Scrutiny directed toward SGA pres

Kennedy Thomas, Reporter

Student Government President Travis Tillis received a Vote of Censure during the Student Government Association Senate meeting on Sept. 20.  The censure serves as a final warning from the rest of the SGA before an investigation is launched and the impeachment process begins.

Tillis, who began his term as SGA president during the summer session, has been charged with neglect of office duties, assaults on the floor, disorderly conduct, reference to personalities, misconduct in office, including making false statements to The Renegade Rip, disobedience to instructions by committees [sic], conspiracy, and refusal to recognize members entitled to the floor.

Tillis defended himself against the charges listed in a document passed out to all senators during the meeting, beginning with the first charge of neglect of office duties.  The charge cited missed office hours, failure to attend an SGA class presentation on Sept. 3, and failure to attend a scheduled hour of work in The Renegade Pantry.

“The next step is impeachment, and I don’t think this is even worthy of being censured,” said Tillis in a prepared statement. “I missed my pantry hour because I was answering some important emails.  This is not to justify missing my hour, but to take action without notice is unethical, and doesn’t say very much about us wanting to work together.  I am saying please dismiss this accusation because this was not deliberate, and it is not something that is ongoing, which is a detriment to the organization.”

Tillis denied the charge of assaults on the floor, as well.  The charge states that Tillis “neglected to relinquish his chair during his involvement in debate,” and instructed a board member to restate a motion for which discussion had been closed.

“I didn’t commit an act of assault on the floor,” said Tillis.  “I didn’t use any foul language, I didn’t make any derogatory remarks.  I have shown steady improvement meeting after meeting, and this is a growing process, and I am trying my best to be an effective chairman and president.”

Regarding the charge of conspiracy, in which Tillis is accused of attempting to create an alliance with certain SGA members, Tillis again denied the charge in his statement, feeling that it was exaggerated.

“Conspiracy is a strong word, and I denounce that all the way,” he said.

Tillis asked for the charges to be dropped altogether, so that the SGA could continue to move forward as a team.

“I need my team to support me, and help me,” he said, “because we are a unit, and it does not look favorable upon the SGA to be informally in conflict with the president when these issues can be resolved with a simple conversation.”

Tillis was not allowed to complete his prepared statement during the meeting, as his allotted time for speaking ran out.  Other SGA executive board members proceeded to clarify their reasons for proposing the vote of censure.

Janessa Jennings, SGA general counsel, explained that this was not the first time Tillis had heard of these charges.  Jennings, addressing the SGA executive board members and senators, said that Tillis had been spoken to individually on the matter, and that it had also been discussed in a group setting.  She expressed disappointment in Tillis’ response to these discussions, and urged him to not let the situation worsen.

“There’s not much improvement, you see, as he stated he’s missed several appointments continuously, and we’ve seen this. This is all documented, and now we’re coming to this vote of censure,” she said.  “It’s a warning. It’s not impeachment. It gets looked into and everyone is notified. We’re all on the same page.  Please take this example, and take it seriously.”

SGA Legislative Liaison Shelby Sward, 20, conveyed frustration with Tillis’ reactions to the charges during the senate hearing, and addressed him personally in her response to his defense.

“Regardless of whether or not any of that warrants a vote of censure, or impeachment, what I fail to see is any responsibility for the actions that you’ve taken,” said Sward, before advising Tillis on what she felt would be the proper course of action.  “I recommended to you in the conflict resolution meeting that we just had, if you wanted to approach this senate with some hope, then you might want to start by opening your mouth and saying, ‘Look, I’m sorry, I made a mistake.’  All I see are more excuses, where is the actual responsibility and the mature action of making improvement, as opposed to just constantly just saying ‘it’s not my problem and I didn’t do it?’”

The Motion for the Vote of Censure in regard to Parliamentary Procedure was passed with a vote of 12 in favor to 1 opposed, with 4 abstaining.  Tillis declined to comment on the matter after the meeting had concluded.

SGA Activities Liaison Daniela Miramontes, 20, fully supported the move to censure Tillis.  Miramontes said that Tillis had been made aware of the complaints against him many times, and had not adequately improved, despite ample time to do so.  Miramontes claimed that Tillis was content to ignore criticism and make excuses for his actions, rather than work to correct his performance.

“It might seem like this is a very brash and very harsh thing to do, but we have been in office for four months, and it is no longer a learning process,” she said.  “He’s just failed to correct his errors, or even admit to having any errors. We’re all humans. We have to admit to them.  I think that all in all I would be doing a disservice to my constituents if I were to allow this to go on any longer without saying something.”

Erin Robinson, SGA secretary, also agreed with the censure, saying that Tillis regularly deflects criticism onto other members of the SGA, and refuses to take responsibility for his actions.

“I would have liked to see my SGA president take responsibility as an adult, and as a man, to own up to his mistakes, because what he’s basically trying to say is that we all are liars about what he’s doing, and I don’t appreciate that.”

To date Tillis has received two grievances filed against him.  Sward stated that if the SGA continues to be dissatisfied with Tillis’ performance, and one more grievance is filed against him, that they would proceed with an impeachment trial for the president, tried by the senate.