Ben Zeisloft, Campus Reform
- The University of Connecticut’s student government denounced its president following his support of a bill protecting freedom of speech.
- The student government president also vetoed a bill condemning the January 6 Capitol riot because it expressed support for defunding the campus police.
The University of Connecticut’s student government approved a vote of no confidence in its president following his support of a free speech bill.
The legislation would commit the university to adopt the Chicago Statement — a commitment originally authored by the University of Chicago which commits academic institutions to supporting free expression. More than 150 students signed a petition endorsing the legislation, which was co-authored and endorsed by President Michael Hernandez.
Nevertheless, the student senate successfully carried out a vote of no confidence in Hernandez’s leadership following his support of the bill.
“We as leaders of USG cannot continue to watch as a prominent representative of the organization acts in an unprofessional manner and endangers the relationship with the student body that USG has struggled to build and maintain in recent years,” reads the student government’s statement.
The students claimed that Hernandez “has acted in a manner unbecoming of the office he holds, which has manifested in an apparent inability to understand the impact that his actions have and a disregard for the concerns repeatedly brought to him by those he leads.”
“While this vote does not remove the president from office, we look forward to working with the incoming President-elect following next week’s election,” concluded the statement.
Despite the negative reactions to his bill, Hernandez told Campus Reform of his “confidence that the undergraduate student government can commit to civil discourse, shared governance and free speech, and at a time when our country is struggling to uphold these principles we must reaffirm our commitment.”
“This is a nonpartisan and common sense bill and I hope all students will vote in favor of creating an open and free campus,” he added.
As Campus Reform Correspondent Isadore Johnson — who authored the free speech bill — explained to Campus Reform, the free speech bill was the direct reason behind the vote of no confidence. However, a more indirect link arose from Hernandez’s veto of a senate resolution entitled “A Statement Denouncing the Capitol Riots and White Supremacy.”
The legislation condemned “President Trump and GOP allies” for allegedly encouraging the riot and repeated a commitment to supporting students of color by defunding the school’s police.
“USG condemns UConn for issuing only an email response to the capitol riots and calls on them to take definitive action to show their support for all students of color through actions such as defunding UCPD,” the legislation states.
Hernandez issued a statement in which he condemned the riot as “a disgusting attack against the rule of law and our democratic process,” yet chose to veto the bill because of its condemnation of the school’s police force and calls to convict former President Trump.
The student senate later overrode the veto by a 24-12-1 vote.
Johnson told Campus Reform that “the emphasis on the topic of white supremacy is largely outside of how Mike saw the bill.”
“Mike, and others like myself, saw USG commenting on partisan topics, like ‘defund the police’ and impeaching Donald Trump post-removal, as creating a hostile environment for free speech,” he explained. “If one truly sees a need to convince others to defund the police, they should directly address the merits of the argument, rather than trying to smuggle it into other legislation.”
University of Connecticut spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz told Campus Reform that the school would decline to comment “out of respect for the autonomy of the Undergraduate Student Government and its decision-making process.”
Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @BenZeisloft
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