USG shuts down proposed conservative club

Senator faces censure trials, name change vote passes


Photo by Sarah Gibson

Senator Jade Steele gives her five-minute testimony during one of her censure trials on Monday, Nov. 11.

Written By Sarah Gibson, USG Beat Writer

Senator Jade Steele was censured during Monday’s United Student Government (USG) meeting. Senator Steele was tried for two possible censures because she allegedly violated two different By-Laws of USG, being By-Laws 104.34 and 104.36 in the United Student Government Code of Ethics. Senator Steele’s formal charges were “intentional coercion of the electorate in the election of a Finance Committee Vice Chair” and “conspiring to oust a finance committee member with an ulterior motive,” respectively.

Senator Steele was given five minutes to defend herself at the presentation of each censure opportunity. She used the time to explain that she didn’t know what she was being censured for. After President Pro Tempore Grace Frank-Rempel noted that the situation needed some clarification, Parliamentarian Jess Wrzosek said that she did not reveal the identity of all parties involved, so they could remain anonymous if they wished.

According to Parliamentarian Wrzosek, Senator Steele had been coercing senators to vote for her in an election at a Finance Committee meeting. Wrzosek claimed that she had talked to multiple people at the meeting to support the original claim. After a secret ballot vote, the motion was not passed because it failed to get a three fourths majority. The motion had 12 ayes, three nays and five abstentions.

The second censure opportunity that was presented was about a different incident. It was implied that at a party Senator Steele held at her apartment, she whispered, “we have to get her,” regarding an unknown USG senator. According to Wrzosek, it was a statement that was heard by multiple USG members.

When Steele was given time to speak, she defended herself, saying that she was in her own apartment, not at a USG event, and that she didn’t remember saying those things. She further implied that her apartment was her “safe place” where she could speak without a filter, unlike a USG sponsored event. She said that if she did say it, she was sorry. At the end of her speech, she stated that she would never go out of her way to censure someone for something that was said in their own apartment.

Communications Director Kari Dettorre spoke up to dispute the fact as to whether it was a USG party or not. While the party was not an official USG party, Detorre cited a text invite that Steele had sent her claiming it was a “USG Halloween get-together.”

Regardless, President Pro Tempore Frank-Rempel noted that the censure was not about the setting but about the comment that was made. Because it was toward a USG senator, that made it a USG matter, even if it was not in a USG setting.

President Berlin took this time to make a point that senators are expected to be held to USG standards around the clock, and not just when they’re in legislative body meetings. He also encouraged students not to abstain from a vote when they know the situation and are able to make a choice, rather than abstaining and possibly not letting a motion pass.

After the secret ballots were passed out, collected, and counted, the censure passed with a count of 18 ayes and two nays. Vice President Alexa Lake informed Senator Steele that a censure is the USG’s disapproval of a senator’s conduct and a warning of suspension or expulsion.

Following Senator Steele’s censure trials, the Humanities and Social Sciences Association, or HSSA was recognized by USG without any dissent.

After this, the motion was made to pass a student branch of the larger group, Turning Point USA, which is a group that, in their constitution, claims to support free market, limited government and conservative ideals. The USG Senator who originally was going to represent the group was not present.

When put up for discussion, Ssenator Dennis McDermott noted that Turning Point was registered as a section 501 C3 nonprofit and had a history of not following the laws that came with that distinction, namely the participation or intervention of any political campaign, as referenced in the IRS guidelines. He also noted that many of their leaders had made homophobic, sexist and transphobic comments.

Following that, Senator Bryce Hayzlett approached the stage with a piece of paper, citing two pages worth of incidents that Turning Point had been involved with since December of 2017, all regarding racism and sexism involving leaders and employees of the group. He referenced a WhatsApp group message from a Florida Turning Point University chapter which contained racist memes about dressing up as ICE agents in order to grope Latina women. It also contained tips on how to avoid scrutiny, which included the phrase “don’t jew-hate.”

Hayzlett also mentioned a “Professor Watch List” that Turning Point provides, which allows students to claim that their professors discriminate against conservative students for actions as little as “making clever remarks about the president.” Hayzlett mentioned that several teachers had received death threats for being on this website.

Lastly, Parliamentarian Wrzosek noted that the club’s constitution contained one flaw that could prove to be discriminatory: a condition saying that all executive cabinet members had to be conservative. Wrzoseck further elaborated, saying that if the word “liberal” was replaced with gay, female, or something else, it could prove to be problematic.

When it came to the vote, the motion to recognize the club was unanimously rejected.

Finally, USG unanimously voted to pass a resolution allowing the students of Point Park to vote on a possible name change for the organization after survey results revealed that a majority of students would prefer it if USG changed their name to “Student Government Association” or SGA.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misquoted Parliamentarian Wrzosek to say “if the word “conservative” was replaced with gay, female, or something else, it could prove to be problematic.” Wrzosek instead used the word “liberal.”