ASLMU votes to impeach senator after contentious hearing, witnesses say “the damage has been done”

Monday, October 12, 2020

ASLMU votes to impeach senator after contentious hearing, witnesses say “the damage has been done”

By Raven Yamamoto, Danica Creahan

The ASLMU Senate has voted to impeach Diversity and Inclusion Senator Stephanie Martinez on the grounds that her actions have “severely damaged the integrity or authority of ASLMU or the office held by the individual in question.” Martinez is the first sitting senator to be impeached in ASLMU’s history. 

The vote passed by an overwhelming majority. 18 senators voted in favor of impeachment, two abstained and one voted against. Over 100 LMU community members were in attendance at the highly-anticipated hearing that lasted three hours before the announcement of the verdict. 

Martinez’s fellow Senator for Diversity and Inclusion Camille Orozco brought the complaint against Sen. Martinez on Oct. 4 following the circulation of a petition to remove Sen. Martinez from office. The anonymous petition was created after Martinez’s past social media posts containing anti-immigrant rhetoric came to the attention of the LMU community. 

“Seeing the amount of student dissent I found it necessary to come forward with the impeachment complaint,” Orozco said. “It was a difficult decision, but uplifting the interests of the student body has always been my top priority with my role [in the Senate].”

Freedom of speech

Multiple media organizations outside LMU have deemed the impeachment an issue of free speech. In her opening statement, Sen. Orozco clarified the grounds for the complaint against Sen. Martinez.

“I would like to remind everyone that this is not a trial regarding freedom of speech, expression, or political affiliation, as those rights are protected in the United States Constitution, as well as the non-discrimination policy in ASLMU’s constitution,” Orozco said. “This hearing is one regarding conduct which has severely damaged the integrity, or authority of ASLMU or the office held by Senator Martinez.”

Regardless of Sen. Orozco’s clarification, freedom of speech remained the sticking point for Martinez and the witnesses who testified in her defense. 

“Despite what was stated, that this is not about free speech or political identity, I argue that this is not the case. The impeachment case against me was brought forward as a result of the Loyolan article and subsequent petition in response to my creation of the students for Trump Instagram page,” said Sen. Martinez. (The petition referenced in her opening statement was created months prior to the Loyolan’s article).

In response to our request for comment, Kennedi Hewitt, author of the Loyolan article, stated, “I reported accurately, fairly, and I upheld the standards of the Loyolan.”

Sen. Martinez continued to claim that the impeachment complaint was an attempt to silence her conservative beliefs. This point was reiterated by Will Donahue, Scott Meyers, and Drew Alcorn, the three witnesses she called in her defense. 

“I think a lot of what conservatives stand for is freedom of speech, and I believe that this is entirely a free speech issue,” said Meyers. “I see people being affected or harmed by an opinion.” 

“Stephanie is the only openly conservative member of ASLMU, and she's blatantly under attack for essentially political comments and the fact that people didn't appreciate those comments,” said Donahue, “I think this is just further evidence that a lot of people view conservative views as just incompatible with ASLMU.”

“She's elected to represent the students on campus, and conservative students are students on campus, and I don't feel that they are accurately represented within ASLMU,” said Alcorn.

During the hearing, Sen. Orozco confirmed via Alcorn that LMU’s chapter of Young American’s for Freedom (YAF), an “ideologically conservative youth activism organization,” had received funding from ASLMU through the Student Activity Fee Allocation Board (SAFAB). 

While speaking on how Sen. Martinez’ behavior has impacted ASLMU’s relationship with the student body, ASLMU President Jack Palen argued that Sen. Martinez’ response to the impeachment complaint created further damage to ASLMU’s reputation.  

“If you can't hold the elected officials accountable, what's the point of elections? What's the point of a government if students aren't represented in the spaces where they would like to be?” said Palen. “Instead of adjusting the behavior, [it] seemed to me that Senator Martinez doubled down on it, and effectively alienated the students who were criticizing her as well.”

Sen. Martinez maintained that the senate was targeting her conservative views steadily throughout the hearing.  

“This impeachment is a sham, this was a kangaroo court and conservative students on campus are furious,” said Martinez. “This is a case of discrimination and xenophobia towards conservatives and we will have their voices heard. So I want to ask you, how will you represent conservative students on campus?”

Martinez notably used the expression “kangaroo court,” an expression also used by President Donald Trump in October 2019 regarding his own impeachment.


Given the nature of her social media posts, Sen. Martinez was called to clarify her stance on immigration. Prior to the hearing, she had not clearly stated where she stood on the issue. 

