Student government strikes again! The Tempe Undergraduate Student Government (USG) at Arizona State University has impeached one of its own members for talking to The State Press campus newspaper without first giving USG leaders a heads-up.
The State Press interviewed ASU student senator Isabelle Murray earlier this month about a bill she was working on that would prevent students from sporting blackface at university events. The bill was in response to a publicized incident involving "a student wearing blackface to a recent football game [that] outraged members of the Black and African Coalition" at the school.
A noble effort, perhaps, but one Murray apparently should not have spoken to the State Press -- or any other press -- about prior to informing her USG superiors.
There is a densely-worded rule on the USG books stating that its members must notify "Tempe USG President Cassidy Possehl or Senate President Will Smith of any intention to address media, regardless of whether those comments involve USG. The expectations also require senators to "actively publicly participate in all marketing strategies" and to refrain from "publicizing or announcing internal issues within Undergraduate Student Government, unless told so.'"
Sounds open and democratic to me.
According to the USG president, "Our policy about speaking with the media is not for prior review of [a USG member's] statement, it is simply a request of notification beforehand."
Well, first, if you're firing someone over it, then it's not a request -- it's a requirement. Second, why have it as a rule to begin with?
The State Press knows why. As the top-notch ASU student news outlet confirms in an editorial about Murray's impeachment: "Stripped of superficial phrasing, Tempe USG is telling its members, 'Let us know what you're going to say beforehand so we can figure out how to make ourselves look good.'"
As the editorial subsequently contends:
There is no reason to believe that Tempe USG is made more effective by having members report to leadership every time they want to express an opinion to the press. Senators are not the USG or senate president's minions, and they are not necessarily the president's friends. They are the representatives of the student body, and their goal shouldn't be to ensure a good image of Tempe USG. ... Student government is intended to be a model of real-world parliamentary procedure, and real-world policymakers are not constrained by similar restrictions. In fact, state or federal legislative bodies being limited by similar media restrictions would be unacceptable and scandalized.
State Press EIC Julia Shumway similarly tells the Student Press Law Center, "There's no real world legislator who has to go out and get their speaker of the house's approval, or even to just say, 'Hey I'm going to go speak to the press.' That would not work in a real-world setting and that's something that our student government is supposed to be preparing people for."
Murray is appealing her impeachment decision. How do I know? Because she has spoken to the media about it -- most likely without giving the USG leadership a heads-up.