Upward of 50 Ohio University students attended a Student Senate Speakout on Wednesday, voicing concerns about Senate Treasurer Simar Kalkat’s removal last week, a lack of diversity in the Senate body and the culture of the organization.
On Feb. 16, Kalkat was removed from Senate in a vote of no confidence by voting members of the body. She alleged she was removed because of an anonymous tip received by Chief Justice Hannah Fleming claiming Kalkat had used Senate funds to purchase a personal plane ticket to Austin, Texas. That anonymous tip turned out to be false, as Kalkat did travel to Texas, but did so for free as part of her membership in OU Select Leaders, a student organization.
At the beginning of the speakout, a number of students spoke regarding Kalkat’s removal, expressing frustration with the vote of no confidence and the swiftness of Kalkat’s removal. Multiple questions were raised about Kalkat’s inability to clarify or defend herself against allegations made in the executive session, which is closed to non-voting members of the body, including Kalkat.
Prior to the speakout, Senate President Becky “Eliza” Ivan read from a Senate statement released Wednesday, which stated Kalkat’s removal is void and she is reinstated to her position.
Tim Reynolds, executive director of the Robert D. Walter Center for Strategic Leadership and the administrator involved with the Austin trip, recounted Kalkat’s attempt to correct a false charge to her university purchasing card and her correspondence with him and other university administrators to clarify the mistake.
Students at the speakout also continuously raised concerns about a lack of racial representation in Senate and communication with students of color on campus. Multiple students alleged that Kalkat’s racial identity may have influenced the situation surrounding her removal.
Students in the meeting criticized the operation of Senate’s Rules & Procedures due to Kalkat’s removal. Some disapproved of Senate abiding by Robert’s Rules of Order, a manual of legislative procedure, while others denounced the Senate Judicial Panel’s actions and lack of review of the information discussed about Kalkat.
International Student Affair Commissioner Jannine Gillett spoke on the vote of no confidence, expressing her feelings that not enough information was provided for voting members to make an informed decision.
“When this information was given to us, not only were we told that it had been given to the Judicial Panel, but we were told that Simar had admitted to it,” Gillett said about the vote last week.
After receiving criticism throughout the night regarding her role on the Senate Judicial Panel, Fleming read a letter of resignation and left the meeting, prompting an immediate reaction from attendees.
“A white woman can cry crocodile tears and walk out of the room while a woman of color cannot … she has to get her point across in a room full of white people,” attendee Alexandria Gordon said following the resignation.
Multiple students called for apologies from senators to both Kalkat and the student body.
Ivan and other senators apologized to Kalkat for her hasty removal and the impact on her reputation, as well as to students for shortcomings within Senate.
In response to questions of Senate’s actions going forward, Ivan stated plans for Senate Judicial Panel meetings to dissect claims and examine Senate’s governing documents for inconsistencies or points of clarification. She also indicated Senate plans to release a more detailed statement in the near future.
Ryan Maxin contributed to this report.