UH to ‘review’ witch hunt against SGA exec who posted 'all lives matter'
- The University of Houston may have sufficient justification to intervene after its student body Vice President was suspended by her peers for saying “all lives matter.”
- UH continues to maintain that it supports free speech but is not able to intervene in the decisions of a student organization, but told Campus Reform that the administration is "concerned" and that the matter is "under review"
The University of Houston may have sufficient justification to intervene after its student body Vice President was suspended by her peers for saying “all lives matter.”
Last week, the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate approved a measure imposing numerous sanctions on Rohini Sethi over her Facebook post, including a 50-day suspension, during which she is ineligible for her student government stipend.
In addition, Sethi must attend a three-day Libra Project diversity workshop in August, attend three “cultural events” each month, and write a reflection letter for presentation to the Student Senate on September 28. Sethi faces impeachment and removal from office if she fails to comply with any one of those requirements.
University President Renu Khator initially issued a somewhat tepid response when the controversy first broke, asserting that while the school supports free speech, “UH’s system of shared governance does not allow administrative intervention in SGA.”
The UH administration followed that up Monday with an official response on the school’s website reiterating its neutrality on what it considers an internal SGA matter, but emphasizing that the institution does not condone taking disciplinary measures against students simply for exercising their right to free expression.
“The University of Houston continues to stand firm in support of free speech and does not discipline students for exercising their Constitutional rights. All students, faculty and staff have a right to say what they want to say within the confines of the First Amendment and we have consistently supported this right,” the statement begins.
“The University of Houston has become aware that the Student Government Association (SGA) has suspended its vice president, Ms. Rohini Sethi, from participating in SGA activities,” the school continues, explaining that “actions by SGA, a registered student organization subject to its own governance, are not University actions and do not affect the academic or university standing of a student at the University of Houston” (emphasis in original).
According to the UH Registered Student Organizations Policy, however, “it is the responsibility of every registered student organization and/or its representatives to...carry out its activities and conduct itself...within the student organization’s own constitution, all applicable local, state, and federal laws, and all university regulations and policies.”
The policy further states that “a student group or organization and its officers may be held collectively and/or individually responsible when alleged violations occur either during an event sponsored by the organization or by an individual representing or associated with that organization or group.”
Campus Reform cited the policy in an email to the UH Office of Executive Communications, and received a response from Oscar Gutierrez, who asserted that the “The University of Houston is concerned about this situation and this matter is under review.”
Gutierrez referred Campus Reform to Director of Media Relations Shawn Lindsey, who stated that he has no additional information to provide at this time, but did confirm that SGA falls under the classification of a registered student organization at UH.
Sethi began serving her 50 day suspension on August 1, and according to SGA bylaws she will have to forfeit the remainder of her stipend if she remains absent from office for more than three weeks.
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