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LttE: Ann Jung speaks on COC impeachment

Ann Jung

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Editor’s Note: The Observer attempted to reach Ann Jung on Jan. 16 at 5:45 p.m. and Jan. 17 at 5:32 a.m. via Facebook Messenger and on Jan. 18 around 9 p.m. via phone. The Observer could not verify the accuracy of statements here concerning the constitution and bylaws of the Class Office Collective, including quotations. The Observer did not verify the accuracy of statements here concerning communications between Ann Jung and other members of the Class Office Collective, including quotations.

 

In response to the cover story article published about me without my knowledge, I, Ann Jung, former Class Officer Collective (COC) Class of 2019 president, would like to lay out the facts and details that COC and The Observer newspaper failed to mention in the article.

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016 at 5:57 p.m., I received an email informing me for the first time that the four other officers of the Class of 2019 had initiated an impeachment process. This information is reflected in the email Madhan Saiprasad, Vice President of the Class of 2019, sent to me, informing me that “you will have the choice to attend the collective meeting [tomorrow] and defend your position or not attend the collective meeting and waive your right to immediate knowledge of the outcome of the vote or the chance to defend yourself.”

I was shocked and saddened to receive such an abrupt email, just like anyone would have been if they were in this situation. Saiprasad’s email did not include any of the grounds or reasons for initiating this impeachment process. It didn’t even explain the process that they were going to follow. Instead, it informed me that, to defend myself, I would have to come to the hearing the next day, without providing me the information or time necessary to prepare.

Though my colleagues failed to give me adequate time and information to prepare, after receiving this email, I reread the COC constitution and operating bylaws. Saiprasad’s email misrepresented the process by which impeachment is supposed to occur. Article II, Sections 8 and 9 provide the proper process through which impeachment can occur:

“Section 8: If a Class Officer is not performing his/her duties, the other four Class Officers in his/her cohort may initiate impeachment procedures by a unanimous vote (amongst the four of them). The Class Officer in question may choose to resign at any time. Any student who faces disciplinary action or academic probation may be asked to step down from his/her position.

Section 9: A 3/4 vote of the entire Class Officer Collective is required to continue with impeachment. All Class Officers must vote in this process, only after a hearing where all members are present has occurred.”

Saiprasad’s email, then, fundamentally misrepresented the process through which any impeachment is supposed to occur, and set the stage for his cohorts’ further unconstitutional abuses of power throughout the process. Under the bylaws, I was not permitted to waive my defense; as I am a member, I was required to be present. Ultimately, COC did not abide by its governing bylaws.

I explained this to Sapraisad via email, stating that “[u]nder the bylaws, there is no way for me to surrender my right to a defense. There is no way for impeachment to proceed without my presence at the meeting. The only way to waive my right to a defense or to waive my attendance at this meeting is to resign, pursuant to Section 8. Impeachment is a legislative proceeding, outlined by our bylaws, that must be followed.” I also told him that my colleagues had “provided me with no evidence regarding how I did not perform my duties under the constitution or bylaws. It is my right to know in what way I did not perform my constitutional duties as class president. The only impeachable offense brought to my attention today is a lack of attendance at COC meetings. However, I met with Radhika [Patel, COC executive president,] earlier in the semester and talked to [the COC advisor] Ricky discussing my situation, and was given accommodations due to my class schedule.”

One of the accusations leveled against me is that I was absent from meetings. We are here at this school to be students first, then leaders, an idea that is reflected in COC’s bylaws. Because it is fundamental to COC’s mission that its leaders are also academically successful, absences resulting from classes are not impeachable offenses. My absences were entirely because of my conflicting class schedule with COC meetings. COC bylaws, under Article V, Section 7, require that my absence at all-officer collective meetings—the only meetings I missed—be excused. This section provides a list of “allowable excuses,” including “1) A class or lab that conflicts with a with a class event [sic] 2) Travel related to academic or professional pursuits.”

In addition to all of this, during the rushed impeachment hearing only one day after receiving the initial email, the four officers of my cohort had specifically mentioned that “missing class officer collective meetings was not the problem.” It is therefore evident that the reasons used against me as grounds for impeachment are baseless and unacceptable, and I strongly believe that the students of our class have the basic right to know the truth and how their class representatives are deliberately under-serving them.

According to the article published in The Observer, Patel wrote in an email that there was “lack of proper communication throughout the semester.” However, only one instance of a communication problem was ever brought to my attention. This past year, I posted an agenda for a meeting in an online document to which all officers had access, a practice to which every other class president adhered. I specifically informed my cohort officers that they should access the agenda online whenever needed. Secretary Sophie Jones and Treasurer Mark Gusley, however, failed to access the agenda online before the meeting, and instead blamed their unpreparedness on the method by which I distributed the agenda. For more than a month, they criticized me for a “communication issue” that was caused by their own failure to retrieve the agenda online. This process was no different from the process adhered to last year. Consequently, she consistently complained that she was unable to prepare for the all-officer collective meetings and translated this into accusations of my “lack of proper communication” which was the second reason suggested for my impeachment. Had Jones or Gusley simply accessed the minutes and agenda online, there would [have been] no issue with lack of proper communication.

