Students kept in the dark as Zimmerman impeachment continues

The student government office in Farinon. (Photo by Ben Fuller ’21)

There has been no word from the Student Government Association (SGA) as of Thursday morning on the current status of the impeachment proceedings against President Mary Zimmerman ’21, which were announced in an Instagram post more than two weeks ago.

None of the 12 members of the executive board responded to an official request for comment.

The Instagram post noted that SGA “prioritizes transparency with the campus community.” As to the current lack of communication from the organization, an anonymous source on the SGA executive board told The Lafayette that “members of the executive board have been advised to not disclose any information regarding impeachment, in keeping with the intentions of Robert’s Rules.”

SGA follows Robert’s Rules of Order, which is the most commonly used manual of parliamentary procedure in the U.S. Though the manual specifies that the impeachment proceedings are to be kept “quiet” to protect the accused, there are no specific provisions within regarding the release of the allegations.

Director of Student Involvement and SGA advisor Vanessa Pearson wrote in an email that “there are processes that are considered internal and require confidentiality.”

“Student Government has and continues to work on initiatives and projects that support the campus community,” she added.

Although the motion for impeachment was announced on March 10 via Instagram, the allegations date back to last November, when members of the executive board first brought a motion of impeachment against Zimmerman. However, as described in the Instagram post, the proceedings initiated at that time were placed “on hold” due to personal matters for some members of the board, and the motion was not passed.

No reports on the status of the proceedings were given over the interim or during the first month of the semester. On Feb. 26, the Black-led student coalition Dear Lafayette released a joint letter of concern along with eight other multicultural organizations that described their disappointment in the “lack of action and transparency that Student Government has demonstrated.”

“We have yet to receive any information about this process and feel let down by the very organization that is supposed to represent our ‘student voices,’” the letter read.

Then, on March 4, the motion of impeachment passed in the executive board. It is unclear if this was related to the joint letter.

When SGA released the Instagram post on March 10, six days after the motion passed and two weeks after the joint letter of concern was publicized, The Lafayette interviewed multiple organizations who still called on SGA to provide more transparency by releasing the allegations in the motion of impeachment, which were not included in the Instagram post.

Flor de Maria Caceres ’21, who is an ally to the Dear Lafayette Coalition and a member of SGA (but not on the executive board), said she would like to see more transparency in the impeachment process. She said she thinks the motion and the allegations should be released to prevent “people from jumping to conclusions” and to preserve trust between SGA and the student body.

She also expressed some skepticism as to how Robert’s Rules of Order are being used in the impeachment proceedings.

“[The manual] is just a guide…but at the end of the day we should apply it in a way that fits our agenda, our structure, our student body,” she said. “When we’re not being transparent or addressing the needs or concerns of students, then that’s where a lot of problems and issues of trust arise.”

In accordance with the impeachment procedure described in the manual, the next step in the process is a formal investigation. SGA has not disclosed if this investigation is underway, who the investigators are or what the timeline of the investigation will be.

If the investigation completes, the manual prescribes that the findings be presented to the executive board, who will vote on the evidence. If this passes, it will move to the SGA general body for another vote.

If both votes pass, Vice President Ross Coleman ‘22 would replace Zimmerman as President.

About Benjamin Fuller

Ben Fuller '21 is the editor-in-chief of The Lafayette. He studies math and computer science, with a minor in religious studies.

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