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Monday, November 19, 2018

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Long-awaited SGA meeting allows action on #RemoveRohini


In an unusually crowded SGA meeting Wednesday, students lined the walls to call for punishment for the vice president’s inflammatory comments on her private Facebook page.

Nearly four hours later, the Senate approved and President Shane Smith signed SGAB-5304, a bill that grants Smith the one-time power to sanction Vice President Rohini Sethi.

“The immature drama that goes on in this organization — I think it’s ridiculous, and I think it’s shameful,” Smith said. “Whether it’s our private meetings or our private Facebook pages, the way that we occasionally behave is absolutely shameful.”

The executive board and Senate spoke about the concerns of members of several black student organizations such as the Collegiate 100, the NAACP, the Black Student Union and the Nigerian Student Association, which are represented by an advisory and advocacy organization called the Black Student Caucus. Many of those students were present at the meeting.

Delta Sigma Theta member Betty Lulseged requested each representative to state their opinion on whether Sethi should be impeached. All 16 senators in attendance said Sethi’s actions did not warrant impeachment.

“I think in the future, (impeachment) would do more harm than good,” said College of Technology Sen. Julian Byrd. “Do I think (Rohini’s actions) should be punished? Yes. We have to do what the students want, and the students want us to do something.”

Many of those same students attended a SGA town hall Tuesday, where they voiced concerns on both nights about Sethi’s ability to appropriately serve the student body, saying her apology at the town hall meeting was insincere and still ill-informed. 

“I’m sorry for the words that I’ve used,” Sethi said. “I’m sorry for the lack of understanding that I had. I didn’t have a clear understanding of what the Black Lives Matter movement is or that the All Lives Matter movement was created in direct opposition to Black Lives Matter. I did not mean to undermine anyone’s lives or the freedom of speech or the movement.”

But many students on the edges of the room who had called for Sethi’s removal, like psychology junior Zoe Azebe-Osime, remained unconvinced and demanded punishment.

“I’ve been studying your body language,” Azebe-Osime said. “You say that you’re sorry, but I don’t really feel like you’re sorry. To say you’re not educated about Black Lives Matter is baffling to me. People who are black don’t have the luxury to not be educated about Black Lives Matter.”

During the meeting, members of the executive branch motioned to move immediately to issue of Sethi’s punishment. College of Technology Sen. Chris Sanderson proposed a Senate resolution that would suspend Sethi for a 45-day period without pay and require her to attend a diversity workshop.

Sethi said she was willing to consider those terms. But Smith called the proposed Senate resolution “extremely unprofessional” and said it would set bad a precedent for the Senate to discipline members of the executive branch.

“Isn’t it unprofessional for someone to do something that offends a large part of the student body and then not face any consequences for it?” said Kadidja Kone, president of the Black Student Union, in response. “And when we come to you to ask about consequences, you guys are presenting us with options, but then there’s this whole go-between of, ‘We can’t do this because it’s illegal.’ OK, then what is legal? Why can’t we be presented another option?”

Smith stated his support for a bill that would allow him, as head of the executive branch, to suspend members of his own branch.

During a 15-minute recess, an emergency Internal Affairs meeting was held to draft SGAB-5304. The bill passed with 13 votes of approval, two against and one abstaining.

Smith will announce his sanctions on Sethi by 5 p.m. on Friday.

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