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SA Congress impeaches president: Watkins charged with manipulation, unethical behavior

By Staff
Posted on March 4, 2009 | News | Comments Off on SA Congress impeaches president: Watkins charged with manipulation, unethical behavior

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After spending more than five hours Wednesday debating and discussing charges of irresponsible leadership, manipulation, disrespect and unethical behavior against Students’ Association Congress President Daniel Paul Watkins, the SA Congress voted to impeach Watkins, immediately stripping him of his title and responsibilities as president.

The SA Congress voted 25-5, with two members abstaining, in a closed hearing Wednesday to impeach Watkins, senior political science major from Fredericksburg, Va. Watkins is the third Students’ Association president to leave office early; the first was Bill Hay in the fall of 1942 and

Sarah Pulis, senior political science major from Longview, will vacate her office as vice president and succeed Watkins as the new student body president. SA Congress will hold a general election where the student body will vote to fill the vacant vice president position.

Watkins and Pulis declined to comment.

Watkins’ impeachment hearing began in Hart Auditorium and moved to Room 115 of the Biblical Studies Building after going on for more than two hours. The meeting began at 5 p.m., and Freshman Sen. Zach Linge, digital media major from San Antonio, said the hearing consisted of back-and-forth accusations and rebuttals between Watkins and the SA Congress executive officers. Linge said each member of Congress was provided a time to give their thoughts on the accusations.

“It was clear to me and the overall majority of the executive officers that [Watkins’] attitude is negative, manipulative, divisive, and it is clear to me he is not the type of president that should reflect Abilene Christian University,” Linge said.

Sophomore Sen. Scott Adrian, political science major from Glendale, Calif., was surprised Watkins was impeached and said the impeachment process seemed unfair.

“He was more progressive than anyone,” Adrian said. “He’s a student advocate more than anyone in the Students’ Association.”

Chief Financial Officer Luke Cochran, junior accounting major from Round Rock, wrote Watkins on Wednesday, informing him of charges he was bringing against the former president and that he was pursuing impeachment and Watkins’ removal from office.

According to the letter Cochran wrote to Watkins, he claimed Watkins failed “to lead the Students’ Association in a positive manner,” showed “disrespect for the Abilene Christian University community” and failed to “adhere to the ethical standards of conduct as noted in the Abilene Christian University Campus Policies”

Dr. Jean-Noel Thompson, vice president and dean for Student life, said he and SA co-adviser Jeff Arrington, associate professor of physics and associate dean of Student Life, developed a process for impeachment Monday after Congress members looking to impeach Watkins approached them. Thompson said he and Arrington collaborated with legal counsel to make sure the process was fair for the accused officer and those who were issuing the charges.

No procedure for impeachment of an executive officer is in the SA Congress Constitution or Bylaws, and Congress did not vote on the procedure implemented for Watkins’ hearing.

“After all of the options we considered that we felt were available with fairness to all of our students involved, we felt this was the best course of action,” Thompson said.

Upon Cochran declaring his charges to Watkins, the procedure called for Pulis to organize a meeting of the executive officers not being charged, so they could hear the cases of both the accusing member and the officer being charged. Only a majority vote by the executive officers could take the matter to the full SA Congress for consideration. The executive officers voted 4-1 to bring the issue before Congress.

Thompson said to his knowledge this was the first time an executive officer has been impeached.

The Wednesday meeting was closed, meaning SA Congress members, Thompson, Arrington and Joey Cope, director of the Duncum Center for Conflict Resolution who served as the hearing officer during the meeting, were the only ones allowed in the meeting.

Cochran presented and explained the charges, and Watkins was allowed five minutes to rebut each charge. Congress members were able to ask both Cochran and Watkins questions before both were excused from the meeting, so members could debate.

Four of the five other executive officers for the SA Congress argued for the impeachment. They said Watkins had created an awkward and hostile work environment by being disrespectful to other students and faculty members. They also said he had broken office equipment, totaling more than $400.

