Bill Flanigen: Impeaching Aswani would do no good

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I come to bury Vishal Aswani, not to praise him. If he is remembered only as the affable if ineffective Student Association President who served out his term in quiet irrelevance, I would prefer that to the two months of harried, dramatic confusion bound to follow any attempt to remove him.

Josh Akman – along with a host of other students – disagrees. Calls to dump Aswani, like the one Akman wrote in last week’s Hatchet (“Hail to the chief?” Jan. 29, p. 4), have gone from absurdity to credibility in the last few weeks. Critics will no doubt be emboldened by the resignation of Chief of Staff Greta Twombly, who wrote that the Student Association President “is malicious in the way he pits the staff against each other, he lies to further himself, and he pushes out anyone who dares to question even the simplest of ideas.”

Akman and Twombly have a point: Aswani has presided over a woefully ineffective administration, failed to achieve some of his most basic goals, wasted a fairly large amount of student money and alienated his cabinet to the point of provoking mass defections.

As I said, though, I come to bury Vishal, not to praise him. I’m not interested in defending the Aswani administration’s record. I’m interested in preserving whatever is left of the SA and its effectiveness for the last few months of my college career. Akman is right to point out Aswani’s failures, but wrong to believe that removal is the solution.

Think of the Senate. The SA Senate is a deliberative institution for whom action ought to be glacially paced. Eleventh-hour impeachments, however, cannot be so slow. Such a proposal-which requires the vote of a supermajority of the senators-would delay the Senate’s business, possibly for weeks. By the time they remove Aswani, there would be precious little time remaining for the Senate to attend to other legislation. Meanwhile, President Aswani would be similarly unable to act.

Also, imagine the plight of a newly-minted President Kyle Boyer. With a term of only weeks, his presidency would be still-born; he would be a lame duck from the moment he took his oath. We could reasonably expect nothing of substance from him, whatever our opinions of his competence.

This is not the effective Student Association we so desperately need. Hours spent removing Aswani would do nothing but cement the Student Association’s reputation for a myopic, self-important focus on internal politics and banal scandals.

In moments of dissatisfaction, it is easy to believe, like Akman, that we have only two options: impeach Aswani or acknowledge that we either don’t care about the SA or can’t change it even if we do. This is a false dilemma. The third and best (or least harmful) option is to do nothing. We ought to look to the upcoming election. Then, new candidates can campaign to replace Aswani and improve on his record.

The power to throw an official out of office does not imply the responsibility to do so when we are displeased with him. Action is ill-advised when it holds no hope of positive consequences. Diverting the SA’s attention to impeach Aswani might make students like Akman feel better, but they’re deluding themselves if they think it will do the rest of us any good.

The writer, a senior majoring in history, is a writer for The GW Patriot blog.

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