Story by Phil Millar and Ally Krupinsky
University of South Dakota Student Government Association senator Muhamad Ali Suria is still a member of the SGA, after the Senate voted “no” to his removal April 21.
Suria faced impeachment charges due to his violation of By-law 10, which states that a senator may have no more than three proxied absences from meetings. Suria missed four meetings.
Suria said he was surprised at the number of senators that defended him.
“It’s good to see the Senate is questioning things instead of just all groupthink,” Suria said.
Suria missed meetings Jan. 27, Feb. 24, March 31 and April 7. He missed the Jan. 27 meeting for a class assignment. A meeting of the business fraternity Beta Alpha Psi was his reason for missing the Feb. 24 meeting. He missed the March 31 meeting for an internship interview in Omaha. On April 7, he cited personal reasons.
Initially after hearing about the impeachment charges, Suria considered resigning, but decided against it.
“I thought ‘This isn’t right, due process was not done,’” Suria said.
Suria defended himself in the trial and said he devoted time outside of SGA meetings that he didn’t have to, particularly during the budgeting process.
Senator Nathaniel Steinlicht was part of the Internal Review committee that brought Suria to trial with charges of impeachment. He voted to remove Suria from the senate.
“I voted ‘yes’ because I believed that’s the punishment he deserved,” Steinlicht said. “There needs to be some sort of accountability held, and if you’re not here representing your constituents, I feel like you need to step down and let another senator who could potentially come in and represent those constituents better.”
Senator Chelsea Gilbertson voiced concern over the contradicting message removing Suria would send.
“It’s not necessarily a race thing, but it’s kind of a hard draw to be a group that promotes diversity and inclusiveness, only to kick our one, you know, one foreigner off to bring him in with, you know, another white South Dakotan kid,” Gilbertson said.
SGA President Sami Zoss quickly dismissed that argument during discussion, and said the impeachment was simply a matter of following by-laws.
Gilbertson voted not to remove Suria.
“He is willing to go further than just being a senator,” Gilbertson said. “He’s not doing it for a resume builder. He’s really doing it to do it, and I don’t want someone like that to just disappear.”
Although he wasn’t impeached, Suria did not leave the meeting without discipline.
He will have to volunteer with Project Main Street five times during the fall 2015 semester, as decided by Senate vote. Project Main Street is an SGA community outreach program that picks up trash on Main Street in Vermillion.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to get involved with the local Vermillion community as well,” Suria said.
(Photo: Senator Muhammed Suria defends himself during his impeachment discussion at the SGA meeting April 21. Ally Krupinsky / The Volante)