During a meeting, Jones also verbally complained that she was unable to contact me via phone. However, she did not attempt to reach me through many other means of contact such as email, GroupMe, Facebook, etc. that she commonly used herself. She also failed to inform me that she was unable to reach me via cell phone; had she done so, I would have given her my new phone number. I performed my duties of overseeing cohort operations to the best of my abilities, and tried as often as possible to facilitate communication, even though I had been experiencing a lack of collaboration and minimal support from her and the other officers in my cohort since the beginning of the term. A breakdown in communication between two parties is not an impeachable offense, under the constitution or bylaws, and therefore, there are no proper constitutional grounds to have brought this hearing.

Patel also stated in her email that “[t]he question of impeachment was not brought forth lightly or out of the blue by the members of [Jung’s] cohort.” However, it was never made clear why the other two officers, Marketing and Public Relations Officer Priya Khullar and Gusley, supported Saiprasad’s and Jones’s accusations against me at the impeachment hearing. Ultimately, all four unanimously pursued the illegitimate impeachment process. The other two officers were ultimately indifferent to injustice, promoting the unconstitutional actions of their peers.

Patel claimed that “there are many recorded and anecdotal instances that can be provided by any class officer on her shortcomings.” I would like to request information be shared with me and my classmates so that my fellow classmates, many of whom believe I should not have been impeached, have the opportunity to assess potential misstatements. Anyone with common sense would know that it is unacceptable to bring about an impeachment of an officer position without going through the necessary steps. Even if it is not written in the bylaws or constitution, if there are “rising tensions” or concerns within an organization or an officer’s position, then there should be a reasonable discussion where these topics are mentioned, rather than bringing about impeachment processes without attempting to remedy the problem. In my case, I was not aware of any idea of an impeachment until the day before my “hearing.” To me, and any moral individual, this is unjustified, uncalled for and unacceptable. I believe that there is a reason I was elected into this position as class president by the large majority of the Class of 2019. They trusted me, they believed in me, and they knew that I cared for our class and would do all that I could to better our class experience. However, this democratic process of electing me into office was rendered useless; the four other members of the Class of 2019 COC silenced the voices of the electorate and substituted their own judgment for the judgment of hundreds of their classmates.

Even though I did not have supportive officers who were willing to work with me to serve our class, it was an honor to serve as your class president this past semester, and I truly hope my cohort will be able to continue my movement to improve the CWRU experience for our entire student body. Thus, I would like to share my experience and observations to improve COC operations, which significantly impact student activities throughout campus. A number of individuals have voiced their concerns to me, eliciting their frustration about the lack of transparency in COC, and disappointment in the overall news of impeachment. I learned that there are some officers elected into office who resigned because it is evident that if a representative does not fall into line with the wishes and opinions of a particular group then there can be no real advancement achieved. I agree with this point, but I do not wish to allow this, and we as a student body cannot condone this behavior, especially within my Class of 2019 cohort.  I am very disappointed that even one of my fellow cohort officers, Jones, said, “[h]onestly Ann, what happened at the end of last year, I lost a lot of respect for you. Because you took on, you decided to take on a much higher responsibility position … I have a personal relationship with the other people in this cohort. I don’t have a personal friendship relationship with you [sic].” Jones was referring to my decision to run for president, unseating one of her personal friends from this position.

True leaders learn to work through their differences, and do not let their personal views or judgments blind themselves from working effectively with others. Moreover, as a class officer, it is vital to be supportive of your class and fellow class officers. Yet too often, as president, I did not receive any of the much-needed support from my fellow officers, one of the key components of building a strong team to work with and fulfilling the duties as the Class Officer Collective.  There is not a single instance named where any officer came to me to voice their concerns, seek guidance or ask for or offer help. I am always open to new suggestions, ideas and here to help wherever I can. However, complaining about issues that are not even addressed to me properly is a lack of communication on their part, not mine. The greater community of CWRU embraces change, individuality, inclusiveness and diversity, fostering a welcoming community to the students it serves, where all individuals are equally respected and free to take part in all school activities; COC should be no different.

It is clear that the other four COC officers of the Class of 2019 cohort have committed grievances against me, as well as their constituents. These officers made unconstitutional misrepresentations, brought illegitimate and unfounded impeachment proceedings and went against the wishes of the student body at large based on their own personal biases. These acts not only deprived the student body of their choice of leadership, but irreparably damaged my reputation, future career and personal life. I ask that the Class of 2019 COC officers apologize for these grievances, to both me and the 1200 students that are their constituents. I ask that the impeachment proceedings be reversed as unconstitutional, due to the baseless accusations that were never confirmed. I further ask that I be reinstated as class president so that I may step down from this organization, as I no longer would like to be a part of an organization that treats its members or constituents with such disrespect.

I believe that every student at CWRU is here to learn, as well as to prepare for the future. One day, we will represent our great university as members of the Case Alumni Association. We must be sensitive about the legacy we leave behind, and the type of precedents we set for future generations of students. At the beginning of my term as Class of 2019 president, I was filled with bright expectations, and excited for the future. I am willing to accept the painful reality of my current situation, and to move on from this period in my life. I fully believe I will overcome this struggle, thanks to the support of my classmates and friends here at CWRU. I know that I am still in God’s hands, and that I have so many more reasons to complete this journey. I sincerely appreciate and thank all of my fellow students in the Class of 2019, the administration at CWRU, my friends and family and especially God for the opportunities that I have had to serve. It will not be easy to forget this incident that was so personal in nature, but I will always remember the countless individuals who encouraged me and stood up for me in the face of opposition. Thank you.

 

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LttE: Ann Jung speaks on COC impeachment