Mensah to face possible censure

For the second time this year there was a motion to censure the president of the Student Government Association. The motion for the censure of SGA President Kofi Mensah was proposed because of his failure to sign 15 pieces of legislation on time during the past three weeks, said Amanda Adams, chair of the Student Activities Committee. “It is my intention to address a pattern of being unconstitutional, especially when it has a negative effect on the Senate’s ability to represent the student voice and directly affects clubs,” Adams said. Adams, who motioned for the censure, said that this goes beyond a senator or a chair forgetting a piece of legislation once or twice. “The president not signing legislation affects other people’s work,” she said. “Whereas sponsors of a bill or resolution are only undermining their own ability to execute legislation.” The club that was most affected was the recently SGA-recognized club Demonyms Adams said. Demonyms is a campus magazine that features interviews, journalism, fiction, poetry, art, non-fiction and academic writing, founder Colette Shade said at an SGA meeting on March 1. “There are many privileges that come with being a club, and Demonyms contacted me to begin to exercise those privileges,” Adams said. “Since President Mensah had not signed [the legislation], they were not officially recognized.” Under the SGA constitution, Demonyms could not be given certain privileges, like funding, until they became fully recognized, she said. To further illustrate the issue surrounding clubs, Adams drew attention to the recent allocation of $12,000 to the crew team for spring break. Some students believed that this was inappropriate, as such a large sum of money is not usually given out to a club at one time, Adams said. The appropriate form of action would have been not to allocate the money, which would have prevented those students who could not afford the trip from training with the team over spring break, Adams said. In response to the proposed censure, President Mensah said that he apologized for the fact that his inability to sign legislation might have affected students. “I want it to be clear that I take my responsibilities as president very seriously and am not simply slacking along,” Mensah said. Most legislature is typically signed by Friday afternoons, but during the past three weeks Mensah said he has not been on his A-game in signing legislation on time. “We are all students and sometimes, with a multitude of things racing, especially at this time of the year, one can slip up here and there,” he said. Mensah said that he would remain on top of his responsibilities throughout the rest of the year. “I feel bad and I assure you that it will not happen again,” he said. “Mostly thanks to my handy dandy iPhone.” Mensah said that he apologized to the sponsors of the bills and resolutions if they felt as though he was not in support of them and intends to make the next few weeks of the semester count. With such little time left in the semester, Mensah said he sees nothing positive coming out of this censure, if it passes, and does not see how it will do anything positive for the SGA. Other senators said they agreed that Mensah’s actions were not acceptable and need to be addressed, however, they do not believe that a censure is the best way to do so. “I think it is clear that after the last censure, President Mensah is not as affected by a censure as we would hope,” SGA Senator William Bennington said. “If he were, this wouldn’t have happened.” A censure is not the right tool to improve Kofi’s leadership, Bennington said. “The last censure put President Mensah on the defensive and resulted in an unfortunate situation in Senate where we spent time on something that likely did not improve the student experience at UVM,” he said. Punishments and sanctions do not always work, so appealing to the humanity in an individual and expressing disappointment and requesting for an apology can make better progress, Bennington said. “That is my goal here, to make sure Kofi is the best president he can be, to provide the excellent leadership needed for a successful Senate,” he said. A censure that creates tension in the Senate is not the right way to do that, Bennington said.