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Friday, April 19, 2024
The Observer

Senate 2/21

Senate erupts over Brooke’s controversial Judicial Council president nomination

Votes on nomination awaiting verification

Editor's note: Members of the student senate received an email Monday morning reporting Brooke's nomination had failed. He received 14 yes votes, 15 no votes and nine abstentions, thereby not meeting the threshold of a simple majority.

After a contentious and lengthy debate over the nomination of current parliamentarian and former Carroll Hall senator Hunter Brooke to lead Judicial Council, members of the student senate left this week’s meeting unsure of the vote’s result following a secret ballot. 

Student body vice president Aidan Rezner opened Wednesday evening’s assembly with a prayer that mentioned the “warm weather that we have today and the beautiful day that we have.” 

A 20-minute presentation by the sustainability office followed, with discussion of Notre Dame’s ranking as 226th most sustainable university in the world, the school’s work toward carbon neutrality, the St. Joseph River hydroelectric facility, the on-campus solar farm and the University’s geothermal system

“Our priority at the University of Notre Dame is to do the real work, the hard work of transitioning our energy to renewable low-carbon sources, lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said Geory Kurtzhals, senior director of sustainability.

Following a December senate letter written by Dillon Hall senator Sam Godinez, student body president Daniel Jung read out a response from the registrar’s office, which reported that 73.4% of students have at least two class meetings that are offered before 10 a.m.

After announcing Fr. Mike Schmitz’s upcoming visit to campus this weekend, Rezner asked Judicial Council president Koryn Isa to read Brooke’s nomination to judicial council president “given the gravity of it.”

Beginning a topic that would take around an hour to consider, Isa extolled Brooke’s virtues and experience in her nomination speech.

“While serving as Student Union parliamentarian, Hunter has demonstrated utmost professionalism, poise, integrity, empathy and maturity even when put in difficult situations. He is committed to ensuring ethical leadership and operation of the Student Union while also improving clarity and transparency within the Judicial Council,” she read aloud.

Brooke was asked questions from a few senators, including Sorin College senator Andrew Ryan, who asked him if he had made any informal or formal commitments to appoint specific people to Judicial Council. Brooke said he had not.

Ryan also asked Brooke about his previous experience appearing before the ethics committee, which resulted in a bill of impeachment in the senate.

“One of the responsibilities of the Judicial Council president is to serve as the chairperson of the ethics commission. What has having to appear before the commission in the past taught you about ethical behavior?” he asked.

Brooke said the process had taught him a lot.

“I’m very happy to be in a unique position, where I’ve kind of seen multiple angles of how things work. I’d say it’s given me a lot of empathy for what it is like to go through difficult processes, and the importance of transparency and making sure people understand what’s going on, but also ensuring that when unethical behavior happens, we are able to hold people accountable,” he said.

The senate moved into debate, and Brooke left the Mendoza classroom where proceedings were being held.

Clayton Chauncey, the senator from Knott Hall, raised several objections to Brooke’s nomination, saying he had emailed a more in-depth outline of his comments to every voting member whose email he could find. Chauncey argued that though he believed Brooke to be a good person, his elevation to Judicial Council president would present a number of conflicts of interest.

“I think there’s a little bit of a conflict of interest considering the fact that that Student Union ethics commission [which Brooke would lead if he were named judicial president] recommended that he was impeached last year,” he said. “The whole situation has brought plenty of points that I think are problematic. First of all, his dishonesty before the student senate.”

Then-Carroll Hall senator Brooke’s impeachment trial was over his emails to first undergraduate experience in leadership (FUEL) students, freshmen who take on a role learning the ropes of student government. Chauncey was in FUEL when he received an email from Brooke advertising a “senatorial aide” position and promises to prospective aides that the position would include learning to write legal documents and winning election campaigns, and that Brooke could renew his aides across positions in student government.

In the document and in his remarks, Chauncey alleged that Brooke had also misinterpreted the Student Union constitution through claims of having an “office” and “coalition” in the senate. He also argued that Brooke had misrepresented his senate actions, including taking credit for work that had been handled by others in student government. 

Chauncey also argued against the claim that Brooke was uniquely qualified for a position of constitutional interpretation, citing the incorrect vote process that occurred earlier this month.

“I believe this nominee is not fit for the position of Judicial Council president. In my carefully considered opinion, he has demonstrated a lack of good judgment when it comes to the Student Union constitution. This position has influence over everything from elections to senate actions to representation at OCS hearings,” Chauncey said at the end of his speech. “Given the information detailed above, I do not feel that I can trust the nominee to act in the best interest of the students.”

There was a motion for a closed ballot vote due to the personal nature of the matter, which launched its own fierce debate.

“Absolutely not. If you have disagreements with Hunter’s nomination, then you should be able to voice them publicly,” Godinez said, before saying that secret ballots are a highly rare occurrence.

Fisher Hall senator Joseph Tunney countered by arguing the occasion was unprecedented in more than one way.

“I think this may be an unprecedented circumstance in which someone who has been recommended to be impeached by the ethics commission would then go back to chair the ethics commission,” he said.

Chauncey said the last time a closed vote was used was over the senate resolution to ban pornography over University Wi-Fi.

Ultimately, the senate agreed to hold the vote via closed ballot, but debate continued with voices offering both criticism and support for Brooke’s nomination.

Isa reiterated her belief in her nomination.

“I would like to say that Hunter is the single qualified candidate for this position,” she said. 

“I think that [assuming] that something that may have occurred — but didn’t fully result in anything punitive last year — is going to dictate how we can act to move forward, I think it’s unfair to him. I think it’s unfair to me. I think it’s unfair to the union. Ultimately, he wasn’t impeached. Ultimately, none of us in this room, I don’t think, know exactly what happened,” she said.

Thomas Musgrave, Judicial Council vice president for peer advocacy, said that he supported Brooke’s nomination in part because of his previous ethics hearings.

“To be very clear, I have been OCSed twice and been convicted. And that has made me a much stronger vice president for peer advocacy. I know the system. I can help people very, very effectively,” he said.

Isa said if Brooke’s nomination failed in Wednesday’s vote, she’d send in another nomination for Brooke next week.

At one point, Ryan said that the motives of other senators should also be considered in the vote.

“I would just like to simply share a potential conflict of interest here about a fellow senator who’s made previous repeated comments about desiring to serve as parliamentarian in the future and they are the one fighting adamantly for this nomination,” he said, referring to Godinez.

Godinez responded by saying he did not shy away from the aspirations, but saying he had not been promised the job.

“I want the position of parliamentarian, I’m not going to lie. I will apply for it when it becomes available. But every single time that I’ve asked, ‘What are you thinking for this position?’ … He’s always said we’re going to send up our form to everybody. He is very … He follows the rules all the time. He’s never told me anything in private. I’m being very honest. You like, take my word for it. Hopefully you do,” Godinez said.

Though Rezner told senators they would be informed once votes had been verified, senators were not notified for the remainder of the night. Brooke declined to comment on the matter.

Remaining matters were tabled, and the senate adjourned.