The Tale of Two Lus
Updated: Sep 3, 2021
The impeachment was a surprise, even to dedicated ESC watchers
By Ufon Umanah
“Presidential candidate Lu appeared to carry the group with her background as VP of Finance and had the most concrete understanding of each individual role within the executive board,” read the Columbia Daily Spectator’s endorsement of Aida Lu for the position of President of the Engineering Student Council. Indeed, there was little about her that the Spectator could criticize. Lu started off as a first-year back-bencher, where she organized events and served on the Finance Committee, led VP Finance the next year, and won the presidency as a junior.
Almost one year later, during an otherwise quiet general body meeting, Montana St. Pierre, SEAS ’19 and ESC Representative, initiated impeachment proceedings against Aida Lu. Afterwards, the council moved to create a committee to investigate the charges, but no one in the press can communicate more than that because, like many events in ESC, the discussion between council-members was closed to both the press and the public.
Closed meetings, of which there were several, start to describe how ESC began to create two Aida Lus. In private, St. Pierre described Lu as having “a lack of respect for her peers on council.” ESC, after impeaching President Lu, reported that Lu would be “frequently late to general body meetings and other meetings” and “when she is on time, she berates and shames those who are late.” When she couldn’t make it to an administrative meeting, she would put the responsibility of attendance on other council members within hours of the meeting, according to other members of ESC. She failed to reply to emails from members of the community who needed to talk to ESC, failed to send out newsletters to the Engineering School, and failed to represent the student body in her conversations.
And yet, besides Lu only sending two newsletters under her name as opposed to her predecessor’s six, the allegations took the press by surprise. No one would accuse Bwog’s former ESC Bureau Chief, Finn Klauber, of missing a general body meeting. Klauber “never noted Aida to have been late to or extremely improper in general body meetings.” Lu seemed to always say the right things to the Spectator. While one of the allegations against her accused her of molding her conversations “to that of administrators’ [opinions],” she was once quoted in The Spectator as saying, “In order to better understand [food insecurity], you have to talk to the people who are using the food bank or feel food-insecure,” which is often the conclusion of many Spectator op-eds on food insecurity.
Despite this, many of the allegations against Lu referred to non-public matters. St. Pierre described himself as “lucky” that he didn’t have to work as much with Lu as a class representative, compared to members of the Executive Board. Per the allegations, “The Executive Board …only met once in the Spring Semester due to [Lu’s] absences and her lack of scheduling.” Presidents are also supposed to disclose what they do to the general body meeting, as with every other executive board member. Only members of ESC know what Lu told the council when she missed a critical meeting to “discuss mandated mental health training.”
ESC moved in Constitutional Review to clarify what impeachment would look like going forward. If the council is serious about moving beyond Lu or preventing absentee leaders from abusing power, it might consider making it tougher to close meetings to the press, perhaps requiring a prior discussion and vote within the Executive Board. Otherwise, any uncontested frontrunner can slide through elections only to destroy the council from within, even councils designed by engineers.