For the first time in its history, the University of Utah student government has impeached and replaced its president.
Nick Ferre lost his position following a trial Wednesday because his grade-point average dropped below 2.5, a requirement to hold office. The graduate student in educational leadership and policy argued that some of his grades were in dispute and said an accelerated course he's due to finish next month could increase his GPA.
"One of the things we try and get away from is we are a strict government and that's all we do," he said. Voting to keep him, he said, would "lend an image of trying to be more of a helping environment for students."
But Wynchester Whetten, the assistant attorney general for the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU), said the student constitution dubbed Redbook doesn't allow for mitigating circumstances.
"It does not say that presidents should have that GPA some of the time or most of the time. It says it shall be maintained. Maintained means all of the time," she said. "What keeps us following Redbook if a rule is clearly broken and we don't uphold it?"
Grades have been an issue for appointed members of student government twice before, she said, and both resigned. Ferre also lost his position as president of the Utah Student Association, a statewide student government body.
Student senators asked Ferre on Wednesday whether he truly had time for all his commitments and what could prevent his GPA from dropping again.
"As senators, we represent certain different colleges within the school," said Michael Harris, the senator from the David Eccles School of Business. "I want us to look good. How do you think this incident reflects upon our school?"
The final vote was 12 for impeachment, one against and one abstention.
ASUU student body presidents serve one-year terms and are paid $900 a month. Ferre was elected in March following a record student voter turnout of 17 percent, said finance adviser Rob Phillips. Ferre ran on a platform of sustainability, transparency and diversity.
"We definitely didn't want to set a precedent of violating Redbook," said Florence Fernandez, who represents the College of Science. "I think it is very unfortunate."
After the vote, Ferre's vice president, Sam Ortiz, was sworn in as his replacement.
"We just need to regroup," Ortiz said, pointing to goals such as the diversification of U. faculty. "We've lost a little focus."
Following the vote, Ferre said he wasn't surprised at the outcome but wanted to let it play out "to give the students an opportunity to have their voice."
He added: "I want to reiterate how wonderful an organization ASUU is. It was a great opportunity to be student body president even for the short time I was. I learned a lot."