Huzaifa Khan ’22 suspended his campaign for Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) President and the WSA general election on the morning of Friday, May 1, due to ongoing controversy surrounding his conduct as a WSA senator. He resigned from his position as the Student Life Committee Chair on April 17 after former WSA Chief-of-Staff Adam Hickey ’22 informed him that he was being impeached.
The voting deadline was not extended or changed, according to Interim Chief-of-Staff and Election Coordinator Pauline Jaffe ’21, despite the fact that the only candidate officially running for president dropped out on the last day to vote. The election closed at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Friday, May 1. The write-in candidate with the most votes will be the winner of the election.
Until April 18, both the President and Vice President races had one other candidate running for election who had completed all the necessary steps to run, according to WSA President Justin Ratkovic ’20. However, Ratkovic said these two candidates dropped out of the election after attending a mandatory candidate’s meeting on April 18, and Ratkovic did not know their motivations for dropping out.
Since Khan has dropped out of the presidential race, voters do not have to void their ballots if they wish to keep their vote for Vice President. As Jaffe explained, due to the way WesNest records votes, she would have to delete votes for both president and vice president if students void their ballots.
According to an article written on Medium.com by an anonymous University student, a first-generation, low-income (FGLI) student, referred to as Jane Doe, requested funding from the WSA Supplemental Emergency Fund (WSASEF) on March 31 for a laptop that she otherwise couldn’t afford. Doe, independently contacted by The Argus, said that the piece spoke to her perspective but that she “was not involved with the Medium article.”
According to the piece, Khan reached out to Doe personally via Facebook Messenger, even though he was not assigned to her case. Khan, who ran his presidential platform on empowering FGLI students like himself, addressed his perspective of his role in reaching out to Doe about laptop funding in a WesAdmits Facebook post on May 1 that announced his withdrawal from the presidential race.
“I reached out to Jane because I had received a screenshot of them insulting me and misconstruing my position on emergency funding requests to other students in a group chat,” Khan wrote. “In the screenshot I received, Jane claimed I did not support funding laptops for students, which was not true. I thus reached out purely and solely to clarify my position on emergency funding of laptops so to stop it from being misconstrued further.”
In screenshots in the Medium article, Khan mentioned senators were arguing to establish a guideline not to fund laptops through the WSASEF, citing precedent set by previous WSA Student Budget Committee (SBC) decisions before the COVID-19 outbreak that did not support “personal long term benefits” for prospective conference attendees requesting funding. Khan also noted Doe was a member of the SBC last year. Doe addressed her initial interaction with Khan when he reached out asking about her interpretation of his position.
“As per my email that I sent to WSA leadership, which is also in the Impeachment Articles, I felt that that conversation was ‘outside of the limits of professionalism demanded by his public position on the WSA,’” Doe wrote in an email to The Argus. “It was wholly inappropriate for him to reach out to me personally on Facebook. I felt hurt when I had that initial conversation with him—hurt that he could use his personal feelings about me to hurt me during my time of vulnerability and need. Even if him reaching out to me wasn’t about funding my laptop, as he so claims in his Facebook post from yesterday, I felt that the way he was presenting his information to me—that the other student’s funding was set, that my actions from my time on the SBC were being used as “precedent” in making any funding decision, specifically one relating to the very thing I was asking for, made it clear to me that my funding was up in the air and at his personal whims.”
That day, as a part of the committee reviewing her request, Khan voted to approve Doe’s request.
Following the interaction, Khan sent Doe an apology email, according to Khan. Doe reached out to Ratkovic and another senator, explaining what happened between her and Khan. Ratkovic talked to Khan about the interaction, Ratkovic told The Argus. Doe explained her emotional reaction to the conversation and Khan’s apology.
“I felt scared,” Doe wrote in an email to The Argus. “I felt personally attacked. I was worried about how my family would be able to handle our situation if Huzaifa personally added a financial burden by deciding not to fund me. But even besides that, when I had that conversation, I was upset for hours, angry and shaking, so much that I couldn’t even participate in class that day because of it. Huzaifa sent me an apology email that I felt was such a canned response, that I couldn’t bring myself to reply — I had most definitely not felt that his apology rectified the situation, nor did I ever accept it. I found out later that people thought that we had a ‘mediated conversation’ and that Justin had informed other senators that I had accepted the apology.”
After receiving Khan’s apology email, Doe sent Ratkovic a message on April 3 saying she appreciated him talking to Khan.
“I was friends with Jane Doe, [and] they later texted me saying, ‘Thank you for talking to him, and he apologized,’” Ratkovic said. “So then, I was a little surprised to see that in the original impeachment documents, half of it was essentially about that instant, when to my understanding, that was pretty much dealt with. But I guess that wasn’t the case.”
Despite this interaction, Doe did not feel that the situation was adequately resolved.
“I must reiterate, I have not spoken to Huzaifa Khan since March 31st, and there has been no ‘friend’ mediating between us,” Doe explained to The Argus. “Whatever Justin Ratkovic has been telling Huzaifa has never ever been confirmed by me, I didn’t know that he had decided to take on the role of a ‘mediator.’”
