Last fall, the Associated Students of CSU impeached a senator in a closed-door executive session that excluded media, and at one point, the defendant. In the following weeks, CSU’s executive director of public affairs and communications issued a statement affirming that ASCSU “is not a state or a local public body.” Under that assumption, ASCSU did not violate Colorado Open Meetings Law, which stipulates that all governing bodies must conduct their meetings in public.
According to CSU, ASCSU is not a governing body (the text “Your student government!” on their website could have fooled us). If they aren’t a governing body, they have the right to ignore common legislative practice, enter into executive session and make impeachment decisions behind closed doors. Although CSU may not recognize them as a government body, ASCSU still operates as if they are one, and the students of CSU treat them as their representatives. They should hold themselves to the professional standards of governments everywhere, in which impeachment proceedings are transparent and open to the public. Just because ASCSU technically can get away with holding closed-door executive sessions does not mean they should.
Now, ASCSU is moving to amend their constitution to add a section outlining impeachment procedure. We strongly support a constitutional amendment with clear, accountable impeachment proceedings that, as they put it, will “reduce confusion and ensure due process.” However, this proposed amendment seems aimed at justifying and perpetuating the impeachment procedure of the past fall, creating a problematic dynamic for themselves and, more importantly, the students they represent. It makes the “executive session” mandatory for the deliberation portion of the impeachment proceedings. Such a rule does not make the proceedings more accountable, quite the contrary. It codifies a violation of Colorado law, teaches bad habits to future legislators and shrouds a public process in unnecessary concealment.
Student media and student government are remarkably similar in that we are both training for roles in the real world. Just as it isn’t acceptable for the Collegian to fabricate quotes or otherwise act in opposition to industry ethical standards, it isn’t okay for ASCSU to impeach their members behind closed doors. Just because we are students doesn’t mean rules don’t have impact. As soon as student legislators step into the real world, closed-door impeachments are no longer an option. ASCSU’s duty is to prepare its members for the real world; and this practice would do just the opposite.