Petition released to recall Speaker of Senate

| Managing News Editor

A petition to recall sophomore Sonal Churiwal as the current Student Union (SU) Speaker of the Senate due to allegations of improper conduct, was uploaded onto Washington University’s Group Organizer (WUGO) website, March 26.  

The petition asks that Churiwal be removed “for the sake of unity, justice, and tolerance” due to alleged abuse of power, violation of neutrality rules, threats to expel senators, and generally creating a “culture of fear.” The petition does not have an author’s name attached to it. 

Per the SU Constitution, any constituent may petition for a recall. If at least 5% of the undergraduate student body signs the petition, it would then be put to a vote in which the proposed recall must pass by a majority vote by students. 

Churiwal told Student Life that she believes the petition is clearly a political retaliation for the public stances she has taken.

“I’m confident this is a direct reaction to the meeting that happened last week, the passing of the [resolution to] divest from Boeing and me taking an openly pro-Palestine stance,” Churiwal said. 

On March 19, Churiwal led a Senate meeting where representatives voted to pass a resolution, which she co-sponsored, calling on the University to divest from Boeing. During the meeting, Churiwal also gave a speech in support of it during the discussion portion of the meeting. 

In addition to general criticisms of her behavior, the petition cites three different SU rules Churiwal has allegedly broken.  

Per Article II Section III of the SU Statutes, the body follows Robert’s Rules of Order, a set of rules governing parliamentary procedure. The petition alleges that Churiwal broke two rules in the Rules of Order and one in the SU Constitution. 

Both of the Rules of Order she allegedly broke focus on whether the presiding officer, in this case the Speaker of the Senate, should offer their opinion on the topic of the meetings they run. 

The first section states that unless the presiding officer is in a committee or small board, they do not “enter into discussion of the merits of pending questions.” 

The second section states that president officers have the same rights to debate as any other students but that the impartiality required of their role means that they are not meant to exercise those rights while presiding. 

An earlier part of the petition stated that Churiwal “threaten[ed] to unilaterally expel Senators if they failed to fill out a specific form, despite the fact that (with only one exception) it is unconstitutional for the Speaker to unilaterally expel someone from the Senate.” The exception referenced is written at the bottom of the petition, where a section of the Constitution states that the Speaker may “have the power to remove a Senator from office after two unexcused absences.” 

Churiwal told Student Life that she believes this is referencing an incident where Senate did not meet the necessary number of representatives necessary to be present at a joint meeting with the other branches of SU, which led her to send out a reminder to Senators telling them that if they failed to fill out an absence form for a joint session, barring emergencies, they would be removed. 

“This email was sent with the advice and consent of members of Senate leadership,” Churiwal said. “It was not unilaterally done, and I did speak to Constitutional Council about it afterwards.” 

Other allegations in the petition included statements that Churiwal has inappropriately attacked Senators in public comments made to Student Life, posted the names of how Senators voted on a particular resolution despite the fact that the petition says that was not common practice, and openly stated her desire that certain groups ought to feel unwelcome on campus. 

“I think all students should feel welcome and have a space on WashU’s campus,” Churiwal said. “What I have said and what I will continue to say is that I view my job to advocate for the groups that are the most marginalized on campus.” 

Churiwal said that the petition is a misrepresentation of her role and her actions as Speaker. 

“A majority of the things cited in the petition are topics that have already been addressed within Senate and therefore I don’t particularly see a need to go through the whole recall process to address those issues,” Churiwal said. 

Churiwal said that on her Senate name placard she chose to write the phrase: “to advocate is to love all and to love loudly, free Palestine and fire perpetrators.”

“I wrote this on my placard because, to advocate for everyone and to advocate loudly and not hide my beliefs is something I believe is a core tenet of advocacy work and leadership,” she said. “I stand by all of my statements and if the consequences of that are that I am recalled from Student Union — I already lost my election for executive vice president which I do also believe was in large part influenced by my pro-Palestine stance — I have absolutely no regrets for that.”

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