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Impeachment

Student Union holds Oct. 17 impeachment trial of Secretary James Feng ’22

The agenda of the Oct. 17 meeting of the Student Union Senate announced, among other business items, the impeachment trial of Secretary James Feng ’22.

Of the 18 senators present, 17 voted to impeach, only Sen. Asher Brenner ’24 abstained. Within 10 days, the judiciary will hear the case and make the final decision on whether or not to remove Feng.

Vice President Courtney Thrun ’22 encouraged Senate committee chairs to hurry through their reports and skipped senator reports altogether in order to make time for the impending arguments for and against Feng’s impeachment.

In accordance with the bylaws, newly-changed for clarity regarding impeachment procedures, Sen. Joseph Coles ’22, who drafted and presented the article of impeachment also delivered the arguments against Feng.

In the 10 minutes allotted by the constitution for his opening statement, Coles detailed every one of Feng’s –– or “the Secretary,” as he is exclusively referred to in the argument –– offenses. These included Feng’s alleged failure to effectively run elections, respond within 24 hours as required by Union rules to Union officials and administrators and take full responsibility for his actions. Coles also claimed that Feng had behaved disrespectfully in the previous Senate meeting’s executive session.

Coles argued that these actions, especially the repeated errors involving elections, were breaches of the secretary’s constitutional duty and grounds for impeachment.

Coles said that Feng repeatedly did not respond to Slack messages and emails from other Union members and administration until members sent follow-up emails the next day.

Coles explained that, for the second round of elections this semester, Feng said that the date of the informational session for candidates was “Sunday 9/18,” which was actually a Saturday. Coles said that this was not the issue, and that “this was a mistake anyone could have made.” However, when the Union Chief of Staff informed Feng of the error twice, he did not respond or issue a correction. No candidates attended the info session.

This was after Feng was warned before the second round of elections that he “needed to be more communicative,” Coles said. “The most important role of the secretary is [leading] elections,” Coles said. “I have zero confidence in the Secretary’s ability to lead elections.”

Additionally, Coles said, Feng once told the Chief of Staff to tell President Krupa Sourirajan ’23 to “be more efficient in the future.”

Feng attended the executive session of the previous Senate meeting. Reporters and members of the public are not allowed to attend or have any knowledge of executive sessions, though several senators expressed that he had been disrespectful to them –– including use of the f-bomb, which multiple senators confirmed –– and refused to take responsibility for his actions until impeachment became inevitable.

Feng admitted that he had been disrespectful and said that his change of heart was sincere, and that he would not make the same mistakes again.

Coles said that Feng’s unresponsiveness and unwillingness to take responsibility was reflecting poorly on the Union as a whole. “Being disorganized and unprofessional makes the Union look disorganized and unprofessional,” Coles said.

After Coles concluded his argument, Feng was given 10 minutes for his defense.

Feng began by apologizing to the Senate for his behavior at the previous week’s meeting and for his other “mistakes,” which Coles had outlined. He said that it was “highly inconsiderate” not to respond to the administrators who emailed him, causing Sourirajan to fill in for him while on a break she had previously scheduled.

Feng said he wanted to use his defense not to excuse what he did, but to ask forgiveness and “take ownership” of his previous errors. He said that if he was allowed to remain as secretary, he would follow the Union rule to respond to messages within 24 hours, not hesitate to ask for help and be proactive about communication.

Feng said that he had time to reflect since last week’s executive session, and that he had understood the importance of taking responsibility and properly fulfilling the role of secretary. “I understand that effective communication is key to success on the Student Union, especially in the role of secretary,” Feng said.

Feng concluded his statement by asking again that the Senate give him a second chance to prove that he had learned from his mistakes.

The senators then had an opportunity to question Feng.

Sen. Ashna Kelkar ’24 began the questioning. “You’re asking us for a second chance, but you’ve had a lot of second chances,” Kelkar said. “I’m just worried this is your way of saving yourself instead of [you] being genuine.”

Feng explained that he had “an epiphany” after last week’s executive session, in which he realized his mistakes and accepted responsibility for his actions. “[I thought] wow, I should not have said those things,” Feng said. “It wasn’t because of your vote,” referring to the Senate’s vote from the previous week to continue with the impeachment process.

Sen. Yael Trager ’24 asked Feng why being on the Student Union is important to him.

“Communication is something that suits me,” Feng said. He started in the Student Union last year as the Ziv/Ridgewood Senator before being elected secretary at the end of last semester. 

“I’m sorry for being that brat I was last Sunday,” he said.

Once the question session was over, Coles and Feng made their closing arguments.

Coles said that though Feng had addressed his wrongdoing and accepted responsibility for it, he had still not explained why the problems happened or what he would do to prevent them from happening again in the future.

Feng said in his concluding response that he did have “concrete plans” to improve, and though he doesn’t “deserve a second chance,” the Senate should be lenient and allow him to continue as secretary.

Thrun then removed Coles, Feng, the two reporters and all other e-board members from the meeting for executive session to deliberate.

After 17 minutes, the Senate returned from executive session. Thrun moved to vote by roll call, recording each senator’s vote after calling their name.

The Senate voted to confirm Sophia Reiss ’22 to the E-board as Judicial Advisor, giving her an official position in which to continue her work of training and assisting the all-new judiciary members.


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