The Justice speaks to Union members about impeachment
The Union president, chief of staff and executive senator responded to comments made by former secretary.
In an Oct. 29 interview with the Justice, former Student Union Secretary James Feng ’22 expressed frustrations with the way the Union handled his impeachment. He alleged that several Union members had been waiting to hold the third round of elections for the Allocations Board until after his removal as part of a "political revenge scheme" against him.
The Senate impeached and the Judiciary removed Feng because, according to the articles of impeachment, he failed to run elections effectively, did not respond to messages in a timely manner and was repeatedly disrespectful to other Union members.
Feng said that he had issues with the way Chief of Staff Jasmyne Jean-Remy ’22 was handling elections. He said that he found it suspicious that the Union waited until after he was impeached to hold a third round of elections to fill A-Board, since he had insisted that they hold elections as soon as possible to fill the empty A-Board seats. Because he wanted to use the third round of elections as a way to prove his capability, Feng said this showed that the chief of staff and president were “going out of their way” to not give him a chance to improve himself.
“There was an intentional, malicious aspect to this process,” Feng said. “It was due to my stance during last semester’s presidential race.”
Feng said that because of his support and campaign work for Sourirajan’s opponent in last year’s presidential race –– an individual who Feng repeatedly emphasized he did not want named –– Sourirajan, Coles and Jean-Remy all wanted him off of the Executive Board.
“It doesn’t seem coincidental that the people who built this case against me [supported Sourirajan],” Feng said. He suggested that Coles used the power of executive senator to have him removed from office.
“I think they were upset in some way that I supported the current administration’s opponent,” said Feng. “What I’m seeing is political warfare, petty political revenge.”
In response to this statement, Jean-Remy told the Justice that she and President Krupa Sourirajan ’23 discussed giving Feng a third chance, but that one of Feng’s conditions was that he be allowed to run a third round of elections, which they did not trust him to do. Executive Senator Joseph Coles ’22 said that by the time Feng requested to run a third round, “he had already lost the trust of the Senate.”
One of Feng’s arguments, which he made to the Senate, the Judiciary and now to the Justice, was that he was not given a written explanation of his shortcomings with remedial steps to improve. Because of this, Feng said, he never really had a chance to fix his mistakes.
Coles said that while Feng did not receive such a notice, he was still aware of the problems. Jean-Remy brought up a message chain she exchanged with Feng, which began with her requesting a meeting with him. In the messages, Feng asked if the meeting was about his lack of responsiveness to emails, and then if it was about the way he handled elections. Jean-Remy said that the meeting was not about either of those issues. “To say he didn’t have knowledge of the mistakes, that he didn’t have knowledge that people were displeased with him, that’s not true,” Coles said.
Jean-Remy also said that she and Sourirajan had met with Feng before he was impeached to discuss the articles of impeachment, but that Feng was not receptive to them. According to Jean-Remy, Feng tried to minimize the issues and told her and Sourirajan that they were “overreacting.”
Feng also took issue with what he saw as problems with the way the current A-Board election is being run. Jean-Remy sent out the email notifying students about the election on Monday and held the info session at 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Feng said later on in the interview that the “organization of this election was worse than mine.”
Jean-Remy disputed this assertion. “They actually had two days [to decide], from Monday to 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, the night of the info session,” she said. “I copied and pasted [the email] from his template,” she said.
Feng said that the way the Union is handling the election “is subpar, very disjointed and very messy.”
In a later statement to the Justice, Coles disagreed. “Respectfully, his elections were a disaster, and we finally have a competent person running elections.”
Feng also brought up the previous secretary, Alex Park ’21. He said that the two of them had made similar mistakes and that only Feng had been punished. Coles’ rationale for filing the charges of impeachment, Feng said, was mistakes related to elections, but that Coles did not apply this standard to Park.
Coles said that this was incorrect. “Alex Park didn’t make mistakes of the same magnitude,” he said. According to Coles, Park’s primary offense was leaving out the racial minority senator seat. Coles said it would not have been “feasible” to replace Park even if the Senate wanted to impeach him, since Park’s term was almost over. Additionally, this was the election that would also decide Park’s successor –– Feng.
Sourirajan also said that Park’s and Feng’s performances as secretary were not comparable.
“Secretaries year to year make mistakes,” she said. “The mistakes being made [this time] were more public, affecting the way people voted and came to info sessions, and in my opinion that’s a difference.”
Even over the course of the interview, Feng did not dispute the articles of impeachment or that he was guilty. However, Feng said that he suspected, and that the current elections confirmed, his suspicions regarding what he perceived as inequitable treatment compared to Park.
“This really is like a witch hunt,” Feng said, despite pointing out that the articles of impeachment were “true and valid.”
Coles again disputed Feng’s claim. “It’s not some conspiracy. [The Senate and Judiciary] –– 23 people –– said he did not do his job,” he said. “It’s not like we did this out of nowhere. [The evidence] was there. Him endorsing the other candidate had nothing to do with us holding him accountable for not doing his responsibility.”
Coles and Jean-Remy also said that they were not aware that Feng had endorsed Sourirajan’s opposition.
Sourirajan said that Union members’ support for her opponent was not the reason for Feng’s impeachment.
“Regardless of who has endorsed who, that does not affect the way I or anyone else should treat people in the Union,” Sourirajan said.
Feng also said during the interview that “officially speaking, you cannot say I was removed.” This, he said, was due to the fact that the Judiciary had not yet released their full written opinion, and he had not received a formal email informing him of his removal.
Chief Justice Eamonn Golden ’24, who led the Judiciary trial and released the Judiciary’s brief opinion immediately after the trial, said that this was not exactly true.
“We had a 45 minute conversation which ended with me telling him he was no longer in Student Union,” Golden said. “I told him point blank –– you’re no longer the secretary.”
Coles confirmed a similar narrative. “He was removed, he’s been removed from Slack and all the systems,” he said. “If [Feng] felt like he wasn’t removed, he would be trying to get into E-Board meetings.”
Additionally, Coles said that Feng’s complaints made no sense since he had accepted responsibility before both the Senate and Judiciary. “I’d like to reiterate that his opening statement was a confession,” Coles said, in reference to Feng’s opening argument at the Judiciary trial. “If he thinks the articles of impeachment were valid, he should’ve resigned.”
At the end of the interview, Feng emphasized what he believed to be the overall point of his argument. “The main takeaway is that I did make my share of my mistakes. I had this little slight period of time where I slipped up,” Feng said. “I’m sorry for taking too long to recognize that I made those mistakes.”
Jean-Remy did not agree with this assessment of events. “It wasn’t a short period of time,” she said. “It was, like, a month.”
Ultimately, Feng said that his issue was that the motive behind his impeachment was “invalid.” “It was unjust, and it was an abuse of power,” Feng said. “It’s ironic that at an institution that values social justice, members of the student government can find a way to pull off this despicable act of injustice.”
Feng declined to comment on what his next steps are in order to rectify his grievances with the Union. However, his options are limited. There is no appeals process for impeachment, and according to the constitution, impeached Union members may not run for office for a calendar year afterwards. Feng, who is a senior, will not hold Union office again.