After an hour-long hearing, the University of Central Florida Student Government Senate voted against the Censure of Nick Larkins, with a vote count of zero votes for the censure, 35 votes against, and one abstention.
As Knight News previously reported, a censure was filed against Larkins for not fulfilling his salutatory obligations as stated in Title IV Chapter 402.4. Which states, “The Chief of Staff shall report updates to the senate on executive branch internal operations a minimum of two (2) times a month.”
During the hearing, Larkins came before the Senate and told his side of the story and accepted responsibility for his actions or lack thereof.
“Tonight, I’m here not to bargain with you, not to argue with you, and not to try to make any excuses or accusations,” Larkins said. “Tonight I am here to explain the situation at hand from my perspective and then answer any questions that you may have for me honestly and to the best of my ability.”
Larkins began pleading his case; starting with the first date the censure alleged that he did not fulfill his duties as Chief of Staff.
“I planned to attend senate on February 9, until I was asked last minute to speak at the Muslim Association’s ‘It’s your home too’ event. I spoke about the solidarity that Student Government shared with the Muslim students of UCF and I also linked arms with other students and danced around the Pegasus Ballroom to music sung in a language, frankly I didn’t understand,” Larkins explained.
“Feeling bad about missing out on my duty to report to the Senate, at 6:33 p.m. on February 9, I sent this email to the speaker,” Larkins stated.
Larkins went on to read the email he sent to Speaker Crystain Cepeda. Larkins submitted this email with the expectation that Cepeda would present his report to the senate. Larkins went on to ascertain that no one informed him that submitting email reports to the speaker was an issue.
“After all of this occurred in the month of February, no one told me that sending an email to the speaker was inappropriate or was done through the incorrect channel. I will take responsibility for the fact that I didn’t ask anyone. But I have seen Chris (President Clemente) send his reports to the speaker many times without receiving any public backlash. So I assumed it was an appropriate thing to do, but you all know what happens when you assume,” Larkins said.
After Larkins addressed the Senate, senators began to question him about his conduct. After that, the Senate debated the merits of the censure, and eventually concluded in a near-unanimous vote that the censure would not pass. During the debate, some senators blamed Larkins error on poorly worded statutes, while other just hoped that he learned from this experience.
“Sure we have to learn from it, we have to change our statues, and we have to close the loopholes. But I ask for President Elect Larkins to learn from it as well,” Senator Joshua Boloña said. “For this upcoming term, communication is key. You have a legislative branch that is willing to work with you. Coming in in person does so much more then you think, because a report of two sentences means nothing to me; especially when as senators we cannot ask questions for elaboration. “
After the Senate’s vote, Larkins’ accuser Senator Brianna Bailey said, “Although I believe my Recommendation of Censure was valid on its face when it was originally filed, I understand and respect the Senate’s decision. We learned that there was ambiguity in the Chief of Staff’s description. We learned that the Enforcement and Accountability Statutes do not properly address the course of action for the transition to new positions. But, most importantly we learned that communication is key.”
The day after the censure vote, Knight News reached out to now former Speaker Cepeda for comment regarding whether Larkins fulfilled his statutorily required duties as Chief of Staff.
“I think he did the bare minimum. I think in his eyes sending an email he thought he was doing the right thing, which is completely okay. But in reality, there has never been an administration that just doesn’t come and give their reports.”
Former Senator and current SGA Athletics Coordinator Scott Benton weighed in the Senate’s decision not to censure.
“I understand the position the senate was in as a former senator. But for the time of the students involved, and the perception of SGA I think it’s a shame that students are going to perceive this as just politics or a waste of time. I don’t see any positive that came out of this,” Benton said.
However, not everyone involved in SGA believes the censure was a negative experience. Newly elected President Pro Tempore Anthony Minute, sees this experience as a chance for the Senate to review all of its polices and statues.
“We are going to examine every single Statues that we have, examine every single rule, work for everything that we currently have written down to just overhaul it, and refresh it. So when the next session comes we are ready to hit the ground running,” Minute said.
Knight News asked Minute if he personally believes that sending one email and attending one senate meeting in a month is appropriate, and if he would act in the same manner.
“Honestly if it were me personally I would prefer to come in person. But different people have different preferred things. It’s not the most effective way; to send an email to someone and expect them to read it. But technically it is giving a report. So I can’t say that it’s wrong or not, ” Minute said.