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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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SGA president reaches compromise in social media controversy


Student Government Association President Shane Smith said he reached an agreement with student leaders and will shorten drop his sanctions of Vice President Rohini Sethi. | Trey Strange/The Cougar

Student Government Association President Shane Smith will drop his sanctions, including the 50-day suspension, for Vice President Rohini Sethi, Smith said in a joint statement with Sethi released Friday.

Instead, Sethi has agreed to take an unpaid “voluntary leave of absence” from her position until Aug. 22, the start of the fall semester. Sethi said she also plans to follow through on other previous sanctions, including attending cultural events throughout her term and participating in the Libra Project diversity workshop.

“The reduction is disappointing to hear, but I’m personally past this Rohini situation,” said Wesley Okereke, the UH NAACP president. “We, as the Black Caucus, are going to be focusing our energy into other pressing issues. I don’t think the reduced sanctions will quell anything, in fact, I think tensions have a possibility of escalating, seeing as how this whole situation transpired over a very long period of time.”

Smith said Sethi will not be paid during her absence, which will last 15 business days, or three weeks. According to the Title III, Article 1, Section 5, Clause 8 of SGA bylaws, if the vice president is absent for three weeks or more they will not be compensated during that absence. 

Smith said in a statement, shown below, that the SGA Judicial Branch had begun investigations into the legality of SGAB-5304, the bill allowing Smith one-time power to sanction his vice president. The bill was passed on July 27 in response to student outcry over a controversial statement Sethi posted on her personal Facebook. Smith dropped the sanctions because of increasing agreement between SGA senators that the bill was illegitimate due to SGA bylaws.

“I have chosen to take steps on my own because of the division I’ve created among our student body,” Sethi said in the joint statement. “I may have had the right to post what I did, but I still should not have.

“My words at the time didn’t accurately convey my feelings and caused many students to lose their faith in me to advocate for them. I take my responsibility seriously and want to re-earn their trust.”

While lifting his sanctions for Sethi, in the statement, Smith directed SGA to “pursue major initiatives related to campus diversity.”

Before the statement was released, SGA had already begun creating a new committee related to diversity. Bauer College of Business Senator Fahad Rehan said the committee will contain “people from all walks of life.”

SGA VP Sanctions Removal Letter

Alex Meyer and Trey Strange contributed reporting to this story. 

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