Statom barely survives impeachment

Campus News


Emma Tanner

In open forum, SGA Chair Makenzie Bullard, with tears in her eyes, tells students she “[has their] back” even if 2/3 of Senate does not.

Lavette Williams, Editor-In-Chief

After adhering to their constitution and tabling Student Government Association (SGA) President Jake Statom’s impeachment proceedings for two weeks, SGA returned to the chambers to vote on Sept. 9.

The meeting began as usual: roll call, the Pledge of Allegiance, passed agenda, passed minutes and office reports. Then, similar to the previous meeting, students were given two minutes to voice their opinions in an open forum.

Four students came up to the podium and spoke in favor of Statom’s impeachment.

Senior Mary Downey said the thought that she could have a normal relationship with Statom until she said the words, “I’m gay” and everything would change, disgusts her.

“‘Born this way, you must be born again” is what the image he posted said,” Downey said. “Those words allude to the fact because I am gay, I am less than and not equal to him or others on campus.”

Downey said, out of fear of repercussions, she has not felt that she could be who she was until her recent years at UNA.

“[Now] I am not scared of who I am,” Downey asked. “The time fraction is now and how we respond to this situation is vital. Is this who we are? Is this the UNA that we love? Are we just going to stay silent or are we going to do something?”

Downey was not the only student who spoke of the university as an escape.

Senior Megan Humphreys grew up in a town where no one was part of the LGBTQ+ community. She said, like Downey, she struggled with her sexuality out of fear of repercussions. 

 “Would I lose friends?” Humphreys said. “Would my family disown me? Will people make me feel less than? There were so many unanswered questions that I know a lot of other individuals faced this too. I felt ashamed of who I was. Then, I decided to attend UNA. Here, I could start fresh and figure out who I wanted to be.”

Humphreys said coming to UNA allowed her to find out who she really was and free herself from the burdens of her hometown.

“If these events had taken place three years ago, I don’t know if I would have attended this university and put myself in an environment where I wasn’t accepted for who I was and who I love,” said Humphreys.

The last two students, who stood up, UNA Junior Jeanette Allen and Sophomore Rhiannon Nelson, specifically called out Statom to be impeached.

“If you do nothing today, you’re saying homophobia belongs at UNA,” Allen said. “You’re saying that it’s okay for LGBTQ+ students to be a second class of students.”

After these testimonials were given, SGA went into executive session. This meant that only sworn in senators were allowed to be in the SGA Chambers to discuss impeachment proceedings.

Eventually, students were invited back inside to witness senator’s vote.

Before casting their votes, SGA Vice President Kayla Walton appointed two tellers to pass out the ballots. On the ballots, senators were asked to print their names and circle “yes” in approval of the impeachment resolution or “no” against it. Senators were also given the chance to abstain from voting. 

Once all votes were made, the tellers and SGA secretary went to the conference room to count the votes. 

Minutes later, a verdict was reached.

 Sixteen senators voted in favor of the Statom’s impeachment, while 10 voted against. Because there was not a 2/3 threshold vote in favor, Statom would not be impeached.

“This has been tough on me,” Walton said. “This has been tough on President Statom. This has been tough for everyone. I know it might feel like we have winners and losers in this room, but we’re all on the same team.”

The floor opened back up for discussion, for questions or concerns. To which, the four dismayed students, and others sitting within the chambers, had none.

Statom stood, using this time to issue an “unscripted” apology.

“It’s not a happy ending for [anyone],” Statom said. “I hope you can give me the grace as a leader to become a better [one] and to work with you. I’m not perfect. I’m just trying to do what’s best for SGA, the university and ultimately, the students.”

Statom said that he appreciated everyone for speaking out, and encouraged students to utilize his office hours.

“I would love to hear your concerns,” Statom said. “I’m not going to judge you in any way. If you have any ideas of how I can broadcast my apology better, please come meet me. I would love to hear those.”

Students were not the only ones who were disheartened. The same emotion could be seen on some of the senator’s faces as well.

Academic Affairs Chairwoman Makenzie Bullard spoke specifically to the four students with tears in her eyes. Bullard expressed gratitude to those who stood up and stated their concerns.

“I can’t imagine how disappointed you must feel,” Bullard said. “I just wanted to say that I am so proud of you and I see your courage, and I’m so sorry we let you down. Two thirds of the Senate might not have your back, but I do.”