ARIZONA — A student government senator at Arizona State University was impeached last week after she spoke to the media — about a senate bill she was working on — without notifying the student government president or the student senate president, a violation of student government policy.
Isabelle Murray, the impeached Tempe Undergraduate Student Government senator, spoke to a reporter of The State Press, the student newspaper at the university, earlier in October about a bill she was working on regarding black face paint at football games. Murray did not notify the USG senate president or president prior to the interview, which violates USG’s “expectations” when addressing the media.
The USG Senate voted with a three-fourths majority to impeach Murray, The State Press reported.
The State Press’ reporter was unaware of whether Murray had violated the policy, said Julia Shumway, editor-in-chief of The State Press. A press release from the USG stated that Murray’s impeachment was also based on her inability to attend required meetings and that she had released “details concerning a student’s private case being handled by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities.”
USG President Cassidy Possehl responded to The State Press’ coverage of the impeachment on the student news organization’s website, claiming that the impeachment was not an issue of free speech.
“Our policy about speaking with the media is not for prior review of their statement, it is simply a request of notification beforehand,” Possehl wrote on The State Press’ website. “It is worth mentioning that if any senator had a problem with this policy or the contract that they signed regarding media relations that it could have been mentioned at any time, and it never was.”
Murray said she intends to appeal her impeachment.
Following the article about Murray’s impeachment, The State Press published an editorial Thursday critiquing the USG Senate’s decision and the media policy’s effect on the senators’ ability to speak freely on student government matters.
“To restrict senators from doing so is authoritarian and wrong,” according to the editorial. “The only people who this policy benefits are those with the delusion that student government’s priority should be to look good.”
The USG Senate approved the expectations during a meeting this summer, said Shumway, who called the media policy a “ridiculous” limit on “the senators’ ability to express themselves freely.”
“It’s also really limiting to the press’ ability to effectively cover them and effectively communicate what they’re doing to our student body,” she said.
Shumway said the policy does not represent “real world” relationships of the government and the press.
“There’s no real world legislator who has to go out and get their speaker of the house’s approval, or even to just say, ‘Hey I’m going to go speak to the press,’” she said. “That would not work in a real world setting and that’s something that our student government is supposed to be preparing people for.”
Possehl and USG Senate President Will Smith did not reply to interview requests.
Murray said she read The State Press’ editorial and agrees with Shumway: the policy is “ridiculous.”
“I think that it was 100 percent accurate,” Murray said. “It couldn’t have been more accurate if I had written it myself.”