Many Congress members said while Watkins’ rhetoric and relations with people are unmatched, his productivity and character were questionable.

The vote for impeachment was recorded on secret ballots and counted by Arrington and Thompson.

Only five students voted to keep Watkins in office, including Adrian.

According to the SA Congress By-Laws, 75 percent of the votes are needed to proceed with the impeachment. The 25 votes for impeachment counted for more than 83 percent of the total.

After a quick prayer at the beginning of the meeting, Linge said Cochran immediately announced his charges against Watkins.

“You could say that tonight this is a clash of personalities,” Cochran said. “But I’m here to tell you that this is not a clash of personalities.tonight we define what is right and what is wrong.”

Watkins responded by stating he felt betrayed and called the impeachment process an unconstitutional governmental change, Linge said.

Daniel Burgner
posted 3/05/09 @ 8:53 AM CST

I am a member of the Students Association congress and was in attendance at the hearing. The fact that almost the entire cabinet voted to impeach former President Watkins from office spoke volumes to me. They worked with him 10 or 20 hours per week and knew his actions and attitudes while in the office. I trust them and respect their decision. Our President needs to be trust worthy and of respectable character and after the hearing I knew that Watkins no longer exhibited these traits. I trusted Watkins with my vote and I am saddened to say that he has completely betrayed my democratic right. His actions deserve nothing less then removal from office. Last night a super majority of congress members decided that it was time for new leadership to be put in place to re-establish integrity to the office of Students Association Executive President.

Christopher Smith
posted 3/05/09 @ 10:50 AM CST

I have no knowledge of the particular issues at hand, but as one of the co-drafters of the SA Constitution, I can say definitely that the Constitution’s wording and intent permit impeachment of any student holding office by a 3/4 vote of all the filled seats.

The impeachment process is a matter that falls under the jurisdiction of the Bylaws, and if the Bylaws by this time did not contain a process for impeachment, the Congress has the authority to adopt one by a 2/3 vote.

James M Green
posted 3/05/09 @ 12:00 PM CST

I have known D.P Watkins on a friend level for the last 3 years, one of the nicest and humble people I have known. He will go out of his way to say hi to the hundreds of people he knows.

I do not believe anymore what is posted here in the optimist. Before I can even consider believing this, I NEED a list of charged offenses and why his conduct was against the ACU code of conduct. Anyone willing

Aaron Escobedo
posted 3/05/09 @ 5:12 PM CST

I will second what my fellow congressman has posted. I respect Mr. Watkins and appreiciate his service, but I felt that his conduct warranted his impeachment. I would be foolish not to remind everyone that we should be in prayer for ALL of our leaders whether they be the president of the United States, or President of the Students’ Association Congress. Let us pray for Daniel Paul and for Sarah Pulis the new President. Pray for all our your SA representatives. We surely could use it. Thank you.

Brandon Smith
posted 3/05/09 @ 5:24 PM CST

As the co-drafter of many of SA’s governing documents, I agree with Chris’ conclusion. Any member of the SA government can be removed from office. Daniel Paul has a history of bullying people, showing hostility to disagreeing voices and undermining the good works of others. ACU needs a student government that will represent them. ACU doesn’t need people who are just trying to build their resumes.

James M Green
posted 3/05/09 @ 9:33 PM CST

Daniel Paul is a nice guy. What was his conduct? ANSWER ME THAT! What if he had a bad day or something.

Back when the noose incident happened, DP Watkins gave a speech about praying and loving the person who did that, though hatred and anger would have been the emotions he said at chapel, he took it to the message of God.

That is the Daniel Paul I know, respect, and voted for. Until CONCRETE evidence is presented of actions (not words, in the real realm of politics, it gets rough word wise) that would merit of his impeachment. I will be waiting.

Daniel Winn
posted 3/06/09 @ 11:30 AM CST

Sounds like the SA is full of a bunch of whiners. If I were DP I would be glad to have been impeached.

