Discontent that had been growing for weeks in Student Government’s legislative branch culminated in an email from Sen. Jericka Knox to the Senate on Wednesday afternoon, calling for Senate President Cory Hebert to resign from his position or face a vote of confidence.
“Not until now have I felt that leadership (specifically your position) has been lacking, and I am quite disappointed by this. You have not done your part to create an environment conducive to success,” Knox wrote in the open letter addressed to Hebert. “I no longer feel as I have the ability to serve my constituents because of your lack of leadership.”
Less than four hours later, at SG’s scheduled Wednesday meeting, Hebert was removed from the presidency after a 7-to-2 vote, more than the two-thirds majority required.
Sen. Emily Gormon called for the opening of debate and Senate President Pro Tempore April Parsons stepped in to officiate in place of Hebert.
Sen. Evan Garrett then broke several moments of awkward silence when he said that the vote should be called if there is concern, but that he had faith in Hebert’s ability to lead the Senate. Garrett later voted for removal.
“From what I see, [Knox] never came and approached [Hebert] with her concerns. I do not think we should do this with him not being informed. I feel there is no ground for this,” said Sen. Walter Shelmet.
Shelmet said there were problems with the Senate’s productivity, but attributed that issue to the members, rather than the leadership. “You can’t put this all on [Hebert] alone,” he said.
“We do not need to be debating with who our leadership is. I do not think we should throw him out, and if you do not think that he is doing his job then tell him,” said Sen. Brian Bauroth. He also said that the impeachment proceedings against Parsons on Aug. 31 led to the Senate coming together to help her become a better, more assertive leader.
“[Hebert’s] roommate,” then-Attorney General T.J. Ewin, “was the one who brought up [Parsons’] impeachment,” said Sen. James Scott. “We are not doing what was done against [her]. This is a vote of confidence. I am not confident.”
“It’s not about personality,” he said.
Much of the debate focused around the creation of an ad hoc committee to clarify budget and grant procedures. Gormon had previously brought a resolution to establish a committee, but Hebert asserted his power to establish it directly, without opening up the issue to the Senate floor.
“I appointed the chair of the appropriations committee and I picked people who were in tune with funds and money,” Hebert said.
Sen. Lauren Reilly said Hebert mismanaged the committee by appointing members who were not interested in participating, while leaving out those who were interested. But Shelmet argued that Hebert was trying to save time.
Hebert said he has been working behind the scenes, specifically on improving student advising services and putting picnic tables along the waterfront. “I cannot force senators to write legislation,” he said.
“If we should call a vote of confidence, it should be on all of us,” said Shelmet, citing a lack of legislation proposed by the body. “How can he fix problems if no one brings them to his attention?”
“Obviously there is a problem since we are doing this,” Scott said. “We are five months in and have nothing to show for it. I think all of us could have engaged him but I think we need a strong leader and [Hebert] hasn’t been a strong enough leader.”
“He is a strong leader now,” Shelmet said, and he will get stronger.
“The oil that drives a machine like this is enthusiasm,” Gormon said. “And I haven’t seen it from [Hebert].”
She described the Senate as “dichotomous” and “dysfunctional” and said that she would resign her position if Hebert remained president. “I can no longer stand this emotional drain. If this senate does not remove him, I will resign,” she said. “I can’t continue to work like this.”
Scott made a case for Parsons being a strong replacement, saying that she improved greatly since her brush with impeachment. Rather than resign, as she was pressured to do, Parsons faced the impeachment proceedings and won.
Hebert questioned Scott’s objectivity in the matter, saying that Parsons s one of his closest friends.
After an hour of debate, Hebert said he would work on being a better, more approachable leader. “I apologize to anyone who said they cannot come speak to me,” he said. He added that, under his continued leadership, “the Senate can do better.”
All but two senators, Shelmet and Bauroth, voted to remove Hebert from the position. He was succeeded by Parsons, who nominated Sen. Eliana Aguilar to the pro tempore position. Aguilar was affirmed with a unanimous vote.
Knox was not able to attend the meeting and voted by proxy, a new procedure that allows SG members to vote despite scheduling conflicts.
“One of the biggest problems we had was bad communication,” said Parsons at a later interview, “and that reflected on the view of SG across campus.” As Senate president, her main priority is to create relationships and consensus within the Senate, and to address formerly-funded projects that have fallen by the wayside.
“I really hope we can move on from this … and be productive for the students,” she said.
Photos by Christopher Guinn