United Student Government (USG) President Kaylee Kearns narrowly avoided an impeachment trial at this week’s USG meeting following censures submitted by an anonymous senator.
The censures – the most serious form of reprimand for a USG member – concerned a number of unreported meetings that occurred over the summer, a failure by the executive cabinet to pass a summer budget and the executive order which removed ticket subsidies to the Pittsburgh Playhouse.
Six charges were brought to Parliamentarian Alex Popichak, which he brought forth in four motions to the USG senators to vote on.
Two motions passed, falling just short of the three censures required to impeach. One censure said President Kearns failed to consult with the legislative body during the summer term.
The second charge asserted there was no summer budget passed prior to the beginning of summer session, citing this as a direct violation of a constitutional by-law which states, “The Legislative Body may allocate any funds to be spent by the President and Vice President during the summer session by majority vote of Legislative Body.”
One motion, which leveled three charges against President Kearns’ executive order to remove Playhouse ticket subsidies, called the decision unethical and claimed Kearns failed to represent the student body. The motion was shot down after a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Brittany Arp.
The final motion was tabled for next week’s meeting following the release of a report on summer meetings from President Kearns and Vice
The censures were met with resistance from Dean of Student Life, Michael Gieseke, who urged the senators to consider the weight of the decision they were about to make.
He clarified that, although the president is required to seek permission to spend money, President Kearns requires no permission to take the opposite action.
“The president of USG does not have to ask permission to not ask for money,” Gieseke said to the senators at the meeting.
Gieseke also questioned the anonymous senator who filed the complaints, wondering how they acquired the information behind their charges and why they didn’t debate charges among the senators before filing them for censure.
“This is very serious, and it sets a tone,” Gieseke said, noting the censures were occurring in front of a new class of senators who weren’t yet sworn in. “This is their first day of joining this organization. Think about that.”
Montana Gabriele, a sophomore funeral services major and a senator for the School of Arts and Sciences, said she voted yes to censure President Kearns for failing to pass a summer budget.
At the meeting, Kearns defended this inaction because her predecessor, President Bobby Bertha, had not informed her of that requirement.
“Just because someone else did something wrong and got away with it doesn’t make it okay,” Gabriele said.
Gieseke defended Kearns’ ignorance of the by-law, saying that none of the advisors – including himself – had informed Kearns that what she was doing was wrong.
Brad Kovalcik, SAIL coordinator, said the rush to make such serious charges was like expelling a student without discussing what they did wrong.
He scolded the senators for holding Kearns accountable for one line in a 36-page constitution, challenging the senators on their knowledge of the USG rules and noting neither former President Bertha nor the USG advisors warned Kearns of this by-law.
“I felt like they [the senators] got to a point where somebody needed to say something like that,” Kovalcik explained.
Kovalcik said there was a stark contrast between senators raising concerns and immediately jumping to censure.
The first motion in the meetings charged that Kearns engaged in unethical behavior when she expressed that it was unnecessary to speak to senators before removing the Playhouse ticket subsidies. The Playhouse ticket subsidy was formerly taken from the USG’s internal budget.
“We have to ask the senators’ permission to spend funds, but we don’t need permission to not spend funds,” Kearns said in an interview with The Globe last week. The charge, which stated the power to decide the internal budget is left to the finance committee, specifically referenced this interview.
Kearns could not be interviewed for this story, citing a migraine following the USG meeting.