Kristin Wood
posted 3/08/09 @ 3:52 AM CST

James, I don’t think anyone is arguing that Daniel Paul is a mean person. However, if the SA executive officers feel that he isn’t doing his job properly (and I think they would be more aware than anyone else) and feel he should no longer serve as President, I’m sure it’s for the best.

Cameron Gulley
posted 3/08/09 @ 11:24 PM CST

As an alumni of this university, I am embarrassed about the publicity that this action has caused locally and nation-wide. I have no idea who the SA president is or what he as done as president of the university. What I do know is that the actions of the SA were not legally correct and are actionable. The SA constitution (posted on their website) is specific as to the voting procedure to remove an officer. Article V.2 of the constitution states “Any student holding an office of the Students’ Association who fails to meet requirements of office as specified in the By-Laws is subject to removal from office upon the approval of three-fourths of the entire Student Congress.” According to the article published, only 32 members were present for the vote (of the 43 total membership of Congress) and only 25 voted to impeach the president (58.14% majority) which is well short of the 75% needed for impeachment. This article states that the Congress had agreed to amendments to the Constitution regarding impeachment which is also not legally valid. According to the SA Constitution it states in Article VIII.1 that “Amendments to this Constitution (a) must be approved by a two-thirds majority of the entire Student Congress and by a majority of the votes cast by the entire Students’ Association…” Therefore, the amendments agreed to by the Student Congress were not valid because those amendments must be voted on and passed by the entire Students’ Association as well as by two-thirds of the Student Congress. My question is this…why was an action of this magnitude bungled so badly? It appears that in haste to exact some sort of punishment that proper protocol and procedure were thrown to the wind of poor judgment and actions of the entire SA Congress. How dare you point fingers of justice when you cannot follow your own Constitutional guidelines and, instead, make them up for your own convenience. As a result of your actions, ACU has been made a laughingstock of the entire country. I would suggest that if impeachment is the correct course of action that you re-convene the SA Congress and conduct the vote in accordance with the Constitution rather than through the knee-jerk action recently taken.

James M Green
posted 3/13/09 @ 2:23 PM CST

But Kristin,

What you don’t realize is they did not follow protocol as Mr. Gates stated. Some people might not like who they work with, its called the real world, and I am sorry you have not experienced it.

Daniel Paul has served ALOT on the SA Congress, and many of the things and positive changes are because of him.

SA needs to get their articles right and NOT BE BIASED AGAINST HIM.

And this non-majority vote, as stated, is really making the university look like a snake, deceitful, and rash, and in the fact that administration counted the secret ballots without the majority. That is a fact counted.

Again, I doubt DP is at blame for anything and everything he was accused of was probably supported and initiated by other members, even other members of the executive panel.

chris campbell
posted 3/20/09 @ 2:55 PM CST

Having been affiliated with the university for over 20 years…as a student, an employee, and an alumnus…I can say there are things that ACU has done and supported that I was not 100% pleased with. However, I have enough faith in both the students and the mentoring staff to feel confident in saying this: I doubt very seriously that the SA President was relieved of his duties because people didn’t like him.

The issue has been raised on several occasions about a 3/4 majority not being reached. While it may not follow parliamentary procedure…25 of the 32 students PRESENT voted to impeach the President (78%). If the other 11 didn’t feel the need to attend the meeting, then should the rest of the Congress be too terribly concerned with what they think?!?!?

And Cameron, tap the brakes a little bit, pal. I doubt very seriously that, at the current time, “ACU has been made a laughingstock of the entire nation.”

Kristin Wood
posted 3/21/09 @ 7:19 PM CST

James, there is absolutely no reason for you to be rude and condescending to me. I said nothing to insult you, I simply stated my opinion. I know Daniel Paul, and I know the members of last year’s SA Executive Cabinet. One of them was my roommate. I’m not oblivious to the real world — or to what goes on in SA (not that they are in any way related). I’m not making any assumptions about the situation, period. All I am saying is that, REGARDLESS of how nice a person DP may be, it’s possible that he may not be the best SA president. Or maybe the Congress was wrong. But either way, don’t make this a personal thing. Incredibly rude of you, and completely unnecessary.

