By Megha Kaveri Puthucode Sreeram
In a possible first in the history of the Graduate Institute’s Students Association (GISA), a President of a specialised committee has been impeached and removed from office. In a meeting held on Monday evening (January 10, 2022), the Welfare Committee (WC) voted in favour of the motion to remove its impeached President from office with a 2/3rd majority. The meeting was called by GISA after the WC requested it to moderate and provide a neutral platform for the removal.
The meeting began at 18.05 hrs on Monday with an agenda to provide time for both sides – the one initiating the removal of the President and the President – to present their cases. This was to be followed by rebuttals, if any, and voting by the WC members. As on Monday, the WC had two members left – Areen De (the Treasurer) and Qi Zhang (the Events Coordinator). At the outset, GISA’s Administrative Director made it clear that the WC had asked GISA to serve as a neutral moderator and host of this meeting. He also reiterated that this was an internal affair of the WC and that GISA had no other role to play in this, apart from moderating. Over 50 students joined the meeting online. GISA also clarified that the WC President has already been impeached in December and Monday’s meeting was to vote on whether she should be removed from her office or not.
The Treasurer of the WC opened his remarks as the ‘Initiating party’ detailing the President’s professional transgressions in the past few months. He said that there have been several instances of miscommunications and unprofessional behaviour from the President since she took over. For example, the Treasurer highlighted that many emails were sent to various people by the WC President without consulting with the Committee Board. Mentioning the confusion related to Yoga and Zumba classes and their cancellations, he said that the President sent emails to the Grand Morillon housing administration unilaterally. “Only when we saw the sent items section, we found that emails had been sent on this. Even after we received funds, there was no communication about paying the instructors. At no point was there clear communication regarding the payment (for the classes). All the discussions were about personal issues related to the Committee President and how she was not happy with GISA and WC paying students who are giving the classes,” he added. He also said that the WC President lied to the Committee that the Institute and GISA had communicated that the students who were teaching Yoga and Zumba were not to be paid.
He then stated that the WC meetings did not have an agenda and no minutes of the meetings were recorded and that it was thoroughly unprofessional to the extent of spending time talking about unrelated matters. He added that the President was often absent and mostly late to the meetings where students’ wellbeing was supposed to be discussed.
These were in addition to the severely problematic comments made by the President around racism. The Treasurer mentioned that the President’s comments against students from several ethnic communities and queer persons were extremely problematic and unacceptable.
To a question on what prompted the rest of the WC members to quit the Committee after the President took over, the Treasurer said that the pattern of planning many things but not implementing the plans and miscommunication from the President around these could have led to frustration among the members who quit.
A student raised a question if her mental health state has been taken into account to carry out these proceedings against her. The GISA President replied that the impeachment was carried out with the consent and knowledge of the Institute and the President herself. She added that the Institute had strongly recommended the impeachment mentioning that ‘She (the WC President) was unable to handle the stress that comes with the job’. The GISA President further submitted that the WC President’s friends were also taken into confidence while taking a call on the impeachment.
The WC President was not present in the meeting (she had intimated that she will not be attending the meeting) and hence the meeting then proceeded to voting. The WC voted in favour of the motion and the WC President was removed from the office.
The election for the post of WC President will be held within 15 calendar days after the Spring semester begins.