Current ASB Attorney General Rob Pillow announced Thursday night that the results of his investigation into the ASB Judicial Council‘s ruling that the title “Colonel Reb” was unconstitutional will be released Monday. Former ASB Judicial Chair Courtney Pearson, who presided over the ruling on her final night in office, insists that the investigation is unwarranted and unconstitutional.
Pillow launched the investigation Tuesday night after citing concerns about the legality of the process by which the ASB Judicial Council came to its March 25 decision to revoke the title “Colonel Reb,” which is traditionally given to the male counterpart of “Miss Ole Miss” during homecoming week. Pillow told The DM Thursday night that the investigation is almost complete.
“The investigation has been under way,” Pillow said. “We’re going to release a statement Monday regarding the results of our investigation.”
If the results of the investigation show that the council’s process failed to meet requirements set forth in the ASB Constitution, the council’s “Colonel Reb” ruling will be null and void. But Pearson said she believes that there are no constitutional grounds for an ASB attorney general to launch such an investigation.
“As the ASB Constitution clearly states, any ruling of the Judicial Council is final,” Pearson said. “There is no written proof that this investigation is even a possibility in the constitution, and this whole (investigation) essentially opens up so many more doors of what is constitutional or not.”
Pearson has given The DM a detailed written statement defending the Judicial Council’s “Colonel Reb” decision, which can be found in its entirety on theDMonline.com.
Pearson, who presided over and signed the council’s decision, addressed many of the questions that have been raised since the news broke Tuesday evening. Pearson distanced herself from the situation Wednesday and did not return multiple text messages and phone calls from The DM. On Thursday, she spoke out.
“I take a little bit of the blame for a good bit of all this backlash,” Pearson said. “But not for reasons you’d think. I take some blame because I had expected people to understand things that I haven’t explained. That’s the point of the statement.”
The ASB judicial chair has never had a vote in council decisions on the constitutionality of cases. However, the judicial chair is present during every case that is heard and can provide input in discussions about whether or not something is constitutional, according to Pearson.
Several students have raised questions about the timing of the Judicial Council’s ruling, including former ASB Attorney General Matthew Kiefer and former ASB Deputy Attorney General for Code and Constitution Pierce Lee in a letter that was published in the opinion section of Wednesday’s DM, because it was a decision that appeared to be unprecedented and made with extreme haste.
“Regardless of how you feel about the decision itself, it should not be made behind closed doors at the last minute by the outgoing members of the Judicial Council,” Kiefer and Lee wrote in the letter.
Pearson said that it was sheer coincidence that the case was heard on her last day in office.
“I can’t control scheduling of cases at all,” Pearson said. “The only way that I could be seen as controlling scheduling is if I have a class during certain times, obviously we can’t hear a case during that time. We actually heard more cases that night after the Colonel Reb case.”
When asked why the complaint was labeled as “anonymous,” Pearson said that the Judicial Council never questioned why the complaint was anonymous.
“It is not uncommon for Judicial to hear anonymous cases,” Pearson said. “In the past, although I never heard one in my term, Judicial has heard anonymous cases involving student election violations and things of that sort.”
Pearson said that the person who filed the complaint was not present at the hearing and that the council read over the paperwork that was filed.
On March 5, two weeks prior to the Judicial Council’s hearing and ruling, a resolution involving the “Colonel Reb” title was introduced in the ASB Senate Committee for Student Life, according to current ASB Vice President Morgan Gregory. Gregory, who was present at the committee meeting that night, said that ASB Senate committee meetings are typically in a round-table discussion setting with only committee members present. Freshman ASB Senator Rod Bridges, a member of that committee, discussed what happened that night.
“In those meetings, we brainstorm ideas about whatever topics our constituents present to us,” Bridges said. “We had heard from several Ole Miss Ambassadors that had problems explaining the “Colonel Reb” title to prospective students and their parents on campus tours.”
According to Gregory and Bridges, the committee killed the resolution before a bill could be drafted and sent to the ASB Senate floor because “they wanted to conduct a survey to seek further input from the student body.” Written documentation of the March 5 committee meeting has not been provided and may not exist, according to Gregory.
“If any student has any problems with anything on campus, they are encouraged to come to their senator,” Bridges said. “Then, we take those complaints to committee meetings and just discuss them. There isn’t really a written record of anything taken in these meetings.”
Pearson said that the ASB Judicial Council is completely separate from the ASB Senate, and the Senate committee meeting was not in any way related to the Judicial Council’s decision.
“It’s just like the United States government,” Pearson said. “There are three separate branches of the government for a reason.”
Newly elected ASB President Greg Alston has been very outspoken about the entire situation and has publicly criticized the Judicial Council’s decision.
“I think a lot of (students) are disappointed because this is a student election,” Alston said. “Colonel Reb is a personality election. Therefore, students should have a say in it.”
Pearson said she believes that Alston is out of line in his comments.
“Decisions of Judicial do not have to be reported to the ASB president in any situation,” Pearson said. “It’s honestly irrelevant for him to even be talking about it.”
Pearson is hopeful that a positive solution will come of the entire situation.
“Instead of bickering with each other about who’s right and who’s wrong, we need to be focused on coming together and working together,” Pearson said. “It’s the responsibility of student government to fix this to make sure it doesn’t happen again. How can we be transparent as leaders if we have to follow a constitution that is the opposite of transparent? We are all looking at the same constitution in many different ways. That’s the real issue here.”