Senate chair demoted for alleged “issues of conduct”

Ashley Wall / THE GATEPOST

By Bailey Morrison


By Donald Halsing

Editorial Staff

Senate President Ben Carrington removed Stephanie Bennett as senate chair due to “issues of conduct,” on Feb. 27. 

During an interview with The Gatepost, Carrington alleged Stephanie Bennett’s actions were “out of line and hostile,” and senators felt “uncomfortable” with her in the role of senate chair.   

Carrington said, “People felt attacked and people felt emotionally abused – I felt emotionally abused.” 

He added, “That is when this becomes an issue of conduct which supersedes our constitution, by-laws, and Robert’s Rules.”

Carrington said, “We need to treat each other like humans, and we haven’t been.” 

This demotion took place after an SGA meeting on Feb. 26 that was suspended prematurely due to tensions among senators.

During the Student Activities Treasurer’s Report, Driana Lebron said at the Financial Committee meeting on Feb. 25, members discussed reducing the amount of money clubs receive at the beginning of each academic year. 

Each active club on campus is currently allocated a base amount of $300 from the Student Activities Trust Fund (SATF). Lebron requested a motion from the senate to determine if the base fund should be reduced to $250. 

Carrington said SILD recommended the change “so that more is open from Unallocated for other students to get funds from.”

Senators then debated whether the club base allocation could be used for fundraising. According to the SGA by-laws, “SGA will not fund the following with SATF money: … fundraising projects and/or fundraising materials of any kind.”

During the debate, Parliamentarian Adam Scanlon suggested the senate suspend Robert’s Rules in favor of an “informal discussion.” The senate approved this motion, and for about 10 minutes, discussion was held informally.

Scanlon later told The Gatepost, “People raised many questions and concerns in the heat of passion, often talking over one another. 

“I thought it would be best to suspend Robert’s Rules to have an informal discussion in order to have a more civilized discussion where people didn’t talk over one another. However, people’s passions often got the best of their faculties,” he said. 

Robert’s Rules are the guidelines under which SGA conducts business, entertains motions, and hosts debate. 

After the informal discussion concluded, Stephanie Bennett entertained a motion to bring Lebron’s proposal to the floor. 

According to Carrington, Stephanie Bennett initially “refused” to call on Senator Matty Bennet when he attempted to make a motion. 

Stephanie Bennett said she did not target Matty Bennet when she didn’t call on him. “I was holding back waiting for another motion, and I eventually called on him. It was not personal. I wasn’t even sure if we were in Robert’s Rules or not.” 

Backer said e-Board members argued quietly during the senate meeting regarding whether Stephanie Bennett was required to call on senator Matty Bennet. “She doesn’t have to hear the first motion that is brought to the floor, according to Robert’s Rules.” 

Carrington said Stephanie Bennett was required to call on Matty Bennet under Robert’s Rules and that she broke “the code of conduct.”

Matty Bennet said, “I put my hand in to make a motion. At that time, the senate chair refused to call on me. Many other members of SGA urged her to call on me. … I think that it is crucial that everyone is heard during SGA and last night, I felt as if my opinion wasn’t valid and I was denied the chance to be heard.” 

Matty Bennet said he intended to bring Lebron’s motion to the floor but was “frustrated” and “embarrassed” by Stephanie Bennett’s actions and yielded the floor to Senator Abigail Salvucci, who moved for a recess. 

Carrington said after the recess, he used his “executive powers” to end the meeting early. “I think we all just needed to go home. We weren’t getting anywhere.” 

Following the senate meeting, an emergency e-Board meeting was held to determine the unresolved proposal. Members decided to not reduce the amount of funding clubs receive as it “didn’t feel right because we couldn’t come to an agreement,” Carrington said. 

Brendan Fraser, SGA and club coordinator for SILD, said, “The past SGA meeting was a great example of how passionate the SGA leaders are in their dedication to Framingham State and its students.” 

