Three student leaders at the University of Kansas face impeachment over their supposed failure to stand in respectful support of a Black Lives Matter group.
Student Senate President Jessie Pringle, Vice President Zachary George, and Chief of Staff Adam Moon were at a November 11 forum on race attended by several hundred KU students and the University chancellor. Pringle and George allegedly declined to stand when an activist group called Rock Hawk Invisible Chalk, taking over the stage to tout its demands, asked students to “stand in solidarity with their black peers and proclaim that ‘black lives matter.'”
Two days later, the Student Executive Committee passed a vote of no confidence in the student leaders. The committee later published a statement highlighting the students’ reported refusal to stand in support of the activist group. “This visible choice on the part of the President and Vice President showed the students in the room that neither officer has the intention of responding to the crisis our Black peers face on this campus, in the Lawrence community, and Kansas,” the resolution said, according to The Wichita Eagle.
The threat of impeachment raised concerns among free-speech advocates. Doug Bonney of the Kansas ACLU told The Wichita Eagle, “There’s no doubt that standing or sitting… is a communicative act and therefore speech within the meaning of the First Amendment speech clause.” He added, “The remedy is not probably to remove them. That seems to be possibly – and maybe likely – unconstitutional.”
Pringle defended herself by saying she and George did stand in support of BLM. “We did stand for Black Lives Matter,” Pringle said.
However, she also said–or admitted–that she did not stand moments earlier when the group read their list of demands because she and the other leaders were not sure they were in agreement with all those demands.
The protest group Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk presented 15 specific demands on a range of issues, including:
- “Mandatory, intense ‘inclusion and belonging’ training for all levels of students, staff, faculty, and administration.”
- “Increase consistent hiring of diverse faculty and staff”
- “Increase the percentage of underrepresented domestic and undocumented students”
- “Establish team of multicultural counselors to specifically address severe mental illnesses and the needs of students of color by Fall 2016”
- “Ban concealed weapons from campus”
- “Establish Multicultural Student Government independent of current University of Kansas Student Senate”
The Student Senate has threatened to start impeachment proceedings against the three student leaders by Wednesday.