Monday, November 20th, 2017

Senate continues in controversy

Bradford Spurr

Posted on April 22, 2017 in News
By USM Free Press

Bradford Spurr

By: Dionne Smith and Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writers

On April 21 the USM student senate held their weekly meeting. Senators began the meeting by discussing new systems to be implemented and leadership programs. After one hour of the meeting, students began speaking on the current controversy surrounding the student senate chair, Liam Ginn, and the creation of a Violations Inquiry Committee (VIC) to determine how to deal with the situation.

Before any controversy arose, student senators discussed plans for a judicial branch that would act as a form of checks and balances for the SGA, and as a way of holding the senate accountable for their actions. It would run independently of the SGA, but would work with the SGA when ruling on issues within the senate. Senators approved a motion to begin the drafting process for the judicial branch.

A clause called a “Vote of No Confidence” was also brought up. The clause would allow for a vote to take place to force senators out of the SGA if they are not fulfilling their duties.

Once the meeting allowed for non-members to voice their concerns, talk about the VIC was brought up. The VIC is a private committee that gathers information on incidents, in this case being the incident with Ginn. The VIC meets privately and go over the consequences that Ginn could face. It could take up to thirty days. After the VIC had come to a decision about the situation, they would present their recommendation for punishment to the student senate in a closed door meeting.

Senators told students that they want student information to remain private during the violations inquiry process.

“People should be held accountable by the public, but we don’t want to share any confidential information before it needs to be shared,” said Student Body President Humza Khan.

Hawraa Rikan, who will be a student senator next year, said she believed that since the issue involves the student senate chair, the decision making process should involve students who are independent from the SGA. Elizabeth Donato, a USM student, was also opposed to the fact that the VIC and their proposal to the senate meeting is private, including the investigation involving Ginn.

“Are you trying to protect the student senate or are you trying to protect the students and people at USM?” Donato said. “You’re supposed to be allocating funds but you’re allocating hate and discrimination. You should be doing the things that we ask.”

“The senate should be held accountable for everything we do,” said Student Senator Aaron Piece.

Students in the audience demanded an apology from Ginn for his statements. They asked that Ginn speak for himself instead of having the senate defend him. The senators tried to motion to move on from the issue twice, but they were voted down during both attempts.

“We can’t make Liam apologize but we can hold him accountable,” Student Senator Shaman Kirkland said.

“It has been made very clear that we don’t have your trust,” said Student Senator Dylan Reynolds. Senators discussed ways to improve the relationship between the student body and student senators.

“Have we failed you guys in that regard? Absolutely,”  said Pierce, discussing concerns of the SGA addressing discrimination.

After the official SGA meeting ended, student senators remained in the room to hear the VIC’s recommendation regarding Ginn’s alleged ableism. After intense discussion that was closed to the public, Ginn was asked to step out of the room while the final verdict was determined by the student senate.

At the end of the private meeting, Muna Adan, the vice chair of the student senate, disclosed the student senate’s decision to Ginn. According to Adan, Ginn will face a one week suspension without pay, complete mandatory sensitivity training with the Disability Services Department and issue a public apology. These consequences do not necessarily align with those recommended by the VIC.

Ginn is expected to publicly apologize at the student senate meeting in 166 Upton Hastings in Gorham on April 28. The public apology is solely for the comments Ginn made about individuals with disabilities. Other issues and comments made by Ginn will be addressed in the future by another VIC.