Stanford’s Undergraduate Senate will restart the process to remove Senator Sam Schimmel ’22 from office following procedural flaws, Senate Chair Munira Alimire ’22 told The Daily on Monday. On Jan. 7, the Senate discussed a bill to impeach Schimmel amid allegations of sexual misconduct, and the issue had been expected to be put to a vote on Tuesday.
“We will be redoing the entire process,” Alimire said. “The decision was made because the bill was not originally submitted within a 24-hour notice, as it was originally a private resolution and then became the bill it is right now.”
Article I, Section 7 of the ASSU Constitution requires that the Undergraduate Senate publish information about the agenda 24 hours before the meeting begins. The Constitution also states that notice of an upcoming expulsion vote must be given at the meeting directly preceding the vote. The Undergraduate Senate’s agenda indicates that the group will discuss the revised bill submitted to remove Schimmel at 7:40 p.m. at its regular meeting on Tuesday in Nitery 209.
The current version of the bill excludes two clauses regarding Schimmel’s removal as co-chair position of the Board of Judicial Affairs (BJA) presented in a former version of the bill. BJA Chair Catherine Sanchez, a sociology Ph.D. student, previously told The Daily Schimmel was removed as co-chair because his “behavior as co-chair over … led to him losing the confidence of the board.”
The announcement that the Senate will restart the process to remove Schimmel comes on the same day senators received a cease-and-desist letter from Schimmel’s lawyer Dan Roth, claiming that “various Senators have committed actionable defamation” against Schimmel.
“Falsely accusing an individual of sexual harassment and abuse is defamation per se under California law, as it exposes a person to hatred, contempt, and the like,” Roth wrote.
“I therefore urge you to cease and desist any further defamation of Senator Schimmel, and to retract your defamatory statements published in The Stanford Daily and elsewhere,” he added later in the letter.
In a statement to The Daily, Schimmel wrote, “Last week, Senators [Mià] Bahr and [Micheal] Brown made false and defamatory statements to The Daily, and I have informed them through counsel that this needs to stop.”
Alimire said the Undergraduate Senate had no comment on the cease-and-desist letter. Senate Parliamentarian Mià Bahr ’22, who had said during last week’s Senate meeting that Schimmel had admitted to sexual harassment, declined to comment on Monday.
Senator Micheal Brown ’22, who told The Daily last week that he would submit a memo with testimonies from three individuals whom Schimmel had “bullied and abused,” also declined to comment on the case on Monday.
Schimmel further said that the print headline for The Daily’s article on last week’s Senate meeting, “Senate considers impeachment for sexual misconduct,” was “another defamatory falsehood, which merits a retraction by the paper.”
“The Daily does not plan to retract our Jan. 8 article on the Senate’s meeting, as it does not contain any factual inaccuracies,” wrote Daily Editor-in-Chief Julia Ingram ’21 in a statement.
Removal process set to restart
Senate Treasurer Kobe Hopkins ’22 introduced the bill to remove Schimmel at the Jan. 7 Senate meeting. The bill alleged that three female-identifying undergraduate students had “submitted testimonials describing the abhorrent nature of their interactions” with Schimmel.
The Senate then discussed the testimonies from the three students, closing the session “on the basis of the safety of testimony givers,” according to the meeting’s minutes. The minutes also stated that the testimonies were provided anonymously.
According to the meeting’s minutes, Schimmel “admitted to sexual harassment” during the closed-door meeting. Bahr also said that Schimmel had admitted to such in the meeting but Schimmel said that was “patently false.”
Discussing the allegations in an interview with The Daily following the meeting, Schimmel said that “Parts are true, parts are untrue,” and pushed for the allegations against him to be made public.
Alimire declined to provide the testimonies to The Daily, citing Article I, Section 4 of the ASSU Constitution, which states that in cases where a judicial body is hearing a case against a student, “ASSU and the university will not discuss the matter with the public,” unless the defendant has both requested a public hearing and the hearing’s matter does not implicate the privacy of other students.
According to Article II, Section 3 of the ASSU Constitution, senators can be dismissed from office either through a recall vote by the undergraduate population or through a two-thirds vote by the Undergraduate Senate.
The ASSU Constitution sets out three potential grounds for dismissal, although it notes that the list is not exhaustive. Senators can be removed for a failure to regularly attend Undergraduate Senate meetings, for “actions deemed unbecoming” of a senator and for “actions which clearly violate the intent of this Constitution.” “Unbecoming” behavior is cited as the reason that Schimmel should be removed in Hopkins’ bill.
The removal process
Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution also guarantees that a senator facing an expulsion vote has “the right to speak in her/his defense before the vote takes place.”
Schimmel told The Daily that Alimire had told him — prior to the announcement of the restart of the removal process — that Schimmel would have the opportunity to use five minutes on Tuesday night to refute the allegations. Alimire did not respond to The Daily’s request to confirm this statement.
Schimmel said Alimire told him that he would not be allowed to bring forth evidence that would jeopardize the privacy of other students involved before the vote.
“Presumably,” Schimmel wrote, “this whole process will take place without a discussion of the actual allegations, which makes an unfair process even more shamefully deficient.”
In Article I, Section 4 of the ASSU Constitution, in situations where a judicial body is hearing a case against a student, students are guaranteed multiple rights, such as being notified by their rights at the time of being charged, sufficient time to prepare a defence, and to have no person presenting evidence against them sit in judgement of them.
It is unclear whether the Undergraduate Senate would be considered a judicial body in a removal case. While Alimire cited Article I, Section 4 in her denial of The Daily’s request for the testimonies, she did not specify whether the Senate can act as a judicial body, instead writing that Schimmel “has these rights regardless of appearing before a judicial body or not. Every member of the Association is protected under the Constitution in this way.”
Schimmel argued that the Senate is not a judicial body.
“The Student Senate isn’t a judicial body or a disciplinary body of any kind, so there cannot be and will not be any due process,” Schimmel wrote.
Constitutional Council Chair and second-year grad student Viktor Krapivin declined to take a stance on the issue, stating that issues like this are resolved when people file a case through the Constitutional Council.
Contact Michael Epinosa at mesp2021 ‘at’ stanford.edu and Kate Selig at kselig ‘at’ stanford.edu.