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STAFF EDITORIAL: Why Clemson student government impeachment trial must be open to public

Each year, CUSG candidates campaign around the word “transparency,” pledging to be more open than their predecessors.
And while there have been steps taken, it is not enough.
As the impeachment trial of Jaren Stewart approaches, his position and the effect it has on campus holds in the balance.
Many students’ questions may be left unanswered, with CUSG Senate planning to go into executive session on Monday, leaving only the vote and verdict to be heard by constituents.
This can’t happen.
When each senator took office, they knew they represented the student body. With more than 18,000 undergraduate students, these senators must do what’s in students’ best interest — and executive session isn’t it.
According to South Carolina Freedom of Information Act (SC FOIA) section 30-4-70, executive session may be held when the topic involves “discussion of employment, appointment, compensation, promotion, demotion, discipline, or release of an employee, a student, or a person regulated by a public body or the appointment of a person to a public body.”
Vice President Stewart is not an employee of Clemson University.
Vice President Stewart was not appointed to his position.
Vice President Stewart is not at risk of being fired from his position.
Vice President Stewart was elected and represents the student body.
It is only right the student body attends and witnesses the trial that holds their vice president’s status in the balance.
This isn’t the first time an executive session has been planned. During the Oct. 23 meeting, several student senators motioned and voted in favor of having an executive session to even discuss the matter of having an impeachment trial. And though the motion was struck down, this attempt raises concerns.
The SC FOIA states “investigative proceedings regarding allegations of criminal misconduct” may also fall under an executive session. However, Stewart will not be facing criminal prosecution after the trial.
There is no law stating CUSG Senate must go into executive session, only that they may. To hold this meeting secretly is a deliberate choice to hide the truth, codified in CUSG’s bylaws. Several senators said trial can help explain to constituents what’s going on. Having an executive session willfully places those constituents in the dark.
If CUSG chooses to go into executive session, VP Stewart, as the “employee” being tried, can demand that the hearing be public, as is his right per the SC FOIA.
If the trial remains closed, senators should be able to speak openly after about what transpired. Punishing them is choosing to shut your constituents out.
There is no sound, just or legal reasoning for an executive session. The law must be held above all else, including your rules.
The CUSG website says, “We see you. We hear you. We are fighting for you.”
It doesn’t mean just your fellow senators.
It doesn’t mean just your roommate, best friend or partner.
It doesn’t mean just YOU.
It means every one of the 18,000+ students you asked for votes. The ones you see in Cooper, pass by in Core and sit next to in Lee.
Seeing, hearing and fighting for us all starts now, CUSG. Don’t fail us.
-The Tiger
The staff editorial is composed by The Tiger’s staff editorial board. It reflects at least a ⅔ majority of the board.

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