MSA CCRC chairman resigns after Senate drives out president-elect

Higginbotham: “Right now, MSA is broken. Students who pay attention quite honestly hate MSA, and I don’t blame them. In my opinion, we earned that.”
Senator Joshua Tennison stands next to the projected version of a piece of legislation that, if passed, would nullify the results of the 2015 MSA presidential election. This legislation was brought to the MSA senate following the release of series of screenshots that brought to light issues charged against the newly elected president and his vice president.

Many students celebrated the resignation of Missouri Students Association President-elect Haden Gomez and running mate Chris Hanner. Vice presidential runner-up Heather Parrie even called Gomez’s reaction to her speech against him “the best moment of my life.”

But not all students were satisfied with the events of Wednesday night’s full Senate meeting.

Sophomore Alex Higginbotham announced through a Facebook post Thursday that he resigned from his position as chairman of the MSA Campus and Community Relations Committee. Higginbotham had been chairman since Oct. 21, when former chairman Syed Ejaz stepped down to run for MSA president.

In a Facebook post, Higginbotham said he could not be a part of an association willing to stoop to “cruelty and bullying” to reach an end. He called the Senate meeting, which featured an open forum section in which students decried the character of Gomez and Chris Hanner, a “public execution.”

“Yesterday wasn't a discussion of the issues, it was a quest to destroy the wellbeing and lives of two human beings,” he wrote.

Gomez shared the post. His only public comment since his resignation has been a single tweet.

Senate Speaker Kevin Carr made his own Facebook post defending his decision to allow the open forum section to continue the previous night. He argued that the section was necessary to allow students to express their opinions on their elected student leaders.

“There are some that are angry with me because I allowed the proceedings to happen in the manner that they did,” he said. “What I did was to allow an open forum for which students could express their opinion.”

He wrote that criticisms of his support for the open forum were a “natural consequence of political fallout,” and said the characters of students who ran for public office should automatically come under intense scrutiny.

Open forum takes place in every full Senate meeting, and MSA’s parliamentary procedure allows anybody to speak for a given amount of time. MSA’s bylaws as well as Missouri’s public meetings law dictate that all meetings of the student government must be open to the public with the exception of firing and hiring decisions and judicial deliberations.

In an interview after the announcement of his resignation, Higginbotham said he thought Carr should have done more to maintain order in the chamber. He expressed frustration with the discussion’s focus on Gomez’s character instead of the actual infractions he committed while campaigning.

“We should have been talking about two things in that chamber and two things only,” he said. “Those things were Pocket Points and text messages. Those two things made up virtually none of that conversation. That entire conversation was about character. “

Carr said he “felt no remorse” for what happened the night of Gomez and Hanner’s resignations because he felt they had used students to get what they wanted.

“(Higginbotham’s) comment was that (Gomez and Hanner) need to be treated with more dignity, and that we should have treated them like human beings,” he said. “The question I want to ask is: What sort of dignity was Haden and Chris treating every single other person of this campus with?”

Gomez had made similar statements to Higgibotham’s in his speech announcing his resignation.

“At the end of the day, I am a person, and I wish that would’ve been respected more than it was,” he’d said.

Another person to speak out about the events of the meeting was Hanner’s mother, Pam Hanner, who replied to Higginbotham’s post in defense of her son.

“The MSA Senate should be very embarrassed with regard to the way this was handled,” she wrote. “I also would like to know who is responsible for overseeing the whole student government program at MIZZOU and WHERE WERE THEY during this persecution?”

Higginbotham said he believed MSA should have more oversight from MU staff members. He called the events of Senate that night “childish and embarrassing.”

Carr said having a supervisor would be a major expenditure, damage MSA’s authority when speaking to administrators, and be logistically difficult because the majority of Senate meetings take place after regular business hours.

“We’re not children here,” he said. “Senate does not need a babysitter.”

After Higginbotham’s resignation, only three out of MSA’s six legislative committees have permanent chairs. Operations, Budget and CCRC have interim chairs as of Friday night. Carr called the turnover an opportunity for Senate.

“It’s unfortunate that people have been pushed to their breaking point, but people understand the cracks in our association, and now want to fill those cracks and to make sure that this doesn’t happen again,” he said.

Higginbotham said he hoped the next president would focus on reforming the association.

“Right now, MSA is broken,” he said. “Students who pay attention quite honestly hate MSA, and I don’t blame them. In my opinion, we earned that.”

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