In her opening statement, Martinez explained that she came from a family of immigrants and that she supported those who migrate to the U.S. legally. “To be anti-immigrant [would] be to be against my own immigrant parents who migrated here at a young age,” Martinez said.

Brisa* was called as a student witness and shared how she’d confided in Martinez, her first friend at LMU, about her immigrant status. Brisa expressed her shock when she learned about Martinez's past social media posts, using the phrase "illegal alien" to describe undocumented people.

“She was like the only person that I felt like I could trust,” she said. “The fact that someone doesn't even know the proper words [for] how to describe someone like me… I can't trust ASLMU with someone like that at the forefront.”

Martinez strongly defended her use of the term “illegal alien” in her past tweets, citing it as a legal term, and said she was only against illegal immigration. In response to questions about her tweet celebrating Trump’s asylum regulation law, she argued that the law did not end asylum but instead “prioritize[d] the most vulnerable asylum seekers [in] extreme cases instead of those who were only seeking monetary gain in the U.S.”

Another student witness named Leonardo* shared an emotional story at the hearing about how his family brought him across the border for his safety. He explained that while he didn’t agree with Martinez’ politics, her comments celebrating a law that heavily regulated asylum made him uncomfortable.

“When it became an issue to me was when I found out that she was supposed to represent my best interest when she doesn't even support my presence on campus or in this country,” he said. 

“Knowing that someone [who’s] supposed to represent me is very supportive and even willing to be someone that sees me behind a metal gate and sees me without access to clean water as ICE often does to detainees,” furthered his discomfort.

Leonardo also added that while “the damage has been done” by not pursuing impeachment sooner, removing Martinez from office would be a “good start” in rebuilding trust between ASLMU and its constituents.

In response to a question from Sen. Alexis Harris regarding how Martinez thinks her statements have impacted survivors of genocides and students of mixed citizenship statuses, Martinez offered a personal anecdote. 

 “My uncle was actually placed in one of the cages as well, when he was crossing [the border] illegally.”

Desiree Diaz, a long-time member of Resilience, a student immigrant rights activist group, was also called as a witness. She explained that seeing Martinez on the senate months after her past tweets resurfaced “completely severed [her] faith in ASLMU being dedicated to helping our undocumented community on campus.”

LGBTQ+ Issues 

Multiple senators also questioned Sen. Martinez about how a retweet in which the tweet’s author stated they would not support LGBTQ+ history being taught in public schools. 

“So ‘including but not limited to,’ so I don't necessarily...” Martinez appeared to struggle to respond, and then proceeded not to answer the question the first time it was posed. 

When another senator followed up, Martinez admitted it was a question of how she was raised. 

“I was raised Catholic, full-blown Catholic girl,” said Martinez, “I was raised within a Mexican household, that's not appropriate… it's a tradition in my family and I can’t break that tradition.”

After some WiFi troubles, Martinez made a clarifying statement that LMU’s LGBTQ+ community “would have” her support. 

In her clarifying comments following Sen. Martinez’ statements regarding the LGTBQ+ community, Sen. Orozco reminded all in attendance of the role of a diversity and inclusion senator.  

“The responsibility of a senator of diversity and inclusion is to ‘represent the very needs and issues related to identities, including but not limited to, gender, sexual orientation, culture, disabilities and neurodiversity.’ This means that a senator in this position is responsible to represent the identities of those, including gender, sexual orientation, culture, disabilities and neurodiversity, it does allow for more than that but it must represent at the very minimum those students,” Orozco said.

Closing statements 

In Sen. Orozco’s closing statement, she restated the intent of the impeachment complaint. She doubled down on her case that Sen. Martinez violated ASLMU bylaws, and reiterated her firm belief that the impeachment was not due to political beliefs or about freedom of speech. 

“There is value in ideological diversity, and in fact, it is this diversity that I believe makes ASLMU so strong. Whether you're a liberal, moderate or conservative, that does not give you a pass from being held accountable by your peers when you actively alienate and disparage vulnerable student communities.”

In Sen. Martinez’ closing statement, she reaffirmed that she believes “diversity and inclusion” includes diversity of political ideology and that she didn't feel responsible for representing undocumented students at LMU. 

“My position specifically says identities including but not limited to, which implies that the senator for diversity and inclusion must represent those that have different political identities. This includes those that identify as conservative. My role does not say anything about representing those with illegal citizenship status. Citizenship is not an identity, it is a legal status.”

What’s next

Sen. Martinez has until Oct. 18 to appeal the impeachment vote and have it reviewed by ASLMU’s Judicial Board. If she does not appeal, the Senate will vote on Sen. Martinez’ removal that day, bringing an end to the three-week-long impeachment proceedings. 

*This student will not be named in full for their safety.

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