Students speak at SGA meeting


Emma Tanner

Student Government Association (SGA) met for their first meeting of the semester on Aug. 26 in the SGA Chambers at 3:30 p.m. Vice President Kayla Walton took to the podium.

Lavette Williams, Editor-In-Chief

 The University of North Alabama’s Student Government Association (SGA) held its first meeting of the semester on Aug. 26, allowing students to speak out on SGA President Jake Statom’s impeachment.

The meeting took place in the SGA Chambers at 3:30 p.m. By 3 p.m., the room had already been filled by 65 people, its full capacity. Students, who were unable to get in, watched from the Guillot University Center (GUC) Atrium, peering through white blinds.

Because the SGA Chambers’ capacity was 65, many students stood in the GUC Atrium, watching the meeting through the blinds. (Emma Tanner)

As SGA Vice President Kayla Walton took the podium, the nervous chatter silenced. 

The meeting preceded as usual – roll call, the Pledge of Allegiance, the agenda, the passing of minutes and office reports. Finally, Walton announced that the meeting was in an open forum, which meant that students could voice their opinion. 

The open discussion lasted 30 minutes with the opportunity for each student to talk for two minutes. Only ten students went up to the podium to speak. Five spoke out against Statom’s impeachment, whereas the other five spoke in favor.

Over the summer, students used their social media platforms to comment on Statom’s post. However, this gave many students the opportunity to publicly express their opinions on the topic for the first time since June 22. 

The five students against the impeachment spoke towards Statom’s character and believed his American rights were being taken away from him.

Among these students was UNA student Russ Green.

Green said that religious speech cannot be censored unless it is considered a “hate speech or defamation to a person.”

“The Supreme court ruled on that in 1977,” Green said. “We’re all in college. It is not right to censor someone’s freedom of speech. It’s not right to remove someone from their position for saying what they think is right.”

The students that followed after him added on to this notion.

“This is a matter of respecting each other’s thoughts and opinions, the First Amendment and making sure democracy stays in SGA,” said Meg Womack, UNA student. “The First Amendment says we have freedom of speech, religion and press. Ever since we started school many years ago, we were told to create opinions, challenge each other and grow together.”

Womack said the university strives to give all students an equal voice.

“Just because one disagrees with Jake’s choice of religion doesn’t mean he has to be kicked out of the box,” Womack said. “He’s a very hard worker. [This] is why he needs to stay in office. [We] need someone who will serve the campus and the community. Make sure you get to know the real Jake.”

The five students, who spoke in favor, brought forth a different perspective. While some of the students were denouncing Statom’s take on Christianity, there were UNA’s LGBTQ+ community that were personally affected by Statom’s Instagram Post.

SGA President Jake Statom faces impeachment for sharing a post on his social media accounts that offended members of UNA’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies. (Emma Tanner)

 Jeanette Allen, a transgender student, said that Statom’s impeachment is not about religion, but respect.

“This is about human dignity and professional behavior,” Allen said. “As a trans-person, I have been through some s— on this campus.”

Allen said she has been discriminated against in multiple ways.

“We should not encourage hatred,” Allen said. “We should not let it be okay. Freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences. If someone says something that hurts they swore to represent, then they shouldn’t have their job.” 

Kyli Harris shared a similar sentiment.

“Nobody should be put down for their sexuality,” Harris said. “God loves them no matter what. Using Christianity to push your hatred towards another community is not okay, by any means.”

The meeting soon moved from open forum to executive session. Executive session means that only sworn in senators are allowed to be in the SGA Chambers to discuss impeachment proceedings. 

Walton explained that this is used as a procedure of “good character.” 

After the chamber doors and blinds were closed, the conversation of Statom’s impeachment continued.

“I think that the biggest thing that we need to look at is Jake as an individual, as a person,” Green said. “I feel like [most of us] understand what it is to be somebody of importance and to make a mistake. We all did it while we were kids and I’m sure we’ll do it as we keep getting more mature.”

Green said there is a time when people need to call for forgiveness, but there is also a time when they need to uphold their actions and take the consequences that come.

“Personally in this situation, I think judging off his merit and his character, this should be a chance for forgiveness, even if it’s not a sense of staying in [the SGA office] but at least for his character,” said Green.

Still, there are students who cannot help but think of when they first saw the post shared to his Instagram story, which stated, “Born this way? You must be born again.”

Emma Tanner

“I came to UNA to escape,” said Will Driver, UNA student. “As soon as I saw [Jake’s] post, I teared up because how is this place going to be my escape if it’s not going to accept me?”

Minutes passed before the doors opened again. 

While there was no official vote on Statom’s impeachment, SGA, having to adhere to their constitution and Chapter 506.2 of the Code of Laws, tabled the decision. 

Impeachment charges must be voted on a date between two and four weeks from the date, which they are brought, according to the Code of Laws. 

Senators will get to vote two weeks from their first meeting, which is Sept. 9. In order to initiate impeachment proceedings against Statom, there must be a two-thirds vote of the members present.