An effort to impeach University of Florida student body president Lauren Lemasters for her vote in favor of making Sen. Ben Sasse the school’s next president has been halted.
The student government judiciary committee, made up of nine people from Lemasters’ Gator party, decided that her actions in voting for Sasse as a member of the university’s board of trustees did not constitute malfeasance. Their action on Sunday, with one member absent, killed an impeachment resolution before it moved to the student senate.
Members of the opposing Change party, who crafted the resolution, disagreed. While Lemasters is not legally bound to cast her vote in a certain way, “it is unacceptable that she neglected the calls to action of her constituents and her fellow elected colleagues,” the Change party said in a news release.
The weeks after Sasse was named the sole finalist for the president’s job in early October were filled with student-led protests and a vote of no confidence by the full student senate. Members of the body asked Lemasters to vote against Sasse’s bid in her role as a UF trustee.
Opposition to Sasse centered on his stance against same-sex marriage, his lack of experience leading a major public research university and the largely secret process that led to his selection as the only finalist.
The UF trustees voted unanimously on Nov. 1 to make him the university’s 13th president.
The move to impeach Lemasters was called into question last week by some members of the state Board of Governors as they met to confirm Sasse for the job. Some board members lauded her stand in the face of criticism, saying it took bravery.
Lemasters has not responded to emails seeking comment.
According to the board of trustees website, she is planning to complete a master’s degree in management this coming spring and graduated from UF this past spring after double majoring in criminology and political science.
The student newspaper, the Independent Florida Alligator, reported that Lemasters defended her vote to the student senate last week, saying she trusted Sasse to leave behind politics when he assumed the presidency.
“This is not the end of our push for accountability in the executive branch,” said deputy minority party leader Gabriela Montes.
Montes said the Change party is discussing options and intends to hold Sasse accountable when he starts as president next year.
“We will always push to find ways to hold people accountable and make sure that any decision or any words that are used or anything that occurs in any administrative event is for the good of the student body,” she said. “And that our student body is always protected and heard and seen.”
Divya Kumar is a higher education reporter for the Tampa Bay Times, in partnership with Open Campus.