Rachel Saunders on trial for violation of Title X 1002.1; Articles of Impeachment forwarded to Legislative Branch

Carter Mudgett, Student Government Reporter

The Supreme Court of UNF convened yesterday evening to review the Primary Court’s recommendation of Articles of Impeachment against Senate President Rachel Saunders for a violation of Student Government’s Code of Ethics, Title X 1002.1. 

Rachel Saunders is currently a student at the University of North Florida and serves as the President of the University of North Florida Senate. She stands charge of violating Student Government statute 1002.1, prohibiting Student Government officers from practicing discrimination. 

Screenshot from JC-21SA-001.

According to the Student Government report from a previous hearing, “Evidence presented, along with testimony proffered, demonstrated multiple examples – and likely many more that were not brought to light in this case – where members of Student Government and the Ignite Party openly and shamelessly engaged in violent, racist, homophobic, and generally abhorrent discussions about other members of Student Government.”

When one person spoke out against the “stunning hatred and vitriol,” they were excluded as the rest of the group moved to a new group chat.

Title X 1002.1 is as follows:

Screenshot of SG Constitution Code of Ethics, Title X 1002.1.

Claimant Lucas Mougeot presented a case that, in his words, “substantiates and fortifies the primary court’s decision that Ms. Saunders acted in violation of one crucial UNF Student Government constitutional provision, to which brought additional charges of malfeasance and neglect.”

Within her opening statement, Saunders said how “The charge against [me] is based on an exercise of my speech by liking a message in a group chat. The charge against me does not identify a single instance of differential treatment of any other student, including Selma Besirevic, on the basis of, let alone solely on the basis of, any protected characteristic.”

Saunders continues: 

“Furthermore as you may see, I have liked many messages in this group chat. Some of which are jokes about other members of Student Government who are in similarly situated positions to Miss Besirevic but not members of a protected class,” she states. “This plainly shows that a like on a group message is not differential treatment. Even if someone were to consider that this was differential treatment, the liking of this message which was not solely based on any protected characteristic as outlined in the basic definition of discrimination in Title X.”

During public remarks, Besirevic took two minutes to deliver a statement on the case:

“The weak excuse and blatant jab at my community, whether or not you know the history of us, saying it was a joke is not excusable. The quote on quote jokingly mocking of an entire national origin, the insensitivity actions in violation of the respondent, and the other individuals defending her turning a blind eye to the disgusting actions of all their peers involved is clear. Evidently, the respondent endorsed discriminatory statements by liking the messages,” she says. Besirevic says that she had reached out to Saunders to address the exclusion she had felt in the Fall. Besirevic was appointed as a senator in September of 2020. 

“Her behavior has remained the same,” Besirevic says. “She has treated me differently, albeit I never knew the reason why. The reason seems crystal clear now. The respondent seeing my response to her statement on February 17th was disingenuous, was speculation in itself.”

Besirevic asks, “Why do you think I live by ‘human is human’? Why do you think I said it in response to the respondent? I am obviously a human but I don’t seem to be treated as one. My genuine statement, which I am confirming was indeed genuine, does not call for discriminatory comments. You have the right to free speech, but may I remind you we are held to the standards of the universities explicit standards of no discrimination.”

“The neglect of the respondent to act her certain position has and will put, not just the legislative branch, but this entire organization and university to shame,” Besirevic concludes. “This is intolerable.”

Following a Zoom hearing that lasted well over three hours as the court heard arguments from both the claimant and respondent, the Supreme Court reached their decision. Student Government Chief Justice Nicolas Vincenty delivered the verdict:

“After long and careful deliberation, and turning over every stone, the Supreme Court has found that Rachel Saunders is in violation of Title X 1002.1. In addition, Articles of Impeachment will be forwarded to the Legislative branch as now a majority has been found of the judiciary to forward Articles of Impeachment. For more reasoning, please look for the Supreme Court official decision that will be written in the coming days.”

Spinnaker continues to wait on the public records request to be fulfilled and will update with physical evidence as soon as possible. 

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