Opinion: Impeachment Mandate

Posted by Michael DuPr??

Last Wednesday, the Vice President for Club Affairs, Logan Brenner, sent an email to all of Skidmore's Club Presidents informing them of changes to the Club Affairs Committee (CAC) Policies and Procedures. This document is the governing law of student organizations and, as Brenner writes, "affects every single club on campus."

While most of the changes consist of minor, uncontroversial amendments or clarifications, the document also includes an entirely new article which grants the SGA Executive Board potentially unchecked power over the leadership of clubs.

Brenner did announce in her email that presidents had until Tuesday to make suggestions, but this new impeachment policy will take longer than a few days to sort out.

First, the new article does not lay out the general conditions in which a club member would be justified in starting the impeachment process. There is no provision that the "concerned member" start an impeachment process because the club officer in question violated the SGA Constitution, Skidmore College Honor Code, CAC Policies and Procedure or the Financial Policies and Procedures of their Club Charter.

If the impeachment process is not tied to an ethical violation or a failure of club officer to perform his or her duties as described by the club's charter, club officers could be impeached for personal reasons.

What's more, the proposed law does not introduce a thorough set of procedures for the appeal process with the SGA Executive Board. This ambiguity undermines rule of law. The impeachment of a club officer upon appeal could be decided by the caprices of the SGA Executive Board or any of its members. While this is not stated explicitly in the text, it logically follows from what the law would allow.

The new article also voids all of the impeachment policies and procedures that individual clubs have. As things currently stand, clubs have the ability to decide how best to discipline or impeach a member of its leadership in the instance of transgression. If a club has already decided among its members the most appropriate course of action is such cases, the VPCA should have no reason to deny clubs to decide their own prerogative. 

As we examine the proposed article and its implications, there are a few assumptions that we must make. As was the case concerning the College's new Alcohol and Drugs (AOD) policy, we must always assume that any situation hypothetically permitted under the law could happen. We must also assume that the government will take advantage of all its powers granted under the law, including exploiting ambiguities in the law.

It is worthwhile conducting a thought experiment allowing for some possible scenarios that could arise under this new law.

Let us imagine that the two-thirds majority of a club decide that the club officer is not deserving of punition or removal. The member who began the impeachment process could then make an appeal to the SGA Executive Board. Because the proposed law does not introduce any procedures that the SGA Executive Board must follow in the appeal, the process from this point forward is ambiguous; the possible implications range from simply restarting the process, to setting a dangerous precedent - allowing any club officer's continued service subject to the whimsy of the SGA Executive Board. 

The article in question may have been written in good faith, but in permitting such unacceptable scenarios, it fails. Good legislation does not allow any room for outcomes contrary to its purpose, which in this case is the benefit and freedom of clubs on Skidmore's campus.

This is not to say that there is no need to have procedures that allow for impeachment of a club officer - far from it. There are certainly times when impeachment is appropriate and even necessary. However, impeachment is a serious act and it must be tied to equally serious ethical violations or a failure to perform duties under the club's charter.

The new policy proposed by the VPCA is heavy-handed, unnecessary and dangerous. This article should be stricken before the CAC Policies and Procedures is reauthorized by the SGA Senate. There is no reason to void the carefully crafted impeachment polices of clubs and replace them with mandated policies, especially those which might concede such sweeping powers to the SGA Executive Board.

Opinion: SGA Executive Board's Impeachment Mandate (Updated)

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