According to Hickey, he was asked about how the impeachment process worked on either April 11 or 12. Hickey told The Argus he received a petition to initiate the impeachment proceedings against Khan on April 14, which was signed by 25 students, and notified Khan. According to the WSA bylaws, this petition could be signed by members of the college body, whether they are senators or non-senators; Hickey declined to comment on who signed the petition, and The Argus did not have access to this information. Hickey resigned the following day.
“I unfortunately cannot explain in detail my decision to resign because it was due to confidential information from several people that I can’t share,” Hickey said. “I was not asked or pressured to resign by anyone, but information Huzaifa shared with me in interpersonal interactions was a factor in my decision to resign.”
Before he resigned, and after notifying Khan of the petition, Hickey told Khan that some of the petitioners would be willing to pull the impeachment if Khan dropped out of the race, according to Hickey. On April 16, Khan received the articles of impeachment against him, and Khan resigned the next day, on April 17. The Argus could not obtain the names of those involved in drafting the articles of impeachment. In his Facebook post made early in the morning on Friday, May 1, Khan wrote that, at the time, he felt alienated from the WSA and saw the impeachment as being leveraged as blackmail.
“The Chief of Staff expressed that some of the individuals behind the impeachment were willing to make me an ‘offer’, which was that if I suspended my campaign for president, they would withdraw the articles of impeachment against me and not hold a public trial,” Khan wrote in the post. “At the time, I felt that this was blackmail, especially since the only knowledge I had of the matter was that it was ostensibly resolved 2 weeks prior, but had now come up once people knew I was running for president against a senior.”
Hickey clarified his interpretation of discussions surrounding the impeachment.
“I’d like to push back on the notion that the impeachment was blackmail, as its sponsors did not and never originally intended to threaten him with impeachment if he would not drop out, and the ‘offer’ to drop the impeachment if he would drop his presidential run (which I am not confident represented the full opinion of those calling for impeachment) was only made after he had initiated attempts to negotiate having the impeachment dropped,” Hickey wrote in a message to The Argus. “Moreover, it’s my understanding that the impeachment stemmed from very legitimate concerns, not fabricated or exaggerated ones, about him becoming president based on his conduct, and I don’t believe that the concerns and conduct of those supporting his impeachment is equivalent to blackmail.”
Doe spoke to her role in the impeachment process.
“I knew that the impeachment was initiated in the beginning of the week; after that, I stepped away from Facebook and Instagram to finish my thesis,” Doe wrote. “Like I said, I didn’t even know what had happened—impeachment, resignation, or cover up—until April 25th.”
On Saturday, April 18, the WSA sent out the weekly agenda for Sunday’s meeting without mention of Khan’s proposed impeachment. His resignation was mentioned with no further details in the committee reports that was also sent out with the agenda.
“Huzaifa resigned before the email was sent out, like the day before, and because there was no longer a trial going to be happening, we obviously can’t remove someone from the Assembly that is not a part of the Assembly anymore,” Ratkovic said. “So, there was not going to be a trial on the agenda, so we didn’t include it in the all-campus email. And that seems to be where the main problems are, I think, based on looking at the community’s reaction. That was kind of going off the precedent that was set with Bodhi and his impeachment because the same Chief of Staff that administered that one was Huzaifa’s, and then he told Huzaifa the way that it worked with Bodhi’s was that if you’re on the Assembly by the time the email goes out, then it will include all of the email about your impeachment, because it has to. Like it definitely would. But because he had been resigned a whole day before the email about the agenda was sent out, it became kind of a moot point.”
“To clarify about the WSA notifying [that] Bodhi Small was impeached, that was included as part of the agenda for that meeting to announce his removal, so the reason why a similar thing did not happen with Huzaifa was because the removal trial was never placed on the agenda because he resigned prior to the agenda being made,” Hickey said.
The impeachment trial was never scheduled because Khan had resigned. Some were frustrated by the lack of a trial, because individuals who might have wished to come forward to the General Assembly (GA) with information relevant to the impeachment could no longer air these concerns in a GA setting. The WSA bylaws that detail impeachment proceedings provide opportunities for students to speak in front of the GA in the open part of the trial, anonymously through the form of a written statement presented to the presiding impeachment officer, or during the closed portion of the meeting without the impeached senator present.
“The impeachment trial would have given people a fair platform to air out their views, and he would have had a chance to defend himself,” Doe wrote. “Since my email to the WSA leadership did not result in a conversation or dialogue, I was hoping the trial would create such a platform. Impeachment trials have a space for talking privately – off the record – and I was hoping that would give me a way to make my voice heard. Unfortunately, I was silenced. I didn’t know that he resigned before the impeachment trial could be announced until April 25th, when I asked a senator what was happening about the impeachment.”
