The Georgetown University Student Association voted to impeach but did not remove Senator Peter Hamilton (COL ’20) in a series of August senate meetings after he accrued a series of unexcused absences throughout the spring and summer.
Senator Leo Teixeira (COL ’21), who serves as the senate ethics and oversight transition chair, introduced the official resolution to introduce articles of impeachment against Senator Hamilton in the Aug. 12 meeting. Hamilton’s several absences served as grounds for impeachment, according to the GUSA senate bylaws. Hamilton was impeached in an 11-2 vote later that meeting, according to the resolution. As impeachment does not inherently merit removal from the senate, a separate vote failed 10-6 to remove Hamilton from his seat Aug. 26, as expulsion votes require a two-thirds majority instead of the simple majority necessary for impeachment, according to the GUSA bylaws.
Teixeira contacted Hamilton on June 14 notifying him that he had accumulated two unexcused summer absences and a third would constitute grounds for removal, according to the resolution.
Teixeira told Hamilton he could avoid more unexcused absences by submitting an excused-absence request form but Hamilton was slow to respond, Teixeira said. Teixeira again contacted Hamilton conveying that he had accumulated at least three unexcused absences, according to the resolution July 12. Hamilton responded July 26 and scheduled a meeting with Teixeira.
Hamilton’s impeachment comes directly from his violation of GUSA bylaws, according to Texeira.
“Under the bylaws, it’s explicitly stated that three or more unexcused absences are grounds for impeachment,” Teixeira said in an interview with The Hoya. “Simply put, what Peter did was in violation of those rules.”
Hamilton was caught off guard by the impeachment proceedings, as the resolution was not listed on the senate meeting agenda and he was abroad at the time, Hamilton said.
“I was not aware that articles would be introduced at the August 12th meeting,” Hamilton wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Hamilton will continue to work on several GUSA projects and remains optimistic about the upcoming year and his work for GUSA in spite of his impeachment, he said.
“I’m excited to get to work focusing on helping GUSA be a body that spends its time advocating for students and student organizations, not debating bylaws,” Hamilton said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “I’m optimistic going forward that we can do great work together as a student advocacy organization.”
Amid some confusion regarding the impeachment process, the existing GUSA bylaws require reform, according to Senate Transition Chair Juan Martinez.
“While I believe the Ethics and Oversight Committee should be radically transformed from its current form, the Bylaws lay out that accruing three unexcused absences is grounds for removal,” Martinez wrote in an email to The Hoya. “The Senate should use what is already in place to uphold the Bylaws and ensure we are an efficient and accountable body.”
Following Hamilton’s impeachment, Senator and Transition Finance and Appropriations Chair Matthew Buckwald (COL ’20) unrelatedly resigned from his position in the senate, according to a GUSA senate email sent to The Hoya on Aug. 30. While Buckwald did not respond to requests for comment, both Teixeira and Martinez noted that Buckwald had also accumulated three unexcused absences.
“I have not spoken to Matt and therefore cannot say for certain that his resignation was a result of him accruing three unexcused absences,” Martinez wrote. “However, I imagine it was definitely a factor to consider in his decision.”
Senate absences have long been an issue for GUSA. Last year, unexcused senate absences more than quadrupled from the previous year’s legislative season although a committee was introduced fall 2018 to to track attendance records.
Teixeira raised concerns about the overall senate dynamic. With senators publicly voting to remove Hamilton from senate, some tension may arise, he said.
“Hopefully, everyone doesn’t carry grudges over this because again, none of it was personal. It was all just trying to do what we thought was the right thing,” Teixeira said. “If Peter or some other senators or anyone holds a grudge over this, it would be unfortunate, but it would also be human.”
Update [May 26, 2020]: Hamilton attended all required GUSA Senate meetings over the course of the 2019-2020 academic year, according to senate attendance records.
Hoya Staff Writer Riley Rogerson contributed to this reporting.