Sitting at the head of a conference table Thursday with his head in his hands, College of Charleston Student Body President Ross Kressel greeted fellow executive board members with a weary salutation as they filed into the room: "This day just keeps getting better and better."
The Student Government Association board decided Thursday afternoon to pursue Kressel's impeachment, putting the decision to a vote in the Student Senate, after confronting him about offensive statements made on his private Twitter account, @CofCPolitico. The account was taken down before City Paper got a chance to look at the tweets, but student Peter Ruegner, a blogger and former senator in the Student Government Association (and also a losing presidential candidate in the last election), released a slew of Twitter screenshots that he says were sent to him by members of the executive board. Kressel, a senior, has confirmed that the account was his own, but he has not confirmed the authenticity of the screenshots.
While the tweets are presented without context, some appear to be directed at fellow SGA members: "Bitchy VP is being bitchy," "Back in the office and the secretary is wearing a blue tooth headset. How do I tell him he looks like a moron nicely?" Other gems include "Just saw big tits freshman, who is now asophomore" and "Sororitute just gave me the bitch glare." Treasurer Luke Rozansky, in a letter kicking off the impeachment process, wrote, "Students who vote to put a leader in office do not expect or deserve to be the subject of a cruel tweet, even if the intention was not to be harmful."
A brief legal tussle ensued after Sam Graebner, a reporter from the student newspaper George Street Observer, entered the small conference room at the Higdon Student Leadership Center with a bulky audio recorder and stood stock-still with a shotgun microphone pointed over Chairperson Erich Hellstrom's left shoulder. Chief of Staff LaQunya Baker had wanted the meeting to be closed to the public, but Graebner, speaking in an obstinate staccato, told Baker that South Carolina's Freedom of Information laws required the meeting to be open since it was partly funded by public money. Baker then made a motion to close the meeting, saying that "members outside the board could influence, hinder, or cause disruption during sensitive topics." The board voted unanimously for the motion, and the reporters waited on the porch while they deliberated.
The meeting wasn’t all tough talk and brinksmanship, though: Chairperson Erica Arbetter brought chocolate chip cookies for everyone, reporters included. A little burnt, but a nice gesture.
The impeachment process will continue at Tuesday afternoon's Student Senate meeting, where it will take a two-thirds majority vote to remove Kressel. In the meantime, Ruegner is pushing the issue. The student body president receives hourly payment from the college — Ruegner says the amount often comes to about $10,000 a year — and Ruegner says he would like to know whether Kressel posted the tweets while he was on the clock. Ruegner says he intends to file a Freedom of Information request to take a look at Kressel's self-reported work hours.
In a written statement sent to the George Street Observer, Kressel said that his actions were "unprofessional, misguided, and inappropriate," but that they were also "a private matter." He said he had been asked to resign, but he declined.
The last time the SGA went down the impeachment path was in 2008, when then-Vice President Seaton Brown was nearly forced to step down in a nasty imbroglio over constitutional minutiae.