“That was the intention, that people would speak while the meeting was closed because the fact of the matter is because Huzaifa is being a politician about it,” WSA Community Committee Chair Emily McEvoy ’22, who would’ve spoken during private testimony, said. “That allows him to talk about himself and apologize. Because of the fact that the impeachment doesn’t happen, there wasn’t that agency for anyone who would’ve wanted to speak privately to the General Assembly, and that’s really problematic in my opinion, and there’s still a lot of complex things that haven’t come up.”
In Ratkovic’s perspective, the WSA did not intentionally conceal Khan’s resignation or impeachment.
“I’m sorry if in any way it looked like a coverup, that was not our intention,” Ratkovic said. “Our intention was to be as transparent as possible, while also recognizing the physical and mental impacts our actions would have on people. We essentially went with how the precedent was set with the previous impeachment this semester, and we’ve noted the trouble spots in the impeachment bylaws and documents, because they’ve only been used twice in the four years that I’ve been on the WSA, so there is obviously a lot of room for growth and improvement in the governing documents there. We’ll try to include it in [the] Constitutional Review this coming week if possible, but if not I’ve already made notes to include things to include for next year’s Assembly to change.”
Following Khan’s resignation, Ratkovic reached out to the Leadership Board—consisting of the President, Vice President, and all committee chairs—and suggested that Khan take a semester off of the WSA, but Khan declined.
“It was my personal choice to continue my campaign, as at that point, I had received further (inaccurate) indication that the matter with Jane was resolved, and saw that conflict resolution with the person who claimed to be the main affected individual was clearly moving in a positive direction,” Khan wrote. “I was planning on coming forward about all of this with a statement as soon as possible, specifically at the townhall held on Saturday 4/25, before voting started, but this second individual felt it was better to take more time to write a statement which reflected their perspective as accurately as possible. I firmly believed that they deserved to be heard, and so we had planned to present a co-reviewed statement at the upcoming WSA meeting on Sunday, which they thought was the best setting.”
But after the Medium article was published late on April 30, Khan contacted Jaffe at 11 a.m. EDT May 1 to suspend his campaign for president and the general election. He also posted a statement in the WesAdmits Facebook group to express his feelings and perspective on the situation.
“Throughout all of this, I was not aware that Jane’s concern had truly gone unresolved, as everything described above indicated the opposite,” Khan wrote in the post. “Everything had led me to believe it was not at the center of this controversy. If I had known it was, I would never have decided to run for president. I was only in contact with some of the individuals behind the impeachment, and this is what caused my confusion. I completely recognize what I must do, and will immediately suspend my campaign for president. Although I hope this new information will shed light on the nature of my conversation with Jane, as well as this entire situation, I firmly believe that Jane’s desires must be met, so I will not return to the WSA.”
In response to Khan’s post, Doe expressed that she chose to speak to editors at The Argus and Wesleying only to inform the student body about what happened.
“My only desire is for the student body to know how I was treated, to know that there was an impeachment, and that it was covered up,” Doe wrote to The Argus. “I have no ulterior motives; whatever this person decides to do with regards to his election is not my concern. My only concern was to make my voice and the truth come out; I’m graduating and the WSA will not have any more bearing on my life anymore.”
“I have not spoken to Huzaifa since March 31st, nor have I ever accepted his apology,” Doe added. “I do not understand why he would assume that everything is ‘fine’ if he has never heard a word directly from me affirming that his apology has been accepted. What others have been saying about me is hurtful, and I know a lot of stuff is being said about me on WesAdmits about how I’m a liar and all that, and it’s really scary; I feel like all of this is a continuation of the WSA’s efforts to keep me quiet.”
The election, Jaffe said, was not extended in order to ensure the GA could meet before the academic year concluded and conduct internal elections so necessary WSA decisions could be made over the summer.
“If we extended it we wouldn’t be able to have a GA meeting before reading period and finals, and that’s the real key because we wouldn’t be able to do any elections,” Jaffe said. “There wouldn’t be any leadership, which in my opinion I think would be worse in this time, because not having leadership and feeling like your community has been taken away from you and then it’s kind of in freefall over the summer and personally, I don’t think that’s a good thing.”
Jaffe also noted that she felt she was one of many senators on the WSA who had no idea what was happening with the impeachment.
“I didn’t actually get to see the full impeachment document until that article last night,” Jaffe said. “So, you know, I think the article talked about how there’s a lot of people on the WSA who had no idea, I think that’s a very true statement. And there’s a lot of animosity going around on Facebook for the WSA. There’s a difference between having animosity for the situation and having animosity for the WSA as a whole. There [are] a lot of people, myself included, who didn’t know. And if they did have some information, they didn’t have all of it.”
The WSA is set to announce election results the morning of Saturday, May 2.
This article may be updated with new information in the coming days.
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Correction: This article has been edited to clarify that Jane Doe has only spoken consensually about her experience with The Argus and Wesleying, and to note that Khan did not send his apology email after talking to Ratkovic, but before. Khan also voted in favor of funding Doe’s request on March 31, according to Khan.