Senator Jackson Coates
Jackson Coates, junior biology major
TN: Why did you vote the way that you did regarding impeachment?
Jackson Coates: “Yeah. So the most important thing to note for everyone involved is that the impeachment is based on a constitutional infringement and constitutional infringement alone, right. So you had the people in favor of impeachment were saying that she had violated her executive order that was banning office hours to be completed in the SGA office and that it was unconstitutional in her denial of a senator. I’m no expert of the SGA constitution. I’ll be open about that. That’s the role of the Judicial Council. So we had both sides, share perspectives and the people who are against impeachment cited parts of the constitution that seemed to defend President Goodwin’s actions. So, I think, the sentiment was with the people who voted no is that there was no clear constitutional violation. You saw it seems that the Constitution has a lot of gray area—and that was illuminated on Monday, and that’s definitely something that needs to be addressed—but me personally without a pure, extremely proven violation of the Constitution, I couldn’t vote yes in my right mind because if we had moved to and successfully voted to impeach President Goodwin, without a clear constitutional violation, it kind of puts us down a slippery slope of would we then be able to kind of move to impeach a senator who had an idea for a resolution or something that we didn’t like. For example, if someone joined and was in favor of the commuter meal plan, which I know is, is not a popular thing I’ve never met anyone who’s in favor of it, but for example, someone joined and wanted to push that and they hadn’t clearly violated their duties and the Constitution, what would be the precedent? If the impeachment movement goes to the Judicial Council, and I understand there’s concern of bias with Chief Justice Cleary having a personal relationship with the president so it can go to the Judicial Council without Cleary’s involvement, and if the Judicial Council, whose job is to interpret the Constitution, if they determine that there was an infringement, then I’d be willing to change my stance. Absolutely. But as of the meeting on Monday with the evidence presented, I couldn’t confidently say that the constitution had been violated by President Goodwin.”
TN: Why do you feel like impeachment was brought up?
JC: “So, I feel like impeachment was brought up because there’s definitely the sentiment within the Senate and the student body as well that SGA and President Goodwin as a whole, have not represented underrepresented groups on campus appropriately and the student body has made it clear that that’s the case and obviously, we as SGA need to move to fix that, and we are. There are people who were on both sides of the impeachment who are working on resolutions right now that are suggesting that the administration, take action to change the university policy on hate speech and things of that manner, but that alone of saying that President Goodwin has not adequately represented the student body was not brought up in the article of impeachment itself. So when we were looking at just the grounds for impeachment of being the constitutional violations, it appeared during the meeting that there was no clear consensus on whether the constitution had been broken. That answer your question?
TN: So going forward, what is your plan as a senator?
JC: “For me as a senator I reached out to people on both sides of the impeachment. I’ve talked to Senator Renton, and I’ve talked to Senator, shoot who else did I talk to—I don’t remember off the top of my head—but I’ve talked to a few people about moving legislation through SGA to get to the administration to move to take action, and it’s already being worked on. I offered my assistance and personally, I’m with the academic committee in SGA, so I personally have been and will continue to work on an amendment to their foreign language requirement. Because I’ve met with the Dean of the biology department and she told me the foreign language requirement was designed particularly to give biology students cultural enrichment. And so personally, I would like to see expanded to things such as Black and Gender Studies. I know NKU offers a lot of courses on Indigenous culture and a lot of things that I think that biology students could benefit from taking and so that’s kind of what I’m working on personally. If they need me to work on the legislation that the administration will see then I can certainly do that and you can expect that when it reaches the floor that I will be in favor of it.”
TN: Since you voted against the impeachment, I just want to know how you feel about the multiple students that came up and testified about how they felt on campus. How are you planning to help represent those students?
JC: “So, I think that those students voicing their concerns and us hearing their concerns is a separate issue from impeachment. Again because impeachment was only going to succeed on the proof of the constitutional violation. So, it’s clear to myself and to everyone in SGA that there are students who feel, and it’s true, that SGA has not represented them adequately. That’s entirely the fault of the student government, and obviously, we have to now work to make it better. So something that we can do is just always have our ears open and make strides to make the body of the Senate, more representative of who’s on campus. So obviously doing that, and then passing legislation to give the administration a push to do something is how we’ll go from here. I think there’s a little bit of a misconception of how SGA functions on campus, because senators—and even President Goodwin—can not make University changes by themselves. The most thing we can do is, advocate what we hear from students to faculty. For example, the resolution I’m working on, I think has pretty good grounds, but if I present it to the people who make the curriculum, and they don’t feel like doing it, they will simply say no. All we can do is SGA is hear the voices of people who need to be heard and do the best we can to convey that to the administration to make changes.”
