James Feng ’22, former Student Union Secretary, spoke to The Brandeis Hoot regarding his impeachment and what he believes are potential alternative motives for why other members of the Student Union wanted him off of the union. Feng was impeached on Oct. 27 due to “gross neglect” of his responsibilities, according to a previous Hoot article.
“I am not disputing the concerns that they raised against my performance. Those concerns were valid, those concerns were legitimate—they were true. In regard to those incidents they mentioned, I definitely could’ve done better … However, what I take issue with is how they handled the situation and their ulterior motives,” said Feng to The Hoot.
According to Feng, the reason other members of the student union “hounded” him for his mistakes and chose to hold him accountable was because of their political bias. Feng acknowledged that the acquisition was “fear mongering” and “conspiracy theory-esque,” but he believed he had “solid evidence” to back up his claim.
The first piece of evidence which Feng cited was the fact that the former secretary last semester, Alex Park ’22, made, what Feng considered, similar mistakes. “Things only make sense in the greater context,” Feng explained, saying that Park missed over 10 individual positions in the spring 2021 round of elections.
Feng said that this was an election-related mistake which also had consequences, similar to his situation. Those positions then had to be filled by Feng in the Fall 2021 semester despite the fact that the Student Union constitution says the positions are to be filled in the spring, said Feng. The positions were empty, not due to lack of interest, Feng highlighted, but because Park had not entered them on the ballot.
“I do not mean to criticize any of my predecessors, especially the individual who served as secretary before me,” Feng said, “but we have to take some of his actions into account.”
Feng noted that there was a difference in the amount of scrutiny in which he faced versus how much his predecessor Park faced and he does not believe this is a coincidence. When asked if Park had made the same mistakes as Feng, Executive Senator Joseph Coles ’22 said that the mistakes were not the same in an email to The Hoot.
“I am appalled at how at an institution founded upon social justice, several members of its Student Union can push a blatant act of injustice,” said Feng to The Hoot.
The next piece of evidence Feng provided was that he had not supported the current Student Union President and Vice President duo when they were running for election last semester. According to Feng, he had been a supporter for the other candidates for the positions, and because of this he believes that he was targeted by members of the Student Union to get impeached.
Feng claims that this impeachment was a “witch hunt” which was targeted due to ulterior political motives.
While still acting as secretary, Feng claims he was “willing and ready” to hold a third round of elections to fill positions on Allocations Board (A-board). According to Feng, the A-board chair expressed to him that she needed those seats filled before Marathon. However, the elections did not happen because, according to Feng, Student Union President Krupa Sourirajan ’23 had logistical concerns and instead said the elections should get pushed to next semester. Feng said this didn’t make sense with the A-board chair’s concerns and he was “surprised” that she was unwilling for him to hold the elections.
The Student Union is currently holding its third round of elections, with voting opening on Nov. 4. When asked to confirm if Feng ever asked to hold a third round of elections, Coles instead responded with a statement writing, “We are focused on the future and choose to move forward.” To help with A-board, Coles wrote that “The Senate sent an additional Senator to serve as a Representative to Allocations Board in order for the Board to have a quorum.” Coles noted that they are “excited” to see the candidates running for Allocations Board in the third round of elections, though the Student Union has made sure to support the Allocations Board at all points, according to Coles.
Feng, despite saying the only feedback he received was via a singular Slack message, said he had a meeting with the Chief of Staff and Student Union President on Oct. 3. During this meeting, according to Feng, he was told of the accounts of when he had performed poorly in his role. During this meeting James states that he “was essentially demanded to step down … the two members issued me an ultimatum: resign or face impeachment.” Prior to this meeting though, Feng claims he had not received any previous concerns which would warrant such a meeting, rather he was told it was about his “performance as a whole as secretary.”
When asked if this meeting occurred, Coles responded with the same statement. In the statement Coles included, “Former Secretary James Feng was impeached by the Senate with 17 votes in favor and one abstention. He was removed from his position at a trial in which James admitted to ‘gross neglect’ of his responsibilities and admitted that the articles of impeachment against him were accurate. The Judiciary unanimously found him guilty of breaching the Constitution by failing to oversee Union elections.”
Feng also included that he had never received a formal written notice of his impeachment. According to Feng, without this document the current elections to replace him are invalid.
Coles disputed this and quoted Chief Justice Eamonn Golden ’24 who said, “I’d like to make the distinction between a ‘formal ruling’ and a ‘formal opinion.’ The email release following the trial was a ‘formal ruling,’ allowing for action to be taken in removing James, with the requirement that a ‘formal opinion’ be released to substantiate it. Bearing in mind that distinction, yes, we have released a ‘formal ruling’ and a formal opinion is on the way.”
Feng raised concerns about the way in which the Student Union is currently holding its second round of special elections for the semester. According to Feng, the process for this round of elections is being expedited, citing that the information session about the positions was just three hours before the intent to run was due. There is typically a longer period provided for students, explained Feng. Another issue with the elections which he noted was the fact that the email containing the names of the candidates running and the candidate bios was attached to the bottom of the Brandeis Brief email from the week of Oct. 25. Typically these are two separate emails, said Feng, and to have them in one email was “inappropriate.”
Coles wrote to The Hoot that the third round of elections was not being expedited. “The intent to run being due the same day as the info session is a normal practice going back at least three years,” wrote Coles. However, for the elections earlier in the semester the info session was on Sunday, Sep. 19 and the intent to run deadline was Monday, Sep. 20. Furthermore, going back to the Student Union winter elections, the information session was held on Jan. 17 and the candidate bios were not due until Jan. 18, according to an email sent by Park on Jan. 11.
Another concern about the impeachment raised by Feng was the lack of feedback he received about his performance. According to Feng, he received one Slack message with feedback about his performance in his role prior to his impeachment trial. He noted that despite not receiving feedback on how to improve in his position, other members of the Student Union were gathering evidence which they could use against him for his impeachment instead of providing advice for how he should improve.
Feng told The Hoot that he had a meeting with faculty advisors Dennis Hicks and Stephanie Grimes during the impeachment process. According to Feng, both Hicks and Grimes agreed that there was an insufficient amount of feedback provided to him by his fellow Student Union members about his performance prior to his impeachment trial. The Hoot reached out to Grimes to confirm this but did not receive a response by the time of publication.
Coles wrote to The Hoot that, “The Student Union is moving on and continuing to advocate for the student body and meet their needs … The Union is moving forward with planning for Kindness Day, Midnight Buffet as well as lots of other exciting initiatives and activities.”
The Hoot interviewed Coles on behalf of Sourirajan and Vice President Courney Thrun ’22 due to scheduling conflicts.