SA senator faces removal hearing for missing meetings

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

Sen. Joe Vogel, U-at-Large, faces a removal hearing before the full senate after he was suspended in November for missing committee meetings.

Updated: Jan. 22, 2018 at 2:58 p.m.

The Student Association Senate will decide whether to remove one of its own Monday.

Sen. Joe Vogel, U-at-Large, faces a removal hearing before the full senate after he was suspended in November for missing committee meetings, and senators rejected his plea to be reinstated later that month.

Some senators said it is unlikely he will be reinstated because he didn’t show remorse for skipping meetings and was unprepared for those he did attend, but Vogel said he wants to continue pursuing advocacy work on the SA.

Vogel is the first senator in at least three years to face the prospect of getting kicked out of the senate.

The hearing, as dedicated in the SA bylaws, will be closed to the public and will be led by Darryl Jennings, the chief justice of the Student Court. After statements and testimonies are heard, the senate will vote by secret ballot on whether to reinstate Vogel. Two-thirds of the senators present must vote to remove Vogel from his post, according to the SA’s bylaws.

“We face many challenges as a student body and there are many initiatives left for us to work on as a senate.”

Vogel said he hopes to be reinstated to “continue working on important issues and being an active voice for students.”

“While I am concerned by the motives behind this effort to remove me, I hope we can rise above this and continue working on the truly important efforts we must accomplish,” he said in a Facebook message. “We face many challenges as a student body and there are many initiatives left for us to work on as a senate.”

On Monday, Vogel sent an apology letter to SA senators, stating that in the fall, “I lost track of time and lost sight of this responsibility and what it meant to me.”

He said in the letter that this year, senators have decided how harshly to enforce the SA’s attendance rules on a case-by-case basis, pointing to two other senators who have missed more than four committee meetings this year but have not been suspended. He said there is “zero precedent for impeachment” because of missed meetings.

Vogel blamed the decision not to reinstate him on internal politics within the SA, saying that “it is not surprising but still unfortunate that there are still a select few members of this body who operate based on personal political agendas not all are privy to.”

“As I have done in the past, I will continue to work to find common ground and collaborate with all senators to make progress for our student body,” he said in the letter. “I deeply hope that efforts to remove me are not driven by personal political agendas, and are not efforts to silence me for opinions other senators disagree with.”

SA Executive Vice President Sydney Nelson said Vogel’s continued violations of SA rules immediately triggered his suspension, since he missed four consecutive student life committee meetings. Vogel said he missed the meetings because he was working on Ralph Northam’s gubernatorial campaign in Virginia.

In 2016, seven senators were suspended for regularly missing meetings – part of an SA crackdown on attendance – but those senators either resigned or were quickly reinstated.

In October, another senator who had violated the SA’s attendance policy for meetings was reinstated to his role.

After the senate voted not to reinstate Vogel, Sen. Brady Forrest, G-at-Large, circulated a petition to initiate the removal proceedings. Fifteen senators signed the petition, one more than necessary to move forward with the process.

“I think either Senator Vogel will be successful and hopefully reinstated or he won’t be reinstated and therefore formally removed from the senate, and that seat will become vacant,” she said.

At the beginning of the semester, Nelson said she warned senators to be wary of missing committee or senate meetings because she wanted to “maximize the time” senators are working on behalf of the student body. She said that because Vogel was suspended, he was unable to advocate for his constituency because he was banned from meetings.

The removal hearing also replaces one of the SA’s previously-planned full-senate meetings.

“I’m very confident that the senate will still be able to complete projects and pass legislation that we set out to do this semester,” Nelson said. “But there is that loss of time and that loss of advocacy because there is a specific senator up for removal.”

Senators said it’s unlikely that Vogel will gather enough support to be reinstated because he was unprepared for meetings he did attend and would add unnecessary drama to biweekly senate meetings by objecting to parts of legislation that senators had weeks to review.

Sen. Imani Ross, U-at-Large and chair of the student life committee, said she was disappointed that Vogel didn’t apologize to anyone in the committee or his constituents, who he “let down throughout the semester.” She said she signed the petition to suspend Vogel in November.

“Whether or not he wants to be on the senate is not going to overshadow what we think is best for the students.”

“It showed a lack of humility, to me, for him to assume that without doing any work whatsoever, not attending any of the necessary meetings and not communicating with me, that there would be any room for him to stay,” she said.

Sen. Devan Cole, CCAS-U and chair of the finance committee, said Vogel’s behavior was unfair to the senate and the students who voted for him because there could have been other candidates who would have attended the required meetings.

Cole added that Vogel shouldn’t expect to be reinstated during Monday’s hearing because senators must weigh the interests of the student body.

“Whether or not he wants to be on the senate is not going to overshadow what we think is best for the students,” Cole said.

But Sen. Cole Kline, SOB-U, said the opposition to Vogel’s return is likely “rooted in personal preferences.”

“Sen. Vogel cares deeply about our student body and is a valued member of the senate,” Kline said in an email. “It’s disheartening to see our body playing the politics of personal feelings instead of fully focusing our attention on the issues facing students.”

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