Impeachment attempt against Miao fails by wide margin
Student Union Treasury members defeated an impeachment attempt against President Ranen Miao in a Treasury session Tuesday night by a vote of 11-3.
The resolution alleged that Miao violated SU’s constitutional mission to “responsibly serve and empower every undergraduate student” by sending a Jan. 21 email to freshman titled “Don’t Rush IFC/WPA Greek Life,” which pointed out systemic racism and sexism in the institution of Greek Life and called for the abolition of Greek Life at Washington University. The email was also signed by the rest of SU’s executive board, the Speakers of the Senate and Treasury and the Senate Diversity and Inclusion Chair.
Sophomore Treasury Representative Justin Kouch submitted the resolution for impeachment. Kouch and sophomore representatives Aidan Stutts and Ezra Mishkel voted in favor of the resolution, while the rest of the Treasury voted against it.
Per the SU constitution, if Tuesday’s resolution had passed with a two-thirds majority, the resolution would then have required a simple majority in SU Senate before being sent to the Constitutional Council for adjudication.
Miao’s email had prompted pushback from some members of SU, who felt that the email did not reflect their positions and values.
“I feel like we, as Treasury and Senate, aren’t really being heard or being talked to when SU exec is creating all of these decisions and stances and posting them [through social media and email] to over 7,500 other students,” Kouch said at the Treasury session.
However, Miao stood by his decision to send the email, citing other avenues for having important conversations about Greek Life within SU.
“It’s unfortunate that these fraternity brothers have consistently refused to engage in good faith discourse,” Miao wrote in a statement to Student Life after the session. “Student Union has a multitude of avenues to have important conversations, including our Constituent Service Form, the emails of Student Union representatives featured on the website and emails sent out every two weeks to the entire student body.”
Dean of Students Rob Wild wrote in a Jan. 31 email to Miao that the SU email to the freshman class did not violate University policy.
In the article of impeachment, Kouch wrote that the email’s discouragement of students from rushing “actively discriminates against two SU recognized student groups (IFC and WPA) by actively telling 2000+ students not to join a specific organization.”
The Women’s Panhellenic Association (WPA) and Interfraternity Council (IFC), the governing bodies for social sororities and fraternities at the University, are recognized SU groups. The sororities and fraternities that they oversee are not. SU Executive Vice President Miriam Silberman detailed the importance of this distinction at Tuesday’s meeting.
“I believe that the wording is everything, because if we had come forward and said don’t join WPA/IFC, the leadership organizations, that would have been unconstitutional, and would have been an impeachable offense,” she said. “However, because we are specifically saying rushing, [which] is a very specific action, and we emphasize that WPA and IFC social fraternities are not related to Student Union and are only related to Campus Life and ResLife, what we did is constitutional.”
However, representative Aidan Stutts, who voted for impeachment, said that the issue extended beyond just the wording of the email.
“Even if you don’t like Greek Life, that’s not the point of this,” Stutts said at Tuesday’s session. “The point of this is more so that someone in power…shouldn’t be able to actively discriminate against students who are part of an organization just because your own beliefs don’t align with that organization.”
Over the past two years, Student Union has held a firm pro-abolition stance, passing a resolution to dehouse fraternities in the fall of 2020, and the abolition of Greek Life was part of the organization’s 2021-2022 platform. However, last fall’s elections saw the entrance of a small number of Senators and Representatives who disagreed with SU’s pro-abolition stance.
Still, Treasury Representative senior Hannah Shapiro maintained during the session that Miao’s email and SU’s other pro-abolition actions reflected the preferences of the student body.
“This exec board did run on a platform where it was clear to see for the entire student body that they were against Greek Life in general,” Shapiro said. “The entire student body had the chance to vote…and they did select the exec board.”
When SU surveyed the student body in 2020, 65% of respondents said that they supported the abolition of Greek Life at Washington University.
Stutts pushed back, arguing that students who participate in Greek Life and make up part of SU’s constituency should not be condemned in SU’s official messaging.
“The point is that if you’re elected to serve the undergraduate community, and people who are part of WPA and IFC, they’re still students, they’re still people who go here, they go to classes with you,” he said. “It’s irrelevant, whether you agree with IFC and WPA or not, but it’s very clear what this message was trying to say.”
Miao maintains that SU representatives involved in Sorority and Fraternity Life (SFL) have failed to engage in productive discourse and instead opted to silence his advocacy of the abolition of Greek Life.
“Representatives from SFL have continuously argued that they hope to engage in discourse, but instead of reaching out, have opted for inflammatory tactics that are trying to silence my speech in support of survivors of sexual violence, students of color, LGBTQIA+ students, low-income students and other groups on WashU’s campus,” Miao wrote. “The only people who try to silence people’s voices are those who know they are losing the argument.
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