Monday, July 10, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 157 

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Bill bans president from sitting in on investigation

By Natalie Yeats
Daily Cougar Staff

Student Government Association senators passed legislation Wednesday which forbids President James Robertson Jr. to sit in on the committee investigating impeachment charges against him.

The bill, authored by Speaker Pro-Tempore Richard Russell, eliminated a conflict of interest regarding the makeup of impeachment investigative committees. According to the SGA Constitution, such a committee would consist of the members of the Committee on Internal Affairs and the SGA's executive officers.

"Such a situation would be an inherent conflict of interest in that it could afford the accused an opportunity to change their testimony after first hearing the testimony of other witnesses and before giving their own account of the same," the bill reads in part.

Under Wednesday's changes, an officer facing impeachment may in no circumstances sit in on his or her own investigative committee. Impeachment proceedings regarding Robertson have been under way for several weeks, but details of the investigation are not yet public.

The Senate also considered another piece of Russell-authored legislation Wednesday, calling for repeal of a section of the SGA bylaws that allows a student government executive, removed from office after impeachment, to appeal his or her removal to the University Hearing Board.

SGA Speaker Pro-Tempore Richard Russell and President James Robertson Jr. squared off Wednesday during the SGA senate meeting.

Christine McCreary/The Daily Cougar

Russell alleged Wednesday that Robertson was attempting to "pack" the Hearing Board with his own supporters so such an appeal would have a more favorable audience. Russell pointed to Robertson's nominating four people for Hearing Board positions last month.

"Had he been as concerned about the Hearing Board in April (when Robertson was elected) ... we would not be facing the problem now," Russell said.

However, Vice President De'Mia R. Willis said Robertson had no prior knowledge of the nominations for the Hearing Board positions. She said she prepared the list of nominees, and Robertson saw it for the first time minutes before announcing the nominees to the Senate.

Russell's bill was sent to the Internal Affairs Committee for review.

A third piece of legislation introduced Wednesday calls for creation of a geography department at UH. Rebecca Serial, a post-baccalaureate English and anthropology student, told senators she believes a geography department would benefit UH and its diverse student population.

Serial explained that the department's curriculum, which would offer a major and minor, would include studies of various nations' cultures, politics, economics and climates. She said her appreciation of geography courses sprang from a 2000-level geography course she took at UH.

"It is such an important class that few people really understand the impact that it can have," Serial said.

The bill will be considered in the Academic Affairs Committee.

The senate will next meet at 7:30 p.m., July 19, in the University Center.

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