a simple majority of senators vote to move forward with hearing the case, the process will continue to a special meeting with a debate style discussion.
A two-thirds vote is required to take disciplinary action, the severity of which is at the Senate’s discretion regardless of the committee’s recommendation.
It’s unclear when reports for Pringle and George will be complete, but it looks to be into the second semester because Dec. 11 is the last day of fall classes at KU.
Pringle said in the meantime, she will continue doing her job. She, George and Moon have released a list of diversity-related proposals they intend to pursue.
“We’re going to do everything we can to lead the Senate to real solutions and to respond to those concerns,” she said.
“We might take some time off over the holidays, but we’ll be back at work over winter break.”
Pringle said the recent Senate shakeup, while difficult, appears to have inspired action on the part of some other senators as well.
“Lots of senators are engaging in writing bills and really tackling the issues that they’re passionate about,” she said.
None of the core members of Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk who took the stage at the town hall forum was a Student Senate member, at least at the time, Pringle said.
Student Katherine Rainey, who read the group’s list of demands on stage — including one for creating a separate Multicultural Student Senate at KU — ran unsuccessfully against Pringle for Student Body president in the spring as part of the Imagine KU coalition. Rainey has not responded to previous interview requests from the Journal-World.
Pringle ran with the Advance KU coalition.
Pringle said a few previously vacant seats on the Senate have been filled in recent weeks. She said she could not confirm specifically which seats those were, referring the question to Moon.
An earlier check of the Senate’s online roster indicated that at least some unfilled seats were for appointees from multicultural student groups.
Pringle said some of the new senators contributed to ensuring the bill of impeachment against her, George and Moon got enough signatures to move forward.
But she said “all of the excitement” around the Senate prompting people to get involved was “really great for us.”