When a motion for impeachment is introduced, it becomes a process by which formal charges are made against a public official.
The importance of this process became the key focus during the recent events surrounding former ASU Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Sen. Isabelle Murray over the last two months.
Murray was a Tempe USG Senator, the president of the Rainbow Coalition and facilitator for the Disabled Students Coalition and served by representing the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, until her impeachment and removal from office in late October, under charges of violating USG student guidelines.On Sept. 25, 2014 students at an ASU football game made use of the “blackout” event, in which students and fans dressed in all black to show support for the university’s team, to paint their entire faces black. This caused a controversy over the use of face paint at university events, after which Murray engaged in a discussion about drafting a bill that would address the issues with, and prevent student’s wearing blackface paint to the football game.
Though it was an informal meeting to discuss the possibilities of such a bill, a representative of ASU’s student paper, the State Press attended. The meeting was documented as being on the record, and direct quotes in regards to plans of the proposed legislature were attributed to those in attendance.When the quotes were published, Murray’s superiors, Senate President Will Smith and Tempe USG President Cassidy Possehi, had been given no reason which they then provided to Murray as being a violation to the expectations document the USG provides to its representatives. Under Article 3, the presidents must be informed of the intention to address media before making any comments.
It was around this time, former USG Sen. Jack Tyo allegedly sent an email containing efforts of bullying and harassment regarding two students’ dispute that was being mediated with the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. ASU’s State Press shared information concerning the email, and Murray provided proof via a screenshot of the email, as evidence of her allegations. When the State Press requested comments from Smith and Possehi, an inquiry was made about where their information had come from.
At this time, ASU’s State Press revealed to the inquiry that the source had come from a Senator who had close ties to the Rainbow Coalition. This revelation led them to confront Murray, which she then admitted to releasing the information. Claiming that her actions had violated the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act, more commonly known as FERPA, Senate Pres. Smith made a motion for a vote of impeachment and removal from office. On Oct. 21, despite support from a multitude of minority coalitions, a vote was called in which the result was the motion of impeachment and removal from office had passed, and Murray would be stripped of her seat. Also at this meeting, Tyo resigned from his office.
On Nov. 21, the Associated Students of ASU (ASASU) Supreme Court agreed to hear Murray’s appeal of the decision. During the appeal, not only was the technology used called into question, but also how Robert’s Rules of Order were used. In a decision of 4-0, the ASASU Supreme Court decided in favor of USG Tempe, with Justice Tyler presenting the unanimous rejection of her appeal.
Frank LaMonte, the executive director of the Student Press Law Center, felt the FERPA violation was, in fact, nonexistent. “You always have to ask two things. First of all, is there genuinely a violation of federal law, and second could the federal law be enforced in such a way that overrides people’s constitutional rights,” LaMonte said. “It’s a complicated situation.” Jacob Dunford, an ASU mathematics student said. “But it seems like Ms. Murray was not following the rules and it was very well documented.”
With the university channels all but used up, both sides have bunkered down for what may be a long and arduous path ahead.