Senate drops Schimmel impeachment effort, strikes discussion from last week’s minutes

The body also discussed bills about reforming mental health policies and disciplinary processes for honor code violations

By and

Senate Treasurer Kobe Hopkins ’22 recalled the revised bill calling for the impeachment of Senator Sam Schimmel ’22 over claims of sexual misconduct at the 17th meeting of the Undergraduate Senate on Tuesday. The Senate also struck from the minutes of the 16th meeting all record of the Senate’s discussion of the original bill for Schimmel’s impeachment and discussed various bills regarding mental health and the reasonable doubt standard applied in student judicial proceedings.

The decision to withdraw the impeachment bill follows the Senate’s Monday decision to restart the removal process after it failed to give adequate prior notice of the bill. Earlier that day, senators received a cease-and-desist letter from Schimmel’s lawyer, Dan Roth, alleging that the senators had defamed Schimmel with false accusations of sexual harassment and abuse.

Hopkins originally introduced the bill to impeach Schimmel at the 16th meeting on Jan. 7. To discuss submitted witness testimonies alleging sexual misconduct against Schimmel, the Senate held part of that meeting as a closed-door session, despite not giving proper prior notice of the closed session.

Roth also attended the meeting. Roth is a lawyer recommended by the site Save Our Sons, which is an organization “dedicated to the families whose college sons have been falsely accused of sexual misconduct,” according to its website.

Recall of impeachment bill

Several hours before the meeting began, the bill to impeach Schimmel was crossed out on the meeting’s agenda. During the meeting, Hopkins formally recalled the bill for impeachment and encouraged those impacted to reach out to Stanford’s Title IX Office for the claims to be independently investigated.

“Matters of this nature, however, require a great deal of attention, investigation time, resources and judgment that this Senate simply cannot provide, compelling us to encourage Stanford University and Title IX to investigate what happened and determine which steps should be taken moving forward,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said he is retracting the Senate’s statements regarding impeachment.

“The Senate has officially recalled all statements of opinion from senators published in student journalism, like The Stanford Daily,” he said.

Although Schimmel declined to say whether he would pursue further legal action, he expressed mixed feelings over the events of the past week.

“I’m saddened by this, the way that this was handled, and happy by the way that it was resolved,” Schimmel told The Daily after the meeting. 

Changing the minutes

At the start of the meeting, Hopkins motioned to strike the line that “Sam has already admitted to sexual harassment during the private meeting” from last week’s minutes. Schimmel then motioned to strike the entire section, including statements that “Sam agrees that his behavior and statements can be described as ‘unbecoming’” during the closed-door portion of the meeting.

Senator Tim Vrakas ’21 questioned the value of striking the lines from the minutes, given that the senators had been present and remembered the previous meeting.

“We were all here, so I’m not sure what this achieves,” Vrakas said.

Ultimately, the Senate voted unanimously to strike the line Hopkins had motioned to remove and voted 4-1 to strike the section Schimmel had motioned to remove.

Mental health, due process

The Senate then moved to discuss other bills on the agenda, spending most time on Schimmel’s bill to reform mental health policies and practices and Schimmel’s resolution to ensure a beyond a reasonable doubt standard of evidence in judicial proceedings, which was co-sponsored by Senator Micheal Brown ’22.

Schimmel’s bill, which has been co-sponsored by over 100 students, would contribute Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU) funds to hire another Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) professional and change the standards for a student to be placed on involuntary leave of absence for mental health reasons. 

Opening discussion for the mental health bill, Schimmel said the wait times to receive mental health services on campus were unreasonable.

“Students in crisis should not have to get on a wait list; it’s not a class that’s full,” Schimmel said. “The issue of suicide is very real, and it hurts the students that are here.”

Senators criticized the bill on the basis that it was the role of the University to fund CAPS professionals, not the ASSU.

“Once the ASSU says we’ll pay for this or that thing, it creates the precedent where next time they want to hire a CAPS counselor, they might come to us, and we don’t have enough money for that,” Senator Jonathan Lipman ’21 said.

ASSU Director of Communications Cricket Bidleman ’21 criticized the bill for not being updated to reflect recent University policy changes in regards to mental health, especially in light of a class action lawsuit against the University for its policies regarding leave of absences.

Catherine Sanchez, first year PhD student and observer to the meeting, agreed, saying that “You should be talking to the people who are dealing with these issues on campus already. You can find which issues really need to be addressed and address those ones first.” Sanchez is the co-leader of the Wellness Information Network for Graduate Students, co-chair of the Stanford Disability Initiative and chair of the Board of Judicial Affairs.

The Senate then moved to discuss Schimmel’s resolution to issue a preemptive veto to any changes to the Honor Code, Fundamental Standard or the Judicial Charter of 1997, and would revoke its ratification of the Judicial Charter if the Senate were to receive any policy recommendation from a University body. 

“I don’t think you can ever be too safe,” Schimmel said.

Sanchez warned that voting in favor of the bill would potentially preclude any future student input on the content of the Judicial Charter.

“There is a part here to dissolve the charter entirely,” Sanchez said. “But if that happens, then the school can do whatever it wants, and there would be no student input in the [conduct] process.”

Following Sanchez’ comment, Brown withdrew his co-sponsorship of the bill.

This article has been corrected to remove a statement that incorrectly indicated Catherine Sanchez’ position at the University. While she graduated as part of the class of 2019, she is currently a first-year PhD student. The article has also been corrected to more accurately reflect Sanchez’ comments about the judicial charter. The Daily regrets these errors.

Contact Michael Epinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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Michael Espinosa '21 is majoring in international relations. He's the head of The Daily's social media team, and editor for the University beat and also occasionally writes about other topics for sports, arts, and The Grind. He's the biggest Taylor Swift fan at Stanford and the proudest New Yorker you will ever meet. Contact him at mesp2021 'at' stanford.edu.
Kate Selig '23 is a news managing editor. Questions, comments, concerns? Send her an email at kselig 'at' stanford.edu.