Svarstad removed from SA role


J. Michael Bertsch, Managing Editor (He/Him)

The Students’ Association Senate voted to remove Sen. Christopher Svarstad from office due to a violation of item three of the organization’s code of ethics, which states Senators must “discuss professional matters, especially those concerning colleagues, in a professional manner.”

Near the end of the Oct. 26 meeting, the Senate entered an executive session for consideration of the removal proceedings. This session was closed to the public and followed the procedure outlined in Resolution 20-13-R.

Though all testimony during the executive session is held in private and not available to the public, during The Collegian’s interview with Svarstad, he referred to student senators as “babies,” “wimps,” “corrupt liars” and “dirty politicians.”

This procedure included a plea of “guilty” or “not guilty” from the defendant, opening statements by both sides, complainant witness testimony, defence witness testimony, rebuttals and closing statements by both sides.

“We have to give a fair trial and give that member the opportunity to fairly explain themselves,” Students’ Association President Hattie Seten said. “Then we go through all the steps. There’s opening statements on both sides. There’s testimonies on both sides from witnesses. There’s a rebuttal, closing statement. Everyone has that same opportunity.”

But Svarstad was not present at the meeting.

“I told the Senate on Sunday that my mother fell on the ice and she got really badly hurt, she’s badly bruised, she’s terribly hurt. I said I can’t be at the meeting because I need to take care of my mother,” Svarstad said. “I took care of my mother last night, and they totally violated my due process and went forward with this kangaroo court without me.”

According to the Students’ Association bylaws, a hearing must be conducted in front of the entire body at the Senate meeting that follows the initiation of removal proceedings, which were made Oct. 19. Additionally, Robert’s Rules of Order, the parliamentary procedure used by the Students’ Association, state that if the accused is not present for a hearing, the trial proceeds without them.

“These are the documents that we need to follow for our organization,” Seten said. “Our organization says a hearing happens in one week, so that means that that hearing needs to be held on that day. It would be improper to not follow our bylaws.”

Svarstad, however, does not agree that the rules are in the best interest of students.

“These rules are a total sham and a bunch of bullshit,” Svarstad said. “They are a smokescreen for violating people’s due process.”

Robert’s Rules states that the accused has the right to due process, meaning they must be informed of the charge, given time to prepare a defense, to appear and defend themselves and to be fairly treated.

“When the first motion was made, it was made provided on what grounds the motion was being made (the violation of item three of the Students’ Association Code of Ethics),” Seten said. “As far as time to prepare a defense… our bylaws say that happens in one week, so it’s time to prepare a defense. He’s also given written notice of when that hearing is going to occur, including the time, location and date, everything that Robert’s Rules tells us to do. Robert’s Rules also says, if not present, then we’re supposed to continue as scheduled.”

Despite the policy described in Robert’s Rules, Svarstad does not believe the due process was given.

“It’s a violation of due process, it’s as simple as that, because the school is a subsidiary of the federal government,” Svarstad said. “… They are bound by the laws like everybody else. Yes, they have their own little bylaws, but those bylaws are a sham and a total travesty.”

Svarstad believes the Senate violated his First Amendment rights by making the motion for removal.

“They said it was a violation of professional communication, some other bullcrap like that, it’s all it is a bunch of bullcrap,” Svarstad said.

“I was just exercising our First Amendment rights and they are impeaching me because I actually voiced my First Amendment rights,” Svarstad said.

According to the trial procedure, the Senate body voted and determined Svarstad was guilty of the violation. The Senate also determined the penalty violation according to the Students’ Association Bylaws, which state that “violations of the Code of Ethics shall be grounds for removal from any elected or appointed positions within the Senate …”

Though removed from the Senate for the 2020-21 school year, Svarstad could potentially be elected back to the Senate as soon as next year.

“Generally, within the Students’ Association, … you generally shouldn’t make rules for a senate that’s not your own Senate,” Seten said. “So that means, having removed him, my understanding is that he would be able to run for election to be on the next Senate in the spring semester.”

This may or may not be in the cards for Svarstad, though he does plan to continue working with students.

“My plan is to continue to fight for the students. I love this school. I’m a fourth-generation Jackrabbit,” Svarstad said. “I’m going to continue to use my very opinionated voice and continue to speak out for them.”