Fallout from a controversial Student Senate vote has resulted in a public apology, a resignation, a vote of confidence, and damaged relationships that will take time to mend.
On Feb. 16, Senate Chair Ryan Anderson addressed the Senate, apologizing to University liaison Helen Gorgas-Goulding for an ultimatum issued by the Senate the week before demanding that she be removed from her position.
In his letter read in the meeting Anderson told Gorgas-Goulding, “I feel obligated to convey to you how deeply regretful and gravely humbled I am for the Senate’s response to problems that were occurring regarding your tenure as Senate liaison.while I have strong and swift differences about the way you have approached certain matters facing the USM Student Senate this year, I believe the full Senate had an obligation to hear your side of the story about these differences before coming to such a politically motivated resolution.”
The ultimatum was drafted in an executive committee motion that states “.The executive committee demands in writing the release of Helen Gorgas-Goulding from her duties as Student Senate liaison effective immediately.” The motion further states, “If the University administration fails to comply with this request by Friday, Feb. 16.then the 29th Student Senate officially rescinds its negotiations with the University of Maine system regarding Student Senate employee transition.”
The motion was passed in the full Senate on Feb. 9. The ultimatum jeopardized ongoing discussions between the Senate and University regarding the employment future of six University employees and humiliated Gorgas-Goulding.
In his apology, Anderson asserted, “Let me also make it abundantly clear, for the record, that a different plan was initiated in order to inform the Senate of the executive committee’s action last Friday.”
The committee’s original plan, according to Anderson and Senate Treasurer Justin LaBerge was for the motion to be brought to the full Senate for discussion. Following the executive committee meeting, the committee planned to bring its motion and the Senate’s concerns about Gorgas-Goulding’s performance to University administrators to discuss the matter in private.
However, the executive committee overlooked a parliamentary rule that required a full-Senate vote on motions passed in executive committee.
“We intended for it to be a private thing. We wanted the Senate to know about it, but we didn’t want the Senate to vote on it,” said LaBerge.
“The intention was never to have it treated in such a way that Helen would feel the way she felt,” says Anderson of the initial plan.
It was not until the matter came before the full Senate that Parliamentarian Ben Hoffman discovered the statute requiring the full body to vote on motions passed in executive committee.
Chair Anderson was absent, attending a meeting of The Free Press Advisory Board, of which he is a member. Hoffman, LaBerge, and Vice-Chair David Casinelli, as the executive officers in attendance, made the decision to follow procedure and bring the ultimatum to a vote.
Because the issue had been discussed only in Executive Committee, regular Senators had little information to base their decision on.
Commuter Senator Sean Brady, followed the executive board in support of the ultimatum, but regrets his decision. “They misled us,” he said, “they sent us along the wrong path.”
At the same meeting as Anderson’s apology, Brady issued his resignation by proxy, citing his lack of trust in Senate leadership. In addition to feeling that the facts of the issue were not adequately represented to the Senate as a whole, he was also disturbed by Anderson’s absence during the controversial meeting.
“He wrote that resolution, he was the main orchestrator of it,” Brady noted. “If it was so important, why wasn’t he at the meeting?”
Anderson acknowledges that his attendance might have been beneficial, but notes that he had another obligation at that time.
“I should have been present, but at the same time I trust the members of my exec,” he said. “I have a constitutional responsibility to be at the [Free Press] Advisory Board.”
According to the Student Senate Constitution, “The Student Senate Chair or their designee shall have a permanent seat on both The Free Press and WMPG Advisory Boards.”
In addition to offering his resignation, Brady called for a vote of confidence in the executive board of the Senate. Because of what he perceives as a lack of communication between the executive board under Anderson’s administration and the rest of the Senate, he feels that the leadership cannot be trusted.
“I’ve had the wool pulled over my eyes enough,” he said. “Why should we trust or even follow this person as a leader?”
The vote yielded only four votes of no confidence in Anderson and one for each of the other executive officers, but Brady believes there should be further action.
“If [Anderson] takes full responsibility, he should resign. End of story,” he said.
While Anderson appreciates Brady’s frustration, he does not agree with his assessment.
“I made one mistake and I took responsibility.I’m not going to take down his opinions, but I’m not going to resign,” he said.
General Manager Meghan Conley can be contacted at: [email protected]