Student Senate held an impeachment trial on Nov. 8 where the student body president, Erin Bousek, was removed from office. She was found guilty on multiple charges.
Although exact charges noted in the investigation by Student Senate’s Department of Internal Affairs are confidential, an anonymous senator told The Scout that two charges were “the unauthorized creation and dissolution of an ad hoc committee” and “holding meetings herself thereby subverting the authority of those beneath her.”
The meeting was four hours long in total and had to be moved to a second location.
Bousek pled “not guilty” to the charges, so Student Senate entered executive session and followed the proceedings according to its bylaws.
“I still stand firm that I did nothing worth impeachment, and any mistake made was an honest one, and something I made every effort to resolve as soon as they came to my attention,” Bousek said in a written statement to The Scout.
Generally, charges are submitted to the Department of Internal Affairs as a written statement by one person and the department will determine whether the actions are deemed unconstitutional. Then, the person accused of unconstitutional actions can speak before internal affairs. The department then determines if formal charges of impeachment will be discussed with the Student Senate.
When the investigation began, the speaker of the assembly, Emma Hoyhtya, announced impeachment before Bousek was able to speak to internal affairs, so impeachment proceedings were tabled until a meeting between Bousek and the department could occur.
“I am heartbroken that impeachment is what people felt was necessary, rather than having conversations with me, and figuring out solutions that work for everyone,” Bousek said.
When impeachment was brought forth to Student Senate, there were two discussions. One looked at if the actions were unconstitutional and the other was about whether Bousek should be removed from office. Both passed during the trial with a 2/3 and 3/4 majority, respectively.
“I think the Senate did the most that they could with the information they had and their shared experience,” Hoyhtya said.
Hoyhtya is a non-voting member, so she was not permitted to provide feedback or discussion points throughout the trial.
“I can’t speak to what went into the actual final decision as my vote wasn’t accounted for, but from being in this group, I know that they are extremely passionate and they made, each individually, the decision that they felt was best,” Hoyhtya said.
David Daye, a former speaker of the assembly, student body presidential candidate and junior political science major, issued a written statement on his social media and sent it to The Scout on Nov. 9.
“[W]hile I don’t know the exact details, what I know is that impeachment is a serious process that is designed to render accountability,” Daye wrote. “Our leaders must be held to a standard, and when they violate that standard, they must answer for that.”
He added that his term as freshman senator also included an impeachment trial, so he is aware of the process.
“I know how complex, difficult, and mentally taxing a trial can be for those involved,” Daye said. “Knowing that, I applaud the Student Senate for taking this step, despite its tolls.”
Daye finished his statement with a call to action for Student Senate to address concerns voiced by the student body, such as communication and transparency.
“I am also aware of the constitutional limitations placed on the Senate regarding the release of information regarding the trial,” Daye said. “Yet, I believe that there are procedural steps or amendments that can be pursued to increase transparency. I encourage the Senate to exhaust all measures available to better inform the Student Body.”
Hoyhtya is looking toward the future of Student Senate coming out of this process.
“I hope that we can reconvene and reestablish what it can look like moving forward,” Hoyhtya said. “I don’t know that we will ever be able to go back to a sense of normalcy, to pre this impeachment, but I do hope that we can band together and create something new that is beneficial to not only Senate but for the student body as a whole.”
According to the bylaws, the speaker of the assembly — in this case, Hoyhtya — will take the place of the student body president with a 2/3 vote of approval, set to happen at the next General Assembly meeting on Nov. 15.
She said she is confident in her abilities to take this position since she was student body president for the 2020-21 academic year and knows its responsibilities well. She also has goals of what she wants to accomplish if she is approved, including establishing a more people-oriented approach.
“Everything will change moving forward and everyone there needs to be a part of that and need to speak out and say their piece because the president is not the only person that establishes that culture,” Hoyhtya said.
She recognized that people became interested in the impeachment after the news of the removal became public and hopes that it translates to becoming more involved in Student Senate.
“I, quite honestly, don’t think I can speak to why the student body reacted the way that they did or the way that the Senate reacted the way that they did because I know very different pieces of information, and I have a very different lived experience,” Hoyhtya said. “Moving forward, I hope to understand why people in Senate and the student body reacted the way that they did so that I can move forward in the most educated way possible.”
Many people have expressed their feelings about the trial on social media by commenting on the press release posted on Student Senate’s Instagram. They noted a lack of transparency and asked what happened to cause an impeachment and the removal of the student body president.
“The student body should have definitely been made more aware of the proceedings going on, and it is even more upsetting that we have not been told on what grounds this impeachment occurred,” one user wrote in the comments of the Student Senate’s Instagram post. “As a whole, I am rather disappointed with how the Student Senate has gone about this process.”
Student Senate replied to posts asking for more information by saying details of the charges wouldn’t be released due to rules in its constitution and bylaws.
If students have any concerns, they can attend the next General Assembly meeting at 5 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the Garrett Center.