Sixty students protested the impeachment hearing of Student Body President Desmond Miller on Tuesday night in the Student Center. Miller was not impeached.
S. Res.-101-19, to impeach Miller, authored by Senator Carl Matherly, failed to pass 7-10. The resolution needed a minimum of 12 votes in favor to pass.
“I’m glad that Student Government senators voted in the way they did,” said senior Darius Simpson, who helped organize the student protesters. “They did the right thing today.”
Simpson said he thinks their protest let Student Government know they can’t hold things, like the impeachment, in secret.
“Had I not heard through an administrator that [Miller] was getting impeached, I wouldn’t have known, and I wouldn’t have contacted the students [who protested],” he said. “Tonight may not have gone how it went. So I’m glad that word got out and we were able to show up. In the future we’ll be showing up at more of these meetings because there’s a lot of talk without students knowing.”
The protesters stood around the tables the senators sat at and held up signs that said, “My president is black.”
Eden Zimak, director of social justice and public affairs committee chair, said she was protesting because she didn’t think Miller did anything wrong.
“I think it’s ridiculous that they would choose to hold an impeachment hearing 20 days before he is officially out of office,” she said.
Senior Brandon Britt said he and the student protesters believe that the hearing did have “some hints of racism.”
“In the history of Student Government the only two student body presidents who have ever gone up for impeachment were both two males of color,” he said. “We just don’t feel that this has any standing and impeaching him so late in the school year has no impact on this organization. So, why would you do that, other than to degrade his character and degrade his legacy as a president?”
Senator Arhum Arshad said he was happy members of the student body were at the hearing.
“It just shows that students are involved and they care about their president and Student Government, that’s good,” he said.
No members of the gallery were allowed to speak at the hearing, only those in Student Senate were allowed to talk and vote.
Protesters took roughly 45 minutes during the Senate meeting prior to the impeachment hearing to voice their opinions and concerns about the impeachment process and the allegations presented against Miller.
“It really frightens me that there are such big issues happening internally that we have to impeach our president two weeks before the semester ending,” said senior Shanae Jackson. “So I’m just hoping whatever will be done will be fair and equal.”
“Over these two years, [President Miller] has done his due diligence as president,” said NAACP member Daryl Holman. “A better way to address the allegations is to talk to that person in a small group as opposed to trying to degrade someone’s character.”
Holman addressed the senators about the impeachment.
“A lot of these things are coming from personal biases,” he said. “For you all to want to impeach him and degrade his legacy at the very last minute doesn’t speak highly of you as individuals.”
A member of the gallery also voiced her frustration about NABA being denied funding. She touched on how black and African-American organizations continually get denied funds.
Senator William McDonald spoke to the Senate on behalf of Matherly.
McDonald said Miller acted “out of decorum,” in Senate and Internal Affairs committee meetings, especially toward Judicial Sergeant David Konarske.
He asked Senators Matherly, Fatma Jaber, Joseph Pernicano and Trevis Harrold about their experiences with Miller. They all said they witnessed Miller act in an unprofessional way.
Senator Maya Rich asked about why McDonald hadn’t asked Konarske to speak to the Senate about his personal experience. McDonald said having Konarske speak wouldn’t aid the Senate in making a decision and would turn the hearing into a “drawn-out affair.”
Konarske later spoke to the Senate and said he was made to feel uncomfortable by Miller and was “impeded” in doing his job.
Miller said he was “saddened” by the hearing. He apologized for unprofessional decorum he might have shown at meetings. He said he was sorry if the tone of his message offended anyone that he addressed but not sorry for the content.
He said other members of Student Government had not fulfilled their requirements in the past. He said Konarske had missed two weeks of his office hours without an excuse and was not confronted about it.
Pyle said the harsh tone Miller took with the Senate was necessary.
“We needed to take a step forward and none of the senators were stepping up to do it, and Desmond was the one who did it,” he said. “I agree with him wholeheartedly.”
Miller said he is happy he will be able to advocate on behalf of the student body until April 27, when Vice President Steven Cole takes over.
“However, I'm saddened that the Senate chose to hold an impeachment hearing in April instead of choosing to use that time to focus on student body issues,” he said.
Ellen Lassiter Collier, Women’s Resource Center coordinator, attended the hearing.
“I thought that it was important for student affairs staff members to be present,” she said.
Following the impeachment hearing, Miller spoke to the protesters expressing his gratitude for their support not only with the impeachment but for supporting him as president during his terms.
“I am happy with the decision,” Miller said. “I am sad it had to come to this. I have this vision of Student Government focusing on student body issues. It disheartens me, and I hope in the future Student Government will get back on track to the vision I hope for.”