Before unanimously approving new procedures for impeaching student representatives last Wednesday evening, Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) put to rest any possibility that impeachment proceedings would continue against Class of 2018 Representative Clare McInerney ’18 and At-Large Representative Duncan Cannon ’18 for their attendance at February’s party.

In some of her first public comments since publicly apologizing for attending the party at a BSG meeting last month, McInerney said on Thursday that the BSG’s decision to prevent the articles from being reopened validated her feeling that the impeachment process as a whole had not been fair. 

“At this point it’s not even about the wrongness or rightness of wearing a sombrero or attending the ‘tequila’ party—there wasn’t any form of due process in my eyes. I think the fact that it was voted on last night and we can’t use it retroactively is good. That was the issue to begin with,” said McInerney.

“I don’t want to make this convoluted—I don’t have a problem with being impeached in any shape or form if my actions warrant it, but my issue with all of this has been that the process itself wasn’t fair, not that what we did was not meriting impeachment,” she continued. 
McInerney reiterated that neither she, nor Cannon, nor anyone on their behalf had threatened to pursue legal action against the College or members of BSG. 

When asked about how she envisioned her future with student government, McInerney declined to answer. 

At their March 9 meeting before spring break, the BSG members who had introduced the articles of impeachment earlier that month announced that they were choosing to rescind the process due to potential legal issues posed by following through with impeachment proceedings while simultaneously creating the formal steps by which impeachment occurs.

While the BSG constitution references an ability to impeach, the assembly’s previous bylaws offered almost no instructions as to how an impeachment would actually proceed in reality.
For that reason, BSG President Danny Mejia-Cruz ’16 postponed the impeachment proceedings after administrators warned him that continuing to do so could place BSG members in a weakened position in case of a lawsuit.

“We realized that we didn’t have a set process, and should a lawsuit come up, we would be on shaky ground, and that led me to worry about the three petitioners and the status of the General Assembly as a whole,” Mejia-Cruz said.

Neither Mejia-Cruz nor Inter-House Council Representative Jacob Russell ’17, one of the three students who brought the articles of impeachment, said they had received any specific notices of lawsuits.

Russell said that the administration’s warning, which first filtered down to him and his fellow petitioners At-Large Representative Lucia Gibbard ’18 and Vice President for Facilities and Sustainability Kevin Hernandez ’18 through Mejia-Cruz’s postponement of the impeachment proceedings, caused him to reconsider moving forward with the process.

“I don’t even know if anyone actually threatened legal action,” Russell said. However, speaking independently with legal counsel and hearing more warnings from the administration led him to acknowledge, “There would potentially be a legitimate case because of the procedural issues.”

In an email to campus last Wednesday, the three reaffirmed the decision to drop the articles, stating, “We completely stand by our initial reasons for introducing the articles of impeachment.”

One remaining question brought up at this week’s BSG meeting, where the new impeachment procedures were finally completed and unanimously approved, was whether the articles of impeachment could be reintroduced by other BSG members in order to reopen proceedings against McInerney and Cannon given that there now existed a definite and laid out process for impeachment.

Several members, such as Class of 2016 Representative Brian Francoeur ’16 and Vice President for Student Organizations Emily Serwer ’16 argued that questions of legal fairness would still apply if the new procedures were to apply retroactively. They pushed for an amendment that would prohibit previously defeated articles of impeachment from being reintroduced which passed unanimously.

Gibbard on the other hand argued that since no impeachment had actually been carried out and defeated, it was still within the realm of possibility for different members to reintroduce the articles, having remedied the procedural inconsistency that led the three to drop them in the first place.

Eventually, BSG voted, with 10 in favor, eight against and seven abstaining, to add an amendment to prevent the new procedures from applying to previously introduced articles of impeachment, bringing an end to any possibility that McInerney and Cannon will be impeached.

A noticeably smaller group than in recent weeks attended the meeting’s public comment time, where two speakers spoke sympathetically to McInerney and Cannon’s cases.

Caleb Gordon ’18, who identified as a “liberal Hispanic,” argued that it wasn’t clear that the “tequila” party was wrong and asked BSG to refine its definition of cultural appropriation to distinguish between a more acceptable form of “appropriation” and a negative “misappropriation.”

Joe Lace ’17 argued in a prepared speech that McInerney and Cannon had been unfairly reprimanded over the last few weeks in public comment time. He further argued that BSG had not been adequately representing all viewpoints in the way that they have been considering the impeachment. His speech was met with applause from most onlookers in the room.

“The amendment being considered tonight comes with the claim that ‘impeachment is an unfortunate but necessary aspect of all democratic governments,’” Lace said. “Is democracy not also in line with adequate representation of all viewpoints? Shouldn’t this body honor opinions its members might not explicitly agree with?”

A recent poll released by Associate Professor of Government Michael Franz’s Quantitative Analysis in Political Science class lends some credence to the idea that opinions of the “tequila” party and the BSG’s response to it are more divided than on other previous issues of cultural appropriation and ethnic stereotyping at Bowdoin.

One of the questions in the poll, sent out to a random sample of 475 Bowdoin students and completed by 358, asked respondents to rate the appropriateness of certain events on campus, such as Cracksgiving, the “gangster” party and the “tequila” party. On a scale of 1 to 100, with 1 being acceptable and 100 being unacceptable, the “tequila” party had an average rating of 48, neither clearly unacceptable nor acceptable to the student body.  

In contrast, the impeachment proceedings themselves received a more inappropriate rating of 60 while Cracksgiving and the “gangster” party both received ratings of 73.