Saturday, August 8, 2020

Emergency bill to remove ASMSU representative fails after discussion

February 15, 2019
Members attend the ASMSU General Assembly meeting in the International Center on Feb. 14, 2019. Nic Antaya/The State News
Members attend the ASMSU General Assembly meeting in the International Center on Feb. 14, 2019. Nic Antaya/The State News —
Photo by Nic Antaya | The State News

With a vote of 25-5-5, an emergency bill was added to the Associated Students of Michigan State University's agenda at the beginning of their Thursday meeting. It called for the removal of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources representative Sergei Kelley from the general assembly, or GA. 

The bill — introduced by Lyman Briggs representative Ben Horne and College of Music representative Elizabeth Medlin — did not pass. Five voted for it, eight representatives abstained and 22 voted against. 

Multiple representatives said they voted no because they were worried about the lasting impacts of giving ASMSU the power to impeach representatives without an existing impeachment process.

“As we read it there isn’t a process, we would be voting and creating a process,” President Cookie Rifiotis said during the meeting. 

It was written following Kelley’s effort to recruit more conservative individuals to join the student government. The main issue was with Kelley’s emails — which were being sent out to potential candidates — including the ASMSU logo, which Horne and Medlin saw as misleading. 

“The preamble to the elections code actually specifically says that we are not a partisan organization, we shall have no partisan ties,” Horne said. “Basically, this is a gross bad faith effort in order to change the makeup of the general assembly to fit a personal goal." 

Horne said this violated the constitution, the ASMSU Code of Operations and "the general student regulations of Michigan State University by misrepresenting our group in order to fit a personal agenda.”

Kelley was not aware of the bill until it was brought up at the beginning of the meeting. When it was brought up, he acknowledged that the documents presented conversation were his, however he did not see them as violating any code.  

“They don’t have any stance to remove me, and it would be a horrible precedent,” Kelley said. “An email signature — I don’t know how that represents the whole of ASMSU.”

Kelley told The State News after the meeting that he felt the bill was lashing out against his efforts to get more conservatives to join the student government. 

“Anyone can get anyone they want in student government, obviously they have to do it per the code, which I was," Kelley said. 

Medlin works closely with Kelley in the finance committee and said she “never wanted” to second this bill, however it was something she felt needed to be done.

“The last several times where this sort of thing has happened — I have urged caution and trepidation in terms of disciplinary actions, attributing it to ignorance of the code,” Medlin said in regards to past conflicts with Kelley’s actions. “There comes a point in my review where ignorance and malice are indistinguishable, and at a certain point there is no excuse for continuously refusing to modify your behavior to bring it into compliance with our norms and values.”

Kelley stuck by his actions, and spoke with The State News about why he felt more conservatives were needed in the organization.

“It's come to the point where the student government, they can say their non-partisan, but they tend to have strong major strands of certain ideologies in the student government and that's why I stand out,” Kelley said. “The fact that I’m such an outside character concerns me because any government should have different sides.” 

During the almost two hour discussion that followed the introduction, the bill was amended twice. The first time was to change “removing” Kelley to “suspending” him for one month and the second time was to solely suspend Kelley’s vote, but not his voice, from meetings for a month.

The assembly expressed many different opinions on the bill, primarily centered around the GA’s ability to actually remove a member from their assembly. Representatives, including Kelley, are elected through the college that they represent.

“Voting on whether or not a member should be in the GA is just confirming that that ideal of representative government is nothing but that — ideal," Student Housing Cooperative representative Rory Womack said. "I believe that if we are choosing who can and cannot be on the general assembly, then we are effectively depriving our constituents, more importantly Kelley’s constituents, of the right to make that decision."

Other representatives, like College of Veterinary Medicine representative Lauren Pepper, felt strongly that Kelley’s actions proved he should be removed from the assembly.

“Elections should determines who holds office, 100 percent, but if the terms of holding that office have been violated, if you have broken that contract with your constituents, you should not be allowed to keep that job. That is the discussion that we are having today," Pepper said. "Right now, we are the only people that are able to decide whether or not Kelley has upheld the duties of the office that he is elected to. It's our job to ensure that the representative is doing the job that he has been elected to do."

Others expressed concern with what the aftermath of this discussion would bring, especially since the bill was never passed through a committee beforehand.

“Regardless of if the bill gets voted down or passes, either way it's already out there, people know that we tried to do this and it was brought up to the general assembly," Alliance for Queer and Allied Students representative Colin Wiebrecht said. "People will make of that what they will."

Wiebrecht voted "yes" to impeach Kelley.

Kelley will remain in his position following a roll call vote by the GA that failed to pass the bill.

ASMSU committee meetings will be held Feb. 21 in the Student Services Building. 

Editor's note: This article was updated to omit a quote from Kelley because it incorrectly reflected Wiebrecht's stance. Clarification as to why some people voted "no" was added.

Read the full bill below.

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