Articles of impeachment against two Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) members for involvement in the “tequila” party were rescinded at last night’s BSG meeting for “legal and procedural reasons.”

The three BSG members who introduced the articles against Class of 2018 Representative Clare McInerney ’18 and At-Large Representative Duncan Cannon ’18 last week apologized for having to rescind, but said that following through with impeachment proceedings while simultaneously developing a formal process for impeachment posed a potential for legal action. No further impeachment action will be taken by the BSG against McInerney and Cannon.

“It has been brought to light that the impeachment proceedings in the BSG constitution and bylaws are extremely vague and could make not only us but the entire assembly vulnerable to legal action,” said Inter-House Council Representative Jacob Russell ’17, one of the three BSG members who put forth the articles. “It is with our sincerest apologies we announce we are rescinding this proposal.”

Russell clarified that “No students said they were planning to sue us, but multiple members of the College…warned us in no uncertain terms that we would most likely be individually sued, not by the College, [but] by individuals who remained unnamed [if we continued with the proceedings.]”

The Assembly did vote last night in favor of an amendment to the bylaws that would establish a formal impeachment procedure. Meanwhile, it tabled a proposal to vote that would help protect members of BSG from lawsuits while doing their job in the future.

 BSG President Danny Mejia-Cruz ’16 acknowledged the previous vagueness of the bylaws concerning impeachment.

“We were going to carry out impeachment proceedings as we figured out the procedure itself. There was something that was inherently unfair about that,” Mejia-Cruz said.

Mejia-Cruz said he postponed the impeachment hearings, which were originally planned for Saturday, because of this inconsistency.

Russell and the other two BSG members who put forth the articles last week, At-Large Representative Lucia Gibbard ’18 and Vice President for Facilities and Sustainability Kevin Hernandez ’18, expressed their disappointment at having to rescind.

“This is not something I personally completely agree with,” Hernandez said. “It sucks I have to be restrained in some way from what my moral values are.”

When he announced the decision to rescind, Russell clarified that the three members "completely stand behind our reasons for the initial impeachment articles.”

“There’s been a lot of confusion both at Bowdoin and in the national press about why these articles were filed. These articles were not submitted to attack or vilify the individuals involved in the ‘tequila’ party,” Russell said. “They were filed to hold the student government as a whole accountable to the formal condemnation of acts of cultural appropriation we had previously, unanimously approved.”

Many of the 50 students who showed up for public comment time urged McInerney and Cannon to resign from their positions.

“You voted for a Statement of Solidarity last semester and you still made this action that you took responsibility for…it’s black and white and I’m not sure how you can continue serving in this position,” Bill De La Rosa ’16 said. “Moving forward…there has to be a process for holding each other accountable.”

Others spoke of the way the possibility of legal action felt like a dismissal of the understanding they hoped would come.

“Legal defense does look like a rejection of the thing you’re being accused of,” Justin Weathers ’18 said to McInerney and Cannon. “I think it’s important that you use the position you have now and speak out and talk with your peers you now represent and also…there is some kind of need for an apology.”

“What’s going on right here is a total violation of the democracy that should exist in BSG, which is really interesting if you think about the argument for freedom of speech that’s going on this campus because there’s no freedom that’s going on here,” Caroline Martinez ’16 said.

Gibbard expressed similar frustration to Martinez.

“A lot of the people who came to the meeting last week said they wanted time for more discussion and free speech was part of America’s history,” Gibbard said. “The possibility of a lawsuit…essentially ends the conversation, which is not something I am in favor of. I would like the conversation to continue.”

The tabled proposal to protect members from the threat of legal action in impeachment cases cited that the possibility of lawsuit not only “interferes with [BSG’s] role as a democratic, representative body,” but also, “denies the [BSG], and its constituents, access to important conversations.”

“We either were unwilling to risk legal action or simply did not have the money to be able to possibly pursue that without a firm statement from the College that they would be behind us, legally, so we are working on that,” Russell said of this scenario.

The proposal, if approved at next BSG meeting, would allow Mejia-Cruz to look into providing BSG with contracts that ensure Bowdoin College General Counsel will represent them, “in the event of any lawsuit arising through assembly members acting in their capacity as representatives of the student body.” Further, BSG would work with a legal team to confirm its constitution and bylaws “can withstand legal action.”     

The bylaws approved at the meeting last night establish a concrete process for impeachment. Once a BSG member introduces articles of impeachment against another member, the validity of these claims will be first voted upon in Executive Session and, if passed, the articles of impeachment will be voted upon at the next BSG meeting. While the respondents, the members in question, will have time to speak during Executive Session, the final vote will take place by secret ballot outside of Executive Session.

Two-thirds of the Assembly must vote in favor for impeachment and a further two-thirds vote is required to determine if the impeachment is permanent, or if the respondents can apply for reinstatement.

The bylaws also added a clause that required BSG members to be “in good standing with the College.” If members of the BSG fall out of good standing, the Dean’s Office may inform the BSG President.

“A lot of the students have issue with BSG acting as a punitive body and that isn’t necessarily our main purpose,” Vice President for Student Organizations Emily Serwer ’16 said. “The procedure does a good job of allowing the school to take the reins on punishment or reprimand for any activities deemed not ‘in good standing with the College.’”

The Assembly will conduct a second and final vote after spring break to confirm the impeachment changes to the bylaws. They will also vote on the proposal for legal protection of the BSG.