By Jesse BadeStaff Writer
SGA’s final meeting of the semester was riddled with accusations of inappropriateness and hypocrisy. The debate over electing Dion Pierre brought into question not only the behaviors and actions of Pierre but also every senator in the body.
When Dion Pierre, a first year political science student, ran for senator for the second time on Dec. 13, the focus of the senate’s considerations once again shifted from his professional traits to personal attributes. Several senators brought up allegations about the appropriateness of his behaviors and his actions when interacting with individual senators.
“It wasn’t appropriate [Pierre’s approaching Cortez unexpectedly], nor was the way he was speaking to me. If he can speak to me like that and I am his peer, there is no filter,” said Talyn Cortez, SGA senator.
Cortez was not the only senator to bring up this issue. Megan Andrews, Appropriations Committee Chair, also expressed concerns for the ability of the senate to function when they do not feel comfortable with one of the senators.
Victoria Bohme, also a senator, agreed with this stating, “I have been in very uncomfortable situations with him. We need to take into consideration that we are like family…the fact that one person can make us feel very uncomfortable around them is not really a positive thing.”
Victoria Rametta, SGA senator, repeatedly called for decorum during the meeting, expressing her distaste for the way the discussion was being held. She later stated that the election of a senator involves talking about his professional attributes, not attacking his personal behaviors.
“What if people were elected [in the student elections] that you didn’t get along with, you’d still have to work with them,” said Rametta. Rametta emphasized that discussion about a senator’s qualifications should be based on what the student can bring to the senate.
Later, Pierre responded to the meeting and the allegations brought up against him.
“I think we all have a little inappropriateness sometimes. But, I think when you are a person who is as open with everybody as I am I think [that] attracts more attention. I don’t think there is anything bad about it,” said Pierre. “Look, if we are going to be concerned with some senator’s appropriateness I think we should be concerned with all senators’ appropriateness.”
However, while the debate about Pierre’s personal actions caused conflict among senators, it was the actions afterwards that called into question the integrity of SGA. After they voted not to elect Pierre (21-3-0), Senator Megan Andrews called for the minutes from the debate to be removed from the record, an action which some senators believe contradicted SGA’s emphasis on transparency.
Senators defended Andrews’ motion based on concerns that the allowance of the debate to be in the minutes might cause conflict between Pierre and senators outside of senate.
“Due to the nature of the circumstances, I feel it would be better if the minutes were stricken to avoid if anything was said that was kind of uncomfortable,” Alyssa O’Brien said. O’Brien then went on to express concern for the safety of those involved.
While the motion to strike the minutes from the record did not pass, another suggestion by Melanie Perry, Spirit Committee Chair, to strike the names from the record because it was a “safety issue, not a content issue” was passed, with some opposition.
“It’s completely disgusting,” was all that Rametta had to say about the notion of striking the minutes from the record (which did not pass) when later asked. She went on to state that the removal of the names from the senate meeting minutes, which did pass, was inappropriate and she completely disagreed with it.
“I understand where they are coming from with safety issues, but the information that was said, should not have been said during a public meeting,” stated Rametta. “It is absurd to me that that was even allowed [the striking of the names] considering the fact that this was a public meeting. We did not ask for… a closed meeting. I just don’t understand how that was even allowed.”
Rametta explained the irony of the fact that the senate passed Roll Call in the same three hour period during which they voted to remove their names from comments during the meeting. The Roll Call legislation will require senators to place their name next to their vote when they are passing legislation.
“Striking the names should not have been done… it is just wrong. It is literally the opposite of what we just passed with [the] Roll Call vote,” said Rametta.
David Zuniga, Chief Justice of SGA’s Judicial Panel, also talked about how he thought the situation regarding Pierre was “poorly handled” during the meeting.
"People can have reasons for not voting for a senator, often times very legitimate and often times very justifiable,” stated Zuniga. “But, at the same time you know you have to draw a line between what is professional to talk about at a public forum that is on the record and what are things that are best suited for off the record conversations.”
While Zuniga believes that the removal of names from the record was a good compromise, he also emphasized the fact that what you say in a senate meeting is public information and as senators, it is their duty to understand this.
Billy Finnegan, Chair of the Public Relations Committee and a senator who spoke out against striking the names and minutes from the record, stated: “It's important that we keep what makes them [the senate] feel comfortable in mind, but also important that the Senate consider recent occurrences. As such, I think this was done as a compromise solution to balance comfort and transparency. We've acknowledged the information, and as everyone who spoke is associated with SGA, they have established credibility as sources; as this is a situation that is personal, and does not necessarily have a broad impact on the student body, I think that that is ample information.”
Finnegan went on to explain that because the names will not have a direct impact on the student body, they are not vital information. Andrea Standrowicz, Vice President of SGA, held a similar stance.
Standrowicz also made a statement in regards to how the discussion of Pierre’s election was held and what followed after: “I think it was not as good as it could have been, but a lot better than it could have been,” said Standrowicz.
Standrowicz maintains that SGA is still as transparent as ever. Pierre has stated that he plans to run in the regular student elections for the senate in the future.