At the 16th meeting of the Undergraduate Senate on Tuesday, a bill to impeach Senator Sam Schimmel ’22 was introduced by a concerned fellow Senator based on three private testimonies from undergraduate women of the Stanford community. These testimonies contained extremely sensitive reports of several sexual harassment allegations against Senator Schimmel. As such, it is crucial for the mental, emotional and physical safety of the witnesses that the details of the testimonies remain private. Due to the nature of these testimonies, the Undergraduate Senate motioned for a quick closed session of the meeting solely for the discussion and review of the testimonies, which were only one part of the impeachment allegations, after which members of the public were welcomed back into the space for deliberations over the remainder of the bill began. During our private deliberations, we discussed only the testimony of these witnesses and re-opened the meeting to discuss the bill introduced.
Our justification for having a closed session was driven by the Senate’s full commitment to the safety of anyone who experiences sexual harassment and wishes to come forward. The three witnesses explicitly had concerns about their testimony being publicized, and closing the meeting to examine their testimony was the only way to ensure their safety. In an abundance of caution, the Senate chose to close the meeting because the risk of placing these students in danger was high. As Senators duly elected to represent and protect student interests, we could not morally allow for the possibility of repercussions against the witnesses, whether through sharing the text of their testimonies or their personal/identifying information. Calling a private session was a decision we stand by as the only right step forward in these matters.
We acknowledge, however, that as Senators, we have an obligation to follow proper senatorial protocol, including but not limited to providing a full 24-hour notice about the action items on the agenda and treating members of the general public with due respect. We acknowledge that, in these specific ways, the Undergraduate Senate mishandled the situation, and we take full responsibility on these matters. Every action we took was out of concern for the witnesses’ safety, and not as a dismissal of the standards to which the student body holds us.
We believe in actively fostering a trusting, respectful relationship with student journalist organizations, including The Stanford Daily. The Undergraduate Senate recognizes and appreciates the extensive work that The Daily carries out to keep the student population well-informed and hold elected officials accountable. As a result, the Undergraduate Senate will publish a more comprehensive report on the bill to impeach Senator Schimmel that simultaneously protects the three individuals and keeps the public fully informed. In the future, we will continue to invite and encourage The Daily and other journalist organizations to sit in on and report on the Undergraduate Senate meeting; in fact, we are quite appreciative and happy for members of the public to attend our meetings and share their perspectives on the issues we discuss. We meet on Tuesdays at 7 p.m. in Nitery 209.
If you have any concerns, questions, or ideas, please do not hesitate to contact any of us at email@example.com, the official Undergraduate Senate Chair email account.
—Munira Alimire ’22 and Veronica Ayala ’22, Senate Chair and Deputy Chair