You may not like ASLMU Senator for Diversity & Inclusion Stephanie Martinez. You may not agree with her. You may even believe that her views are fundamentally opposed to creating a better world.
The fact of the matter still remains that her impeachment revealed a blatant disregard for the ASLMU constitution, and it is incredibly dangerous to prioritize an agenda over fairness and justice.
In an overwhelming vote of 18 in favor, one against and two abstained, the ASLMU senate impeached Senator Martinez on Oct. 11; it was the first impeachment of a sitting senator in ASLMU history, according to Agency LMU. Calls for Martinez's impeachment began last May after an Agency LMU article exposed her pro-Trump, pro-immigration control tweets, but they were reinvigorated recently by fellow Senator for Diversity & Inclusion Camille Orozco.
For the sake of this examination, I ask you to put aside your biases and consider the facts. Break them down and it becomes evident that Martinez’s impeachment was unconstitutional, unethical and has looming implications for the state of our country.
The impeachment of ASLMU Senator Martinez was unconstitutional.
As the ASLMU senators got ready to vote on Martinez’s impeachment, they were given an important reminder: the ASLMU constitution prohibits our student government from discriminating against individuals on the basis of “political affiliation” and “will not advocate the restriction of anyone’s freedom of public speech, assembly, expression, or association subject to the superseding and overriding jurisdiction of the Student Conduct Code." No mention of violation of the Student Conduct Code was brought up during the meeting.
The basis for the impeachment initiative, as ASLMU Vice President Elsie Mares emphasized, was the allegation that Martinez exhibited conduct that, as quoted in the ASLMU bylaws, “severely damages the integrity or authority of ASLMU or the office held by the individual in question.” Personal tweets, she added, cannot be grounds for impeachment.
Inadvertently, Mares was laying out the very contradiction that delegitimizes the entire impeachment investigation. The conduct in question that allegedly damaged the integrity of ASLMU is the very conduct that is protected by the ASLMU constitution's non-discriminatory policy.
This contradiction holds true for all four areas of Senator Orozco’s impeachment petition against Martinez. Let’s break them down.
Argument one: “Student testimonies showing mistrust toward and disapproval of ASLMU as a result of Senator Martinez’s public statements and actions.”
I would like to ask the 18 senators who voted against Martinez to point out where exactly in the ASLMU non-discriminatory policy it mentions that it is okay to discriminate on the basis of public speech as long as parts of the LMU student body don’t agree with the point of view that is being expressed, because that is exactly what this claim is implying. Martinez did not make any "public statements and actions" other than her social media posts, which Mares specified that she cannot be impeached for.
Furthermore, I find it incredibly concerning that the tweets of one conservative ASLMU senator are able to shake the entire University's trust in ASLMU. If the student body's trust in our leadership is so fragile, our senate might want to consider more integral methods of restructuring their relationship with their constituency that don’t include scapegoating one student to boost their own short-term popularity.
Argument two: “Deterred administration’s ability to interact with student communities including The Learning Community, First To Go, Resilience, and others in relation to Senator Martinez’s public statements and actions.”
According to testimony from ASLMU President Jack Palen and other officials, conversations between ASLMU and organizations like The Learning Community, First to Go, and Resilience have recently been dominated by concern over Senator Martinez. Again, this points out a failure in the Palen/Mares administration to engage with these communities despite the inevitable existence of people with different beliefs. Even though the current climate is incredibly tense, it is the president’s responsibility to enact substantive change regardless of whether or not every single senator agrees with him.
As Palen explained in an interview with the Loyolan, the senate operates mostly independently from the president’s office. Palen and Mares should have reassured these groups that Martinez’s views will not impact their own course of action; instead, they have added fuel to the flames. Imagine if President Trump called for Chuck Schumer’s impeachment because his liberal views were impacting the president’s ability to connect with conservative Mississippi voters.
Argument three: “Petition with over 560 signatures calling for removal demonstrating student dissent for her election to office as Senator for Diversity & Inclusion.”
A quick field trip to the referenced Change.org petition, started by an anonymous user, reveals that the petition was created directly in response to Martinez’s tweets, which it claims are “derogatory and dehumanizing” towards immigrants. I can’t expect that the person who created this petition was aware of ASLMU’s non-discriminatory policy, which (again) emphasizes that political views and expression are not grounds for impeachment, but I do expect that from our senate.
It is completely invalid to base an impeachment on a petition that in and of itself does not meet ASLMU’s constitutional requirements for impeachment.
Argument four: “Misleading account of relationship with Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA) on campaign platform.”
This point was the most interesting to me, but it was also barely addressed in the three-hour-long meeting, so I reached out directly to Orozco to understand what she meant.
Orozco explained that this claim “was in relation to the Agency article that just revealed testimony from CHIRLA employees and volunteers who worked alongside Stephanie while she made anti-immigrant comments ... regardless of what that article said, it was very clear to me that Stephanie could not be genuine in her involvement with CHIRLA if she held anti-immigrant beliefs.”
The referenced Agency article dances around the very serious allegation that Senator Martinez actively engaged in an effort to “out” undocumented students, but it never provides convincing evidence of this. Instead, the article includes testimony from two students who gave permission to Martinez to be recorded on video, and who then regretted giving this permission after finding out about the impeachment and what one describes as “comments that were very anti-immigrant.”
If Martinez knowingly endangered DACA students, her actions should be investigated not as those of an ASLMU senator but on the University level as a violation of the University Student Conduct Code Section III, Article B. I cannot even begin to understand the fear and betrayal that these students must have felt at the possibility that a peer would wish to expose their immigration status. However, there is no current substantial evidence to support that Martinez did so, and it would be prejudiced to assume that she did just because of her political views.
