On Sunday night, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) Governing Board issued a vote of no confidence for junior President Mike Hernández amid growing controversy over the president’s support of a proposed free speech bill and his comments to students in recent weeks.
The bill, which was introduced by sixth semester junior political science and economics double major Isadore Johnson, aims to protect students and their right to freely express their opinions within student government and also at UConn as a whole. Opponents of the bill, however, have argued the legislation gives students a free pass to express casual racism, homophobia and misogyny without consequence, and have expressed concern over Hernández’s support of the bill.
“Over the past several weeks, President Hernández has acted in a manner unbecoming of the office he holds, which has manifested in an apparent inability to understand the impact that his actions have and a disregard for the concerns repeatedly brought to him by those he leads,” USG’s statement read.
Hernández came under fire earlier this week when he made a private comment to a fellow student likening protecting minorities to treating them like children, a statement that ultimately fueled the move to give a vote of no confidence.
“We reaffirm our sentiment that the best way to promote inclusion is to condemn racism, antisemitism, sexism
, and all other forms of bias and discrimination,” the statement read in acknowledgement of Hernández’s comment.
Brittany Diaz, one of the main opponents of Hernández and the only candidate for the upcoming chief diversity officer election, expressed her satisfaction with USG’s vote and said she is optimistic about the organization’s future.
“I believe it is the responsibility of the student government to hold our president accountable. This was long overdue but much needed,” Diaz said. “I am happy to see that a statement was released. I look forward to seeing how the student government addresses the legislation in the next senate meeting.”
Hernández declined to comment.
Chris Bergen, the sole candidate for USG’s comptroller election and a signer on the free speech bill, said he is not surprised with the reaction to the bill and the response from USG leadership.
“Half of the leadership represents the few students who seek to silence those with differing opinions, while the other half is afraid to uphold what is right for fear of personal ridicule from members,” Bergen said. “Our bill has been deliberately mischaracterized as a justification for students to say whatever they want, without accountability. This is not so. We sought to define the university’s role in civil discourse, and change the toxic, intolerant culture that is preventing respectful dialogue from happening.”
The vote comes days before the 2021-2022 school year USG elections, when students will elect a new president/vice president, comptroller, chief diversity officer and several senators. The free speech bill will also be debated at the government’s upcoming Senate meeting on March 10 at 6:30 p.m.