Budget woes, impeachments and a penis scandal, oh my! The offices of the Stony Brook Undergraduate Student Government on the second floor of the Student Activities Center are filling up with gossip, political jockeying and the clashing of power-hungry egomaniacs. Oh, and some governing.
Following President Samuel Stanley’s recent announcement on the closing of the Stony Brook Southampton Campus, the Undergraduate Student Government had voted to rescind the original budget passed on March 19, 2010.
With the closing of the former Long Island University campus, USG was left with $80,000 that would have funded Southampton’s student organizations. The money, according to USG Treasurer Moiz Khan, is being allocated accordingly to unique Southampton clubs that don’t repeat any of the mission goals of any current USG funded clubs at Stony Brook.
Any additional money will be directed to the general fund to be used for Fall Revisions, emergency funding and grants.
The USG Senate had also voted in favor of allocating $10,000 towards transportation and other related costs for a student-led protest, against the closure of Southampton and budget cuts to Stony Brook, in Albany. The money would be used for buses and for supplies to make signs and such.
A protest was held last Monday, April 19, in which Southampton students marched for miles to Stony Brook and held a sit-in outside the administration building.
The USG Judiciary ruled to remove Senator Daniel Graber from office following a two-thirds majority vote by the Executive Council to impeach him for inappropriate acts and behavior.
An investigation conducted by the Executive Council, according to a letter sent to Senator Graber on November 20, 2009, found Graber guilty of leaving a pornographic image tiled as a background on a USG Senate office computer on November 5. The Executive Council had signed a contract that offered Graber a chance to regain the council’s confidence in his continuing senate service. The contract required that Graber publicly apologize for his actions, write and sign a letter to that effect, coordinate a sexual harassment and diversity education workshop and enroll in an anger management-training course.
The requirement of the anger management course was in response to Graber’s reaction to his loss of a USG election for the position of President Pro-tempore of the Senate to Senator Syed Haq. A number of senators, who asked for anonymity due to the pending case, confirmed that Graber had taken Haq’s business cards and lit them on fire.
However, for a senator to be impeached, the USG Constitution requires that a three-fourths vote pass, and, given that only eight out of the eleven members had voted, the requirement wasn’t fulfilled. Of the three remaining votes, one sided with Graber, another abstained and one member of the Executive Council had been absent during the time of vote.
“The reason they established such a contract is because my actions were not of the level warranting impeachment,” said Graber, in an email. “They tried to impeach me based on not fulfilling their contract. To simplify: If my actions were impeachable, then why didn’t they do it six months ago?”
Graber said he had fulfilled all but one of the requirements of the contract; coordinating a sexual harassment and diversity education workshop by February 26, 2010. Graber says that such training videos on sexual harassment were not accessible through the university, and that he would not pay $800 out of his own pocket to pay for the video.
“The truth of the matter is that there are people in the Executive Council that don’t like me,” said Graber, calling the move a political assassination.
Impeachment City: Population USG
Since the Judiciary failed to ask for the minutes for the meeting when the Executive Council moved to impeach Senator Graber and failed to acknowledge that a three-fourths vote had not been reached, some senators are considering impeaching the entire judiciary.
Additionally, one senator, Alex Dimitriyadi, who defended Graber, pointed out that the Executive Council had not sent their legal brief to the executive secretary (of the USG professional staff) for filing, when, according to Dimitriyadi, Chief Justice Geordan Kushner had gone on a tirade about the senate overstepping its boundaries.
In the court’s decision to not delay Graber’s trial, Chief Justice Kushner had gone as far as to say the current USG Constitution violates itself. The Senate’s ability to create judicial bylaws breaks the series of checks and balances implied by the framers of the document, according to Kushner.
“It’s all about interpretation,” Kushner said. “The Supreme Court should have power to review all power and legislation and declare them unconstitutional,” said Kushner, who feels that the Judiciary is acting underneath the Senate.
As for the oversight into not asking for minutes and checking for a three-fourths vote against Graber, Kushner pointed blame at the Executive Council. “It was a bad mistake on behalf of the Executive Council, they should’ve known how many votes they needed.”
Dimitraydi’s push for impeaching the Judiciary is based on what he called pure incompetence. “They all [Kushner and the other four Associate Justices] signed documents in which they acknowledged their incompetence by stating the Constitution was unconstitutional.”
However, despite calling Dimitriyadi a spin-doctor, Kushner says he isn’t worried about being removed from his office. “A justice can be impeached but the Constitution does not say which body removes them,” said Kushner, whose term expires next semester. “It’s a flaw in the Constitution. There are a lot of flaws.”
In fact, the USG Constitution says quite plainly, in a section explicitly labeled as dealing with the impeachment of members of the judiciary, that the Executive Council and Senate remove justices. This is detailed in Article VIII, Section 3, subsection A.
For the past year, the USG Senate, as well members of the Executive Council, have been pushing towards a less sovereign Student Activities Board. Recently, the Senate, through USG bylaws, voted in favor of allowing the Vice President of Student Life to hold power over an SAB event. The SAB would need a two-thirds vote in its general body to overrule the veto. The measure was implemented to try and gain control over the way SAB operates.
However, newly suggested changes would be a lot more drastic. Senator Dimitriyadi introduced a new bill, proposing the creation of the Student Programming Agency—essentially a new version of the current SAB that would operate underneath the umbrella of USG rather than separately—as is currently the case.
“One of the biggest problems with student life on this campus is that there is no representative body that plans events for the entire campus.” Dimitriyadi said. “USG is the only one that represents all 15,000 students, and the idea is that we are going to do a lot more on large scaled events, looking to attract 5,000 to 8,000 students.”
However, members of the current SAB, who voiced their opposition at last week’s Senate meeting, feel the introduction of the SPA is both unproductive and a misuse of Student Activity funding. “Creating a ‘new SAB’ is just making the exact same SAB now,” said USG Senator Aneta Bose. “The only difference is that they [the USG Senators] are giving themselves power and wasting our students’ activities fee so they can get paid while the students will see less events on campus,” said Bose, a former Vice-Chair of SAB.
While originally the bill had included legislation that would’ve paid the members of SAB doing the work, Dimitriyadi says the funding was later removed following criticisms from both the USG Senate and SAB. The bill, as it stands, would provide a $100 per week salary for the sole director of the SPA, who would be nominated by the USG President and confirmed by the Senate.
The proposed bill has since been revised and is awaiting committee approval before being put up to vote on the Senate floor.