By Karoline Tyrrell
As a follow-up to the Senate meeting at Florida Gulf Coast University I debriefed in my first article I wrote for UnBossed Reporting, I want to share a “part two” on how free speech prevailed over cancel culture.
Tuesday night our Student Body Senate met for the impeachment trial of the senator who voiced his opinion “all races should be treated equally”. To start, the constitutionality of this trial is still in question in my mind. Regardless, our Senate impeachment committee drafted two articles of impeachment. Both articles were attributed to “misfeasance”.
Let’s pause here. The Oxford Dictionary defines misfeasance as an unlawful or wrongful act that is unintentional. The misunderstanding and simple lack of personal knowledge that was made clear by the senator on January 26th is suddenly an impeachable offense? Well, if being a senator requires knowledge on every topic known to man, then every single student senator deserves to be impeached! Nonetheless, Senate entered into a reading period, a twenty minute question and answer period, a defense delivered by the Senator, thirty minutes of discussion, followed by another reading and vote on each article of impeachment.
There were no initial questions. The room was silent and tense, so we moved on to the defense of the senator. He gave the best defense I have ever heard in my life. He repeatably apologized for the misunderstanding, but not for his words.
He cited multiple cases regarding the freedom of speech on a national level. He made a point to make a crucial reminder that the FGCU Constitution does not overall, and is in fact, subservient to the United States Constitution. Just because you are a student at a public university does not mean your First Amendment rights are taken from you. Crazy enough, this is something a select tried to advocate for in discussion!
We are supposed to talk and ask questions. That is our rule as student body legislators. The articles put what appeared to be an overage of emphasis on the fact that the senator said he would attempt to “block [this bill] from passing” if the wording was not changed to avoid any implications of superiority of any race. They acted like he was evil for this. It would be totally in his right to vote how he saw necessary on this bill. Is this not what we were elected and appointed to office for? Senators are not meant to have identical and unanimous voting records. We are not meant to agree on everything. Would we be thinking for ourselves if we did? Nope. Simple as that.
We moved into discussion with coherent discussion from both points of view on the topic. This was actually quite refreshing, to have a discussion in Senate! These days, it is rare that a rational discussion can occur without fear of impeachment in all honesty. The subsequent discussion consisted of many senators focusing on the fact that his statement was miseducation, not malice. Others said that his right to freedom of speech was not protected in the Senate chamber! I tried to remove all premonitions and previous thoughts walking into Senate and came through with the same conservative-minded conclusion.
The articles had small errors that skewed the situation. This was not something I believe should be in our Constitution for the rest of time. This entire trial was already held on shaky grounds, and the articles of impeachment were written on these same grounds. In my mind, a vote for impeachment would have been a vote against freedom of speech. All speech, not even conservative speech. Everyone’s right to free speech, a right we are blessed to have and need to exercise no matter your political or social persuasions.
A two-thirds vote is required to impeach a sitting senator. We had twenty-two voting senators present, which meant that fifteen was the magic number needed on either article of impeachment to be passed. The vote was going to be close on both of the proposed articles. Voting yes meant adoption of the impeachment articles. Voting no meant that the articles should not be adopted. The decision was 14-8-4. One vote shy of impeachment. I was so happy for the senator who dodged impeachment, but I was even more proud of our fellow senators. Many showed up with a clear mind, good points, and voted with their conscience. This was refreshing and gave me even more hope for the upcoming generation of leaders.
This mess proved to be a waste of time and energy, which we knew from the beginning. Nonetheless, freedom of speech prevailed in the end and I could not be more proud.
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