Student petition calls for resignation of five SU members
Over 100 students have signed a petition calling for the resignation of Student Union officers Vice President of Programming junior Charlotte Pohl, Treasury representatives sophomores Fadel Alkilani and Jake Sassmannshausen, Speaker of the Senate Steven Kish and Speaker of the Treasury Alexa Jochims for engaging in “anti-Black activity” by contributing to former Election Commissioner junior Randal Walker’s resignation.
According to the SU Constitution, if the petition, penned by junior Tishiya Carey, garners signatures from at least 2% of the student body, which is around 150 people, Constitutional Council will review the document and determine a mechanism for an SU vote on the recall if they deem its claims valid.
SU, which controls the multimillion dollar student activities fund, has been embroiled in conflict since its fall elections, in which a technical error prevented Pohl from voting in the SU elections, Nov. 5. Pohl submitted an interpretation request to Constitutional Council to recall Walker that Wednesday. Walker then released the election results Friday, against the urging of Constitutional Council. Constitutional Council unanimously approved Pohl’s request to recall Walker.
After a split executive vote failed to recall Walker, Alkilani presented articles of impeachment against Walker in a joint legislative session of SU for “incongruence with the Constitution.” Walker was impeached by an almost unanimous vote and resigned the next day.
Carey felt compelled to take action after watching Walker endure what she described as “disgusting” treatment.
“Although these resignations won’t repair the emotional trauma Randal has endured, it will ensure that those who had a major hand in her demise are held accountable just as she was,” Carey wrote in a statement to Student Life.
Election commission member and junior Destiny Jackson posted the petition in the Washington University “WashU Black Chat” at the behest of Carey since Carey does not have a GroupMe account. Jackson gave the petition a cursory glance before posting the petition, but said she hadn’t signed it at the time of reporting Wednesday evening.
“I think [the petition] is something that should have been given to the public…I don’t really think personally my opinion should affect me not sending it in the group chat,” Jackson said.
The petition accused Pohl of waiting less than 24 hours after the election to submit the recall petition, and also noted that Pohl and Walker ran against each other in SU’s Spring 2019 election.
The petition also called for Jochims’ and Kish’s resignations based on unproven claims that Jochims and Kish had prior knowledge of the articles of impeachment and failed to inform Walker. Jochims and Kish both denied the claim, saying they learned of the articles when they were formally introduced. The petition also claims that an op-ed Jochims and Kish published in Student Life calling for unity in SU was “misleading.”
Kish and Jochims collaborated with Senate and Treasury’s leadership team for input before publishing the op-ed and said they received positive feedback after it was published. Kish continues to stand by the message of the op-ed.
“It’s disappointing to me to see people in the highest positions of power in this organization show a continued willingness to air personal issues in the public sphere, and that is not a reason I will resign,” Kish said.
Alkilani and Sassmannshausen were also called on to resign. The petition mentioned Alkilani’s comment during a joint SU session in which he called Walker “grossly incompetent” as well as an incident during the same session in which Sassmannshausen started yelling after Jackson spoke.
Additionally, the petition described Alkilani as having a “history of racially insensitive comments such as referring to Majora Carter, Stacey Abrams and Yvonne Orji as ‘low-budget Blacks.’”
Alkilani denies ever making this comment, and Jochims and Pohl say that they never heard him make such a comment.
“The quote that they alleged in the petition is absolutely false,” Alkilani said. “I can have 15 witnesses confirm that it’s false. There is no one who is on record for saying that it’s true.”
Both Pohl and Jochims characterized the petition as pushing a “false narrative.”
Pohl said that the petition’s account of the events preceding Walker’s resignation spurred people to sign the petition without knowing the full context of the situation.
“I think if that whole 15 page Con Council opinion had been attached, there would be a very different reaction to this petition,” Pohl said.
The petition claims that impeaching Walker after the failed recall vote constituted double jeopardy, a claim Constitutional Council Chief Justice Eric Cai dismissed.
“As someone whose job is to interpret the Constitution, I think it’s pretty clear that recall and impeachment for the same acts do not constitute double jeopardy,” Cai said.
Double jeopardy is a legal concept that a person can’t be criminally charged for offenses for which they have already been acquitted; the SU constitution does not mention the term anywhere in its 16 pages.
According to Vice President of Public Relations sophomore Beth Wiesinger, SU President Tyrin Truong, Senator Sophie Scott and others have been discussing partnering with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion on an implicit bias campaign to help Student Union members become more aware of their biases. Truong said that he wants all officers affected by the petition to be able to sit down together and discuss how best to represent minority communities at the University.
“Students have the right to circulate petitions,” Truong said. “I believe that [public discourses] are the signs of a healthy democracy. And it shows that students are engaged and paying attention to what Student Union is doing.”