Student body president publicly resigns during student government meeting

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Student body president publicly resigns during student government meeting

Ismael Cordova publicly resigns from his position as student government president at the meeting held on March 6, 2019.

Ismael Cordova publicly resigns from his position as student government president at the meeting held on March 6, 2019.

Jonah Seckel

Ismael Cordova publicly resigns from his position as student government president at the meeting held on March 6, 2019.

Jonah Seckel

Jonah Seckel

Ismael Cordova publicly resigns from his position as student government president at the meeting held on March 6, 2019.

Shealeigh Voitl, Managing Editor

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Ismael Cordova publicly resigned as student body president on March 6, 2019, during a regularly held student government meeting.

“I had [the letter] typed out, and I had it in my binder,” Cordova said. “I was going to turn it in after the meeting, but then I found out that the vote was unanimous to begin the impeachment proceedings.”

Cordova didn’t want his abrupt departure to generate lingering whispers in the hallways of Elgin Community College. He felt that he owed his fellow students an explanation and a proper farewell.

“I was like, ‘You know what? This is my last meeting in front of student leaders,’” Cordova said. “I know that at the end of the day, it’s still going to be a rumor, and people are going to be like, ‘Oh my God, did you hear about this? Did you hear that?’ And I wanted to be the first one to voice it.”

However, since Cordova’s announcement wasn’t an agenda item for the official meeting, the resignation was not only a surprise to his adviser and the rest of his peers, but the swift exit was also considered unsanctioned.

“He spoke out of turn,” said student government adviser Gaea Atta Moy. “[His resignation] should have been during the open discussion portion of the meeting.”

Student government senator Andres Garcia didn’t anticipate such a hasty goodbye from his good friend whom he believed was exceedingly qualified for the position that he once occupied.

“He was the man for the job,” Garcia said. “He just had a lot on his plate. (…) This was the worst-case scenario.”

Margaret Sherman, former vice president and now current student body president, didn’t feel as shocked as her fellow student government members.

“Part of me wasn’t surprised,” Sherman said. “I thought of a hundred different ways that [everything would play out], but I hoped that it would be handled professionally.”

The notion that his public resignation broke some kind of rule didn’t sit well with Cordova.

“I had a lot of administrators come to me and tell me that I had an unsanctioned resignation, but that didn’t make any sense to me,” Cordova said. “In our constitution, there’s no section on resigning.”

There isn’t, in fact, a section in the student government constitution that outlines a specific protocol for how to properly resign from one’s post, a fact that Atta Moy acknowledges.

“[The constitution] provides more information about the impeachment process,” Atta Moy said. “But there is a time limit to submit a resignation before impeachment proceedings begin.”

This was the reality that Cordova faced earlier this March. The constitution states that once a vote to begin impeachment proceedings has been made, a written notice will be submitted to the accused within two business days, and the member will then have five business days to submit their resignation.

The impeachable offenses that student government decided to investigate further on March 4, 2019, included violation of duties and responsibilities and an exceeded number of unexcused absences during a semester. Cordova vehemently objects to the latter, recalling that he only missed one meeting during this semester, but takes accountability for the rest of his shortcomings as president.

“My resignation letter’s [purpose] wasn’t to say that [student government] had no right to impeach me,” Cordova said. “I said that specifically in my statement. Those violations are technically correct; they are accurate. I’m not hiding from that.”

Atta Moy maintains that the team went to great lengths to make sure that these proceedings were kept confidential for Cordova’s sake.

“[Student government] wanted to protect [Cordova’s] integrity,” Atta Moy said. “They wanted to make [an objective] decision.”

Atta Moy realizes that Cordova’s way of stepping down from his position wasn’t ideal, but she believes that each student has to ultimately do what they feel they must.

“I can’t say what one person should do and shouldn’t do. It’s up to them [to determine] how they handle it,” Atta Moy said. “I have my own opinions on it obviously, but they are still free to do as they please. Do I think it could have been handled differently? Absolutely.”