As far as the positive changes being due to Daniel Paul, I haven’t been carefully following ACU’s news enough to know about them — I am an alumnus (Yes, I’m in the “real world”). I’m not obsessed with this event, it was just of interest to me. Do your best to remember that just because I made a statement that was not 100% in support of DP does not mean I hate him or think he is a terrible leader. The SA executive cabinet clearly had some reasoning that you don’t know about. Just accept that and move on, and don’t take general statements so personally.

Cameron Gulley
posted 3/24/09 @ 2:20 PM CST

In response to Chris Campbell’s remark that I over-reacted…apparently, you didn’t read or watch the national news organizations who reported this “newsworthy” item. None of the national news outlets would have even reported on this had it not passed the “smell test.” The story was spun to be a racially-motivated action to remove the student body president, and the news organizations basically reported about the hypocrisy of a Christian university not following its own constitutional laws in order to remove its student president. They threw it back in the face of the university because the Students’ Association leadership ignored the laws for their own gain. When else has the university gotten such a large national forum? And one final note, do you think that it’s possible that the 11 members who chose not to participate did so because they didn’t agree with the unconstitutional nature of the proceedings? In a sense, it was a form of fillibustering that didn’t work because the 25-member “super-majority” trumped them by thumbing their noses at their own constitution.

Kendall Ferrell
posted 3/24/09 @ 4:44 PM CST

This is why SA is, currently, a joke. Nothing that SA does is truly remarkable, if you leave out its uncanny ability to create negative media attention for ACU. SA should be an organization for the students, and at the present time, they are anything but that.

I heard a SA rep say that they “had to keep DP accountable” for his actions. That’s funny, considering that SA will not allow itself to be held accountable for their actions in this matter by anyone outside “the organization”, since they will not come forward with the specific allegations that led to impeachment.

I am currently putting together a petition to eliminate the student activity fee associated with SA unless they agree to come forward and allow themselves to be held accountable for their actions, by publicly presenting the SPECIFIC details of the impeachment. The process by which this happened was absolutely disgraceful. Justice was not served due to the complete lack of objectivity. SA should be ashamed of itself, as should we students, if we do not demand the accountability of our representative organization.

If you would like to help in this effort please contact me at, thanks.

Cameron Gulley
posted 3/24/09 @ 6:27 PM CST

Forgot to add one more tidbit for consideration. Consider the 11 who didn’t participate in the vote happened to be the EXACT number needed to keep a 75% super-majority in attendance at the impeachment hearing. The 11 who didn’t show up accounted for 25.58% of the total membership of Congress. Had only 10 not shown up, the Congress would have had the numbers to impeach (assuming that there would have been a unanimous vote to do so). How coincidental is that?!?!? Think about it…

Jordan Hancock
posted 3/24/09 @ 9:21 PM CST

To all, I am a member of the SA Congress. You need to realize a few things. 1)DP himself admitted not showing up for work, that was an impeachable offense, 2)the charges are laid out in numerous articles, 3)the process was legitimate (ACU’s Legal Counsel said so, and i believe he knows quite a bit more about legality than any of us), 4)to Cameron, are you part of some kind of conspiracy theory? some of those 11 members are studying abroad, resigned without a replacement, and thus the spot is considered occupied, and some just dont care.

Jon Dulaney
posted 3/24/09 @ 9:48 PM CST

Kendall is right,
1. I have been paying a fee for 4 years that has yet to benefit me, or the majority of students who request funds.

2. How could we expect the SA to be objective when personal gain or vendettas could be accomplished with the outcome of their vote! (Especially when they can maneuver around their own constitution)

If we as voters who elected the SA and students at ACU turn a blind eye to this, we own it. I will sign Kendall’s petition in the hopes that it will not eliminate the SA fee but bring to light the secrecy associated with this whole ordeal.

avatar Posted by Staff on Mar 4th, 2009 and filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.  - This post has been viewed 29642 times.

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