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Friday, February 03, 2023

Lauren Lemasters faces impeachment for Sasse vote

Members of legislative, executive branches disagree with Lemasters’ decision

Lauren Lemasters, UF’s Student Body president, listens to public comment at the Board of Trustees confirmation vote Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Some students have criticized her pro-Sasse vote amid student backlash.
Lauren Lemasters, UF’s Student Body president, listens to public comment at the Board of Trustees confirmation vote Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2022. Some students have criticized her pro-Sasse vote amid student backlash.

Lauren Lemasters’ presidency may come to a premature end thanks to one vote.

Lemasters, the student body president, voted in favor of U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse for UF president, eliciting backlash from other Student Government leaders who disapproved of her decision and have called for her impeachment.

Senate President Olivia Green (Gator-District A) expressed her disappointment in Lemasters’ vote during the Nov. 1 Senate meeting. Vice President Daniel Badell and Treasurer Sierra Kantamneni — who work with Lemasters in the executive branch — echoed Green’s sentiments in Instagram statements Nov. 2 and Nov. 3, respectively. 

The Student Senate Change Caucus submitted a resolution to impeach Lemasters under the charge of malfeasance Nov. 3. The resolution must be approved in a two-thirds vote of the Spring senators — which is majority Gator — before an impeachment trial occurs. As of Sunday, it’s unclear when the vote will take place.

Minority Caucus Leader Faith Corbett, an author of the impeachment resolution, said she wishes Gator Party leadership would have released statements before Lemasters’ vote rather than after.

“Change Caucus hopes Gator-affiliated Spring senators make their minds up between accountability and party lines,” she said.

Student leaders don’t all share that confidence. “Malfeasance,” the word used to define Lemasters’ vote, is acting in a way that is wholly wrongful, according to SG governing documents. In the resolution to impeach, Change asserted Lemasters lost the confidence of her colleagues. 

“The decision to approve Ben Sasse resulted in a loss of confidence by her ‘elected

colleagues within Student Government in their ability to be an effective voice’ by blatantly

ignoring the request of the student body as directly communicated to her,” Change wrote in the resolution.

The caucus cited Sasse’s history of anti-LGBTQ statements and calls for Lemasters to vote no on Sasse as evidence she didn’t adequately represent the student body with her vote.

The resolution to impeach will now go before the cohort of Spring senators, the majority of whom are Gator as per Student Government’s governing documents. If two-thirds of senators vote to impeach, Lemasters will automatically be suspended from office. 

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The remaining body of Fall senators would then conduct the impeachment trial, which will determine whether she will be permanently removed from office.

Although the final verdict of the vote isn’t certain, Gator has historically voted as a bloc on many issues. However, the recent trend of condemnations both by the Senate and Student Government executive officials could signal a break from tradition.

The student body disagreed with Lemasters’ decision, Green said at a Nov. 1 meeting. She was also disappointed in Lemasters’ choice and affirmed that Gator leadership is listening to student concerns.

Badell respects and considers Lemasters a close friend, he said in his Nov. 2 statement

“We have a responsibility as elected student representatives to represent the wants and needs of the student body,” he said. “This vote did the opposite.”

But Badell couldn’t support Lemasters in her vote for Sasse, which he felt contradicted the wants of the student body, he said. 

“I am committed to students first and foremost and can assure them of the continued team efforts throughout our university presidential transition,” Badell told The Alligator. “I remain committed to listening to students and advocating for them as best as I can. Sasse is our next president, and our support of each other will be crucial during the next couple of months.”

Kantamneni respects Lemasters’ ability to make her own decisions, she wrote in the statement, but nonetheless she disagrees with that decision.

“While I held low expectations for the Board of Trustees, Student Body President Lemasters’ vote shocked and disappointed me more than words can express,” she wrote.

Though Lemasters hasn’t responded to requests for comment regarding the impeachment resolution, she defended her vote saying she expects Sasse to fulfill his promise to put aside his political affiliations and work with the LGBTQ community on campus.

“Dr. Sasse has committed to advancing UF for every Gator, and my decision reflects my belief in that commitment,” Lemasters wrote in a statement to The Alligator. “I truly believe in the audacious goals of Dr. Sasse to take Gator Nation to the next level.”

Change maintained Sasse wouldn’t provide a safe learning environment for LGBTQ students, and Lemasters wasn’t acting in students’ best interest by voting in his favor.

“After concerns over Senator Sasse’s extensive history of bigotry and hatred towards a multitude of minority communities, this vote in the affirmative jeopardizes the safety and care of those who are underrepresented on campus,” Change wrote in the resolution.

Between five and ten constituents reached out to Change senators asking to impeach Lemasters, Corbett said. Change found impeachment to be a more actionable response than condemnation, which they already passed as a chamber in October, she said.

“Impeachment is an appropriate next step,” Corbett said. “She has broken public trust with the student body.”

The resolution to impeach will now go before the cohort of Spring senators, the majority of whom are Gator as per Student Government’s governing documents. If two-thirds of senators vote to impeach, Lemasters will automatically be suspended from office. 

The remaining body of Fall senators would then conduct the impeachment trial, which will determine whether she will be permanently removed from office.

Gabriela Pieschacon, a 20-year-old UF health education and behavior junior, said she supports Lemasters’ impeachment. She thinks Lemasters’ vote should have included the student body’s perspective, she said.

“As the President, it’s extremely important to also consider a lot of those underrepresented people that are often not given a voice,” Pieschacon said. “She could have her vote, but I think her vote shouldn't necessarily have clouded what a lot of the student population feels.”

Contact Alissa Gary at agary@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @AlissaGary1.


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Alissa Gary

Alissa Gary is a journalism freshman and university administration reporter at The Alligator. Aside from writing, she loves spending time with her cats, catching up on Jeopardy, and seeing the latest movies.


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