News reporter's notebook

UA president resigns amid parliamentary pablum

“And let’s get to work!” announced Matthew J. Davis ’16 at the conclusion of his first speech as president of the Undergraduate Association. The rare half-second pauses in his delivery would have likely been polished out had he had an extra month to prepare for the moment, but no such luck — embattled former president Shruti Sharma ’15 resigned a month early during Wednesday’s UA Council meeting, sweeping him and vice president-elect Sophia Liu ’17 into office within a week of their election. Davis said he learned of the pending transfer Monday at 11 p.m.

Sharma ended her term with a speech in which she thanked the councillors for their “trust and support” during her term. It was unclear whether the council, which had voted 14-3-1 in a narrowly unsuccessful bid to trigger her recall two weeks prior, felt similarly.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together,” Sharma quoted in a reverent allusion to her high school valedictory speech. Yet just minutes earlier, she had admitted that she “should have not acted with haste” when signing off on an unauthorized $12,500 expenditure without consulting the council.

“The decision was especially hard given the type of person I am,” she said of using the cash to bring Lil B to the Stata Center in November, where the rapper posed questions like “What does having money really mean?” and commented on the beauty and significance of everything from grass to the podium in 32-123.

“My decision was made to preserve the stability of your student government and to refocus the efforts of student leaders on initiatives on student life,” she said of resigning.

Sharma’s email to undergrads Wednesday announced that she would “step down” and “transition” to Davis — she had carefully avoided “resign” throughout the controversy.

“Technically you have to say you resign,” John W. Halloran ’15 said at the end of her speech at the meeting, then in his third day as the Judicial Board majority of one.

A unilateral ruling by Halloran last week cleared the way for a pending impeachment motion to come to a vote, but councillors never exercised the option in light of the pending resignation. The second of the two extant judicial board members, Moriel W. Levy ’17, had resigned from the board in protest of Halloran’s move early Monday, observing: “Two of three is a majority; one is not. That is good math and good law.”

The UA constitution was unclear on whether Sharma’s resignation and Davis’s ascension had to proceed via direct transfer to the newly elected administration or through a series of snap-resignations down the line of succession, with each UA executive assuming and subsequently leaving the organization’s highest office. But these vexing details were resolved when, in deciding to proceed with the swearing in of Davis and Liu, Halloran invoked a little-known parliamentary maneuver: “Are you OK with it? I’m on board with it.”

“Someone said a flaw in the constitution?” a student at the meeting offered in mock surprise at the improvised proceedings. Little sympathy was to be found for the document, which had been subjected to days of hair-splitting examination by councillors mulling their options for removing Sharma.

Davis, who was the only councillor to don a necktie for the occasion, saw through the passage of a constitutional amendment within the first 15 minutes and 37 seconds of his term. The amendment corrected the thresholds for removing a president to require a proportion of councillors rather than an artificially high absolute number. The change, of course, was made just days after the only time in years it would likely be relevant.