Motion to impeach SBP Flittner fails

GSA did not reach quorum, so the vote to impeach student body president Jake Flittner did not officially occur. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) GSA did not reach quorum, so the vote to impeach student body president Jake Flittner did not officially occur. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) Student Body President Jake Flittner and Vice President Sangita Sharma listen to arguments against Flittner. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor) Student Body President Jake Flittner and Vice President Sangita Sharma listen to arguments against Flittner. (credit: Jonathan Carreon/Photo Editor)

Jake Flittner remains student body president after Thursday evening’s joint Undergraduate Student Senate and Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) meeting. The vote for impeachment did not officially occur, as GSA did not have enough members attending to meet its 3/4 quorum.

Flittner, a senior mechanical engineering and engineering and public policy double major, faced impeachment hearings after Senate unanimously requested on March 1 that he be removed from office. At Thursday’s meeting, the impeachment motion was presented to the joint session, and Flittner presented arguments in defense of his role. He emphasized that Senate and GSA members should “stick to the constitution” when deciding their vote, arguing that he has fulfilled nearly every duty that is outlined for his position in the Student Body Constitution.

During his defense, Flittner admitted to missing a few meetings and to a lack of concrete progress toward achieving his campaign goals. Specifically, he addressed the issue of transparency between himself and Student Senate, saying that it was the “biggest one that we failed at.” However, Flittner made sure to emphasize that, despite what he felt to be small failures, he accurately “represented the voice of the student body to the administration” throughout his term.

Flittner made comparisons to the previous student body president, Jarrett Adams. He said, “Stepping into this office, I didn’t have a single document from my predecessor.... I came into this with a clean slate.” He also criticized the vague wording of the Student Body Constitution, especially in the representation section of his duties.

Senate, GSA, and others present then discussed the impeachment motion for almost an hour. A common theme of the discussion was a debate whether the motion for impeachment should be based on the president’s constitutional duties or on Student Senate’s satisfaction with Flittner’s progress.

Senator Seth Vargo, a junior information systems major and a candidate in this year’s student body presidential race, did not seem impressed by Flittner’s defense. He especially disagreed with Flittner’s critique of the Student Body Constitution. “The purpose of this meeting isn’t to decide the bylaws and constitution, but whether he’s fulfilled them,” he said. “Even if it wasn’t part of his platform, I would have expected that he would have moved to change them during his term.”

Student Body Vice President for Organizations Will Zhang, a senior computer science major, sided with Flittner. “I agree with a lot of Jake’s points. Honestly, I really don’t think it’s a big deal anyway,” he said. “I think [the Executive Committee] is well run. I think the only part of what he hasn’t really fulfilled is his discretionary objectives. Speaking as a second semester senior, it’s really easy to check out.”

Zhang continued, touching on Flittner’s fulfillment of his constitutional duties. “They’re guidelines. You can’t follow them 100 percent,” he said. “If you want to impeach him because you haven’t seen tangible results, then that’s a valid reason.”

Andrew Ramey, a doctoral student in history who was present at the hearing, summarized his feelings on Flittner’s performance succinctly. “He admitted to not fulfilling his duties,” he said. “This is a cut and dry case. You can’t pick and choose.”

Senator Jon Mark, a junior lighting design major and current candidate for student body vice president for finance, initially called for Flittner’s impeachment and made the final comment before the discussion period closed. “I think it comes back a lot to perception issues,” he said. “The things that were moving along, that were happening, were a result of [Student Body Vice President Sangita Sharma]. I know she wants to say they’re a team, but when it comes to student government, she would do a better job.... Senate really does believe that doing this is the right thing to be doing for the student body.”

After discussion, Senate Chair Will Weiner, a junior social and decision science and economics and statistics double major, called for a vote from both bodies. Due to GSA’s lack of quorum, the vote was unofficial, but the votes were still tallied. Undergraduate Student Senate voted 19–8 in favor of impeachment, and GSA voted 22–23.

Flittner would not have been impeached even had the votes been official, as neither body achieved the required 3/4 super majority of votes in favor of the motion. Because the request for impeachment was only valid for three weeks and the vote did not occur, the motion expired.

Reflecting on the event, Sharma felt good about the discussion at the hearing. “It provided great feedback. I was genuinely happy with both sides of the argument. Nothing was a personal attack, nothing was too one-sided,” she said. “I think it was really well discussed. I think that people responded well to Jake’s defense.... People understood that a lot of this was a miscommunication on both ends. People came in with an open mind, which is great.”

Moving forward, she hopes that she and Flittner can work to improve transparency and communication for the remainder of their terms, as well as improve the transition to new leadership. “I think that Jake and I will work really hard to make sure that whoever comes in next year has that message,” she said. “We’re going to work towards constitution changes and make things more clear.”

“We don’t want them to come in unprepared,” Sharma said, speaking about the current student body president candidates. “A lot of people are running this year, and no matter who comes in, this job is a lot different than they think.”