TN: How do you feel about how the meeting itself played? What are your thoughts on how it was conducted? Was it a probably held trial?
JC: “So, first of all, I thoroughly enjoy having students who are not in SGA come to meeting. Obviously, there are only X number of seats in the Senate and so it’s impossible that every single viewpoint of every single student can be represented in the Senate, right. So, student government should run based off of the voices of the students. And so I think more often we should have people who are not in SGA show up and have their voices heard to the Senate and to the President of the Vice President, so we can know specifically what the student body wants us to do because we can’t possibly encompass every single idea and every single concern that the student body has. … I do think that it was a mistake to suspend the rules of discussion. I think that kind of led to a little bit of disorder, but if that’s what it takes to get the voices who clearly needed to be heard at meeting heard, then it’s something that we need to look into is SGA of how can we make voices more easily heard so that we don’t have to have a lot of people show up and we don’t have to have something like this happen in order to have all those voices heard. One of the discussions that we’re obviously going to have in SGA and I wouldn’t be surprised if at the very next meeting we have a few pieces of legislation brought up by Senators in order to address some of the things that were kind of unearthed in Monday’s meeting.”
TN: What is your experience with learning about the impeachment process in SGA?
JC: “So, I myself am relatively new to SGA. I joined halfway through last semester. This is, I don’t even know if I’ve been in for an entire semester, but I personally don’t know a lot about the impeachment process, but what I do know about the impeachment process is, it is based on the grounds of was the constitution violated by whoever’s in question, right. Similarly to how it works in the United States, is that, if the Senate and the people think that the constitution was violated by the President. It’s something that obviously needs to be investigated. That’s what we’re seeing now is what I would think is that the concerns that were brought up during meeting will see the Judicial Council, and they are the ones who are versed in the Constitution, and it’s their role to interpret it and so I think we’ll see what they have to say about the issue.”
TN: How do you feel about the new accounts popping up on social media?
JC: “I feel like, I have been watching stuff on social media. Again, that’s one of the things that made it clear to myself and to the rest of SGA that there are voices that that should have been being heard and need to be heard. However, I think there are people on both sides, who are engaging in conversation and rhetoric that is not particularly constructive. For example, it’s been a pretty common narrative that people who voted no are kind of accomplices to racism, which is just simply not true, because as I said the impeachment is just simply based off of a potential constitutional infringement not whether President Goodwin’s response to just the absolutely disturbing events of a few Wednesday’s ago was adequate that’s not what the impeachment was about. Obviously, I feel like that rhetoric is irresponsible and certainly not putting us in the right direction to change of basically publicly shaming people who voted no by people who maybe don’t know everything about the process that went on. But then on the other side obviously for it’s unfortunate that this has happened obviously but people who are defending the people who voted no and I don’t even know if it’s someone who did it could be it could not be but just the hateful rhetoric that’s going around from the side of the people who voted no is also obviously not constructive in any way. As a matter of fact, it’s rather destructive. I think we just need to have both sides hold each other accountable, and realize that now. The best thing we can do is come together as SGA and say, ‘okay, we know now we see the issue and how can we come together to address it?’ Obviously both sides. And as far as people who are creating accounts with no face and name associated with it, I think it goes without saying that’s just an extremely cowardly thing to do, and especially creating anonymous accounts, just to spread hate is like nobody has respect for those people. Because anybody can create an account on the internet just to spew hate, it’s really, really pretty disgusting and it just needs to stop obviously so.”
TN: Do you think that there is a conflict of interest between President Lauren Goodwin and her dating Chief Justice Cleary?
JC: “So when it comes to the impeachment proceeding, do I think that Chief Justice Cleary would do the proper job, whether or not he was in a relationship with President Goodwin? I do think that he would uphold his duty as Chief Justice, and do the right thing. However, it is clear that there’s a relationship there. It would be best if he was not involved in a decision that directly affected her impeachment. Yes. If that’s something, if the justices need to do the constitutional interpretation, without his input. Then that’s what will happen. But do I think that his relationship with President Goodwin, kind of influences his judgment? I don’t. I have faith in all of the student body, and all of SGA that they’ve given the circumstance and given the evidence we would all do our duty as senators and Justices of SGA. For example, if you would have had my own family member who was the president and up for being impeached. If it was proven that they violated their constitutional duties. Then, I would have voted yes, if there is a proven constitutional violation, you can expect to see me change sides and I would vote yes for impeachment. If it was proven that there’s a clear constitutional violation.”