Even more unexpected, and perhaps disheartening to those with whom Cordova worked closely, Cordova posted a detailed Facebook post in which he described student government as a “toxic” and “hostile” working environment shortly after he read his resignation letter aloud at the meeting.

Ismael Cordova’s Facebook post on March 6, 2019, which detailed his experience as student body president and his reason for resigning.

“That was hard,” Garcia said of his experience reading Cordova’s post. “If you ask the rest of the senators, we [work well together].”

Garcia believed that Cordova’s presence within student government made several students feel as though they weren’t able to express themselves freely.

“We wanted to do a lot of things,” Garcia said. “But we were afraid to step on his toes.”

Sherman agreed that Cordova rarely accepted help from others, invited new ideas from his team or exhibited patience.

“Anytime I would try to help him with something or ask for clarification, I would be met with that hostility [that he was referring to],” Sherman said. “We were always walking on eggshells.”

Cordova remembers his last days differently and asserts that he was excluded from governmental processes altogether, particularly due to Atta Moy’s influence over the group.

“I felt like I wasn’t [permitted] to make decisions for my team,” Cordova said.

But Atta Moy believes that student government, although a collection of different positions, is meant to foster meaningful discussions and discourse so that a conclusion can be successfully reached.

“I always encourage them to discuss each decision and agree upon it,” Atta Moy said. “No decision is made solely by one person.”

In his resignation letter, Cordova also described instances of “favoritism” expressed by Atta Moy toward student government members. Cordova cited the cancellation of Advocacy Days as an example, an event in which SG members travel to Springfield to voice student concerns to elected officials. He alleges that the decision to not attend Advocacy Days was intentionally made without him at the direction of Atta Moy. However, Atta Moy says that the meeting on Feb. 25, 2019, in which the decision was made to forego the trip to Springfield, was made with care, considering each student’s point of view and specific circumstance.

“After the days off [due to the polar vortex], I was concerned about the students’ workload,” Atta Moy said. “I suggested that, instead of taking three days off to go to Springfield, they continue their advocacy work on a more local level. That was the option presented. The students that were present at the meeting agreed.”

Cordova said that he was ill the day of the meeting, which prevented him from being able to attend and was not notified of the final decision or the events that transpired.

Still, Atta Moy denies the idea that she favors one student over any other.

“In terms of favoritism, that is always thrown at [advisers] at any point in time,” Atta Moy said. “More so by students who are unhappy with some of the processes that we have to go through, as advisers in student life, when things don’t go in their favor.”

Moving forward, Atta Moy has the utmost confidence in SG members’ capabilities.

“Quite honestly, I think student government is headed for a more positive outcome and turn of events for the rest of the semester,” Atta Moy said. “Everyone really stepped up when this happened.”

Atta Moy also wants future members of student government to grasp the level of dedication that is expected and required of them.

“Any student who gets into positions such as these needs to understand the commitment, the time and effort it takes to lead their team in a positive light,” Atta Moy said. “Are we humans? Of course; we’ll make mistakes. The key is communication.”

Sherman and Garcia concur and are excited to see the senators thrive in new and challenging environments. They are also eager to continue working hard for their classmates and the greater community.

“At first, we were shocked and upset and didn’t know what to do,” Sherman said. “But personally, I think our dynamic is 100 times better at least because I feel more comfortable. I know that I can trust and rely on [our] senators.”

Garcia is hopeful for the future and is willing to forgive and forget.

“I still consider [Cordova] a friend,” Garcia said. “I don’t know what he considers me now. If he needs me, I’ll be there for him. (…) It’s just that the ball’s in his court now.”

Cordova, however, still hopes that changes will be made to student government’s way of dealing with conflict.

“I want people to be held responsible for their actions that lead to students making decisions like these,” Cordova said. “And I want students to be responsible for themselves as well.”