He added, “While the meeting may have gotten out of hand, the overall goal of SGA is to try and do right by the student body, which includes clubs and events, while simultaneously maintaining a large budget.” 

The Gatepost reached out to members of SGA following the meeting to discuss the events. 

Matty Bennet said after the meeting adjourned, “a few senators were leaving McCarthy when Stephanie made a snide remark, to which I did flip her off.” 

He added, “I regret what I did in the heat of the moment and I have apologized to Stephanie for my behavior.” 

Stephanie Bennett said her remark was: “Have a good night.” 

She added she is the “only person who’s receiving repercussions, as the one who was threatened, who got flipped off, who was cursed at.”

During an interview with The Gatepost, Stephanie Bennett said she received an email from Carrington that read, “Effective immediately, you are no longer to serve in your capacity as senate chair.” 

Stephanie Bennett believes it is unfair that she has been removed from her position as a result of her actions after she was “flipped off” by Matty Bennet and he has not, to her knowledge, been reprimanded.  

Carrington said Stephanie can choose to remain on SGA as a senate member but “her time as senate chair has come to an end. The senate chair is supposed to remain unbiased in any issues that are raised and hear from all the senators. That wasn’t being done.” 

Stephanie Bennett said, “I may have not been friendly in my tone but let that show my passion for the issues.” 

She later added, “If I am removed from SGA, then I know that I did the student body justice. I was elected to represent the students’ interest, not the Student Government Association.”

Stephanie Bennett said, “Student Government, they say they’re not a bank. They are a bank, because the only thing they’re doing is providing funds for other clubs. We are not creating our own initiatives.”

She added, “There’s a reason why … all these new people aren’t coming back, because it’s toxic and no one wants to be a part of it.”

During the senate meeting, Vice President Alex Backer addressed the organization’s conduct over the past few months.

Backer reminded the governing body of their mission statement, which he believes is not being followed. 

He said, “I can confidently say that we have not adhered to these guidelines set by our predecessors. I am absolutely disappointed in the direction we as a governing body are heading. … We have focused too much on the numbers and not enough on the value of what is being asked.” 

Backer added, “We have been so diligent to control our finances that we neglect the hard-working student leaders and the incredible events that they bring to this community.” 

He said, “This is a call to step up as the leaders we swore to be and consider the value behind the requests that come into this room.”

Backer concluded his speech by suggesting that any member planning to run for an e-Board position next year should get to know “each and every one of these clubs and their leaders.” 

He said, “If we fail to respect the possible value of their events and lose sight of our mission as an organization, then we have failed the student body, we have failed the clubs, and more importantly, we have failed ourselves. If we cannot fulfill our duties, then we deserve the contempt that others hold for us, and we as an organization deserve to crumble.”

During an interview with The Gatepost, Backer said, “I believe we haven’t been doing our job and it’s a disservice to students. There are senators, and e-Board members, who do not do the work that is assigned to them and [SGA President] Ben [Carrington] ends up picking up the slack. It reflects poorly on him because this organization is full of people who won’t do their jobs.” 

In an interview with The Gatepost, Carrington said there has been a “deficit” in the work being done by e-Board members and senators. He added he has had to do the work typically assigned to other e-Board members and senators because they have not “stepped up.” 

He said, “We’re a new e-Board, and I think it’s important for me to understand that they are all students, so sometimes SGA isn’t what comes first for them.” 

Carrington added, “I want to change this culture that we have. You do have to work with what you’ve got, but I think we can be doing better.” 

He said with the turnover at SILD in the last year, it has been hard for the organization to get the help they have needed. Carrington said he has worked with three different SILD in the past year. 

Backer said SILD has kept SGA “in the dark” and “isn’t making decisions with clubs in mind. It’s as if they are not looking out for students.” 

In other news:

Senator Michael Tucci was sworn in as a class of 2020 senator-at-large. 

Christian Fellowship was allocated $2,550 for its “Praise Night” event.