ORONO, Maine — At a special impeachment trial on March 29, the University of Maine Student Government voted to remove from office the student body president after a longstanding controversy between the organization’s leader and its members.
Nelson Carson, 21, who had won the position after a special election last November, was voted out by a vote of 31-2. The move came as no surprise, as discussions had been unfolding since Carson’s election in November, according to Michael Shepherd, editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper, The Maine Campus.
In October 2010 the university experienced problems with online voting software during its student government elections. The results of October’s election were nullified as a result, and new software was used for a second election in November, which brought Carson into the student presidency by a narrow margin.
“There has been a lot of controversy ever since Carson was elected,” Shepherd said. “He essentially won the position by 19 votes, and there hasn’t been a dull moment since.”
Student government at the University of Maine serves a number of purposes. The organization primarily allocates money to student groups. It also participates in student advocacy and student outreach, according to Carson’s replacement, Anthony Ortiz.
Ortiz, who also took part in the impeachment trial, said Carson was voted out of his position after allegedly missing executive meetings, failing to attend office hours and failing to provide web content for a newly designed student government website.
“There is no doubt Carson is a great guy. If you ask anyone, that is what they’ll tell you,” said Ortiz. “We gave him room to improve, but it boiled down to him failing to meet the expectations of a student body president.”
Carson, reached by telephone Monday, did not deny the claims that led to his removal, but said certain expectations were unrealistic.
“I made a move to set my own goals,” he said, “and rather than set me up for success, the expectations of 33 senators set me up for failure instead.”
Carson also said, “It was a shame that the student body voted him into the presidency and then only 33 student senators reversed that decision.” He said the decision largely related to “politics as usual.” The fourth-year political science major said he will continue to pursue his goals for a better university without the impediments of student government.
Impeachment of a student body president is uncommon, according to Shepherd, but he said there have been a number of resignations in the past.