The Agency article also describes a Snapchat post of Martinez at a pro-DACA rally where she alludes to the fact that she did not agree with the message of the rally. However, when asked by the Loyolan if she supported DACA on October ninth, Martinez replied, "Yes." In fact, Martinez said she recently voted in favor of the ASLMU Boundless Initiative to grant $15,000 in funds to undocumented/mixed-status students.
Orozco also admits that her assumption that Martinez’s service work was not genuine is based on Martinez’s supposedly “anti-immigrant beliefs.” Again, this shows that at the end of the day, the entire impeachment inquiry revolves around the tweets.
Even if you disagree with everything that Senator Martinez believes and stands for, it is evident that she was impeached for tweeting her opinion. According to those laying out the rules for the meeting, these are simply not constitutionally valid grounds for impeachment.
The impeachment of ASLMU Senator Martinez was unethical.
Next, I would like to pose a slightly more radical opinion. Not only was the impeachment decision unconstitutional, it was also wrong in principle.
The position of Senator for Diversity & Inclusion, which Martinez holds, has the responsibility to “represent the varying needs and issues related to identities including, but not limited to, gender, sexual orientation, culture, disabilities, and neurodiversity,” according to the ASLMU bylaws. I’m sure that many of you have asked yourself the question I asked myself at the start of this investigation: as a Trump supporter, is Martinez equipped to carry out this role?
Instead of putting Trump supporters in a single box, let’s examine the tweets pulled out by Agency LMU in May that started this whole scandal.
The first tweet in question features another user who makes the blatantly racist claim against Martinez, saying that they are “gonna call ICE” on her. Martinez confronts the assumption that Latinos are all undocumented, explaining that she is a citizen.
The second tweet has faced backlash for its use of the term “illegal alien,” but as Martinez pointed out in the Agency article, this is a term which is used consistently by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. If society wants to adopt a more inclusive term, that is a conversation we can all have, but should a student be impeached over the use of a legal term our own government utilizes?
The third tweet reveals nothing more than Martinez’s strong support for a measure approved by President Trump to ban Central American migrants from applying for asylum at the U.S. southern border. This measure is certainly controversial, but it is also a matter of policy and opinion — the exact kind of topic that should fuel discussion between students, not hatred.
Another tweet shows a different user calling an ICE officer a “Latina concentration camp guard,” which another user tagged Martinez, who then responded herself, in. Once again, the original tweet uses clearly problematic language — as someone who’s family was murdered in the Holocaust, I will never endorse the term ‘concentration camp’ being used lightly. However, while this tweet might show poor judgment on Martinez’s part, the implication is that she could consider a career as a border patrol officer, not that she supports genocide.
Martinez has apologized for these tweets, which were posted over a year ago, to Agency LMU, and she claimed that they no longer reflect her views, as she is “not the same person as [she] was a year ago.”
The last tweet is the one you were waiting for. No policy recommendations, no word on immigration, just Martinez and a giant Trump flag. But as easy as it can be for so many of us to connect the dots between “Trump supporter” and “racist,” doing so, in this case, discredits the entire Agency article. With one photo, the Agency writers demonstrated that this was not an exposé of Martinez’s ability to serve LMU students, but rather an exposé of her political views.
So why is that a problem? Well, like it or not, Trump supporters exist. They exist in our country and they exist at our university. That means that they should have a voice in any student government that is truly representative of LMU.
In fact, this impeachment investigation has thrown light on the LMU student body’s need for greater diversity and inclusion in terms of understanding different political perspectives and points of view.
As several members of Young Americans for Freedom and the College Republicans groups explained during the ASLMU senate meeting, conservatives at LMU already feel completely disregarded by student government. The impeachment of the only openly conservative member of ASLMU in the days after she started an LMU Students for Trump Instagram account has only further “proved that [conservatives at LMU] don’t matter” says Will Donahue, President of the LMU College Republicans and Chief of Staff for the organization's parent branch, the State of California College Republicans organization.
That isolation of conservatives on campus is completely counterproductive to achieving the future that most progressives claim to be striving for. Intolerance and hatred are at the root of populism, radicalization and polarization, which brings me to my last point...
This decision has broader implications for the state of our country.
Experts across disciplines have pointed to growing polarization throughout the world as one of the most dangerous phenomena of the 21st century. A widely cited Pew Research Center study shows that Americans are more divided today than we have been in the last two decades. Some would go as far as to say that we are the most divided that we have been since the Civil War.
This polarization both emerges from and contributes to an unwillingness to interact with people that hold different belief systems from ourselves. In turn, it leads to segregation and violence, and poses a real threat to the foundations of our democracy. We are slowly but surely tearing our country apart.
This week, ASLMU succumbed to polarization. I was appalled, dismayed and ashamed that the student government that represents a university which I care so deeply for could put logic and reason aside, and instead let mob mentality win the day.
Let’s also not forget that we are talking about a human being, the pro-DACA daughter of immigrants, who has allegedly received death threats for her political views.
I am writing this article—knowing very well that people I consider friends will likely use it to publicly disparage me—because I think we have before us an unprecedented opportunity. We have the chance to take a step forward as part of the generation that will reject pointless division and animosity.
It is difficult to vouch for someone who stands for so many things you disagree with. I know firsthand, having just written an article on behalf of a student who supports a president that in my mind has caused irreparable damage to our country. It is now the responsibility of the ASLMU senate, as representatives of the whole LMU student body, to make that difficult choice — protect diversity and inclusion of all students, stand up for justice and due process in our student government and refuse to remove Martinez from office.
This is the opinion of Veronica Backer-Peral, a junior film and television production, history and computer science triple major from Pasadena, California. Email comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like The Loyolan on Facebook.