This article was originally written by Paul Molamphy and published on June 25. This version of the article was edited by the Quest Editorial Board (Katherine Draves ‘22, Elai Kobayashi-Solomon ‘21, Clarissa Lam ‘23, Wani Pandey ‘23, Dan Primka ‘21) and was published at 5 p.m. on June 29. This article includes emails and documents sent among Senate and Honor Council members in a confidential setting. These were shared with the Quest without solicitation and are within our purview to publish. We would also like to inform readers that this article contains content relating to an interpersonal conflict and may be triggering.
On May 31, Pax Lloyd-Burchett announced his resignation from the position of Student Body President, by request of the Student Body Senate. The resignation came after an interpersonal conflict between Lloyd-Burchett and his then Vice President, Al Chen. After 13 days of deliberations between Senate and the two executives, Lloyd-Burchett resigned and Chen became president—a decision that Senate reached with mediation from Honor Council. Former Senator Apoorva Mangipudi was selected by Senate to replace Chen as vice president.
A Timeline of Events
Lloyd-Burchett and Chen had both been re-elected to Senate at the end of the Fall 2019 semester, with the former beginning his second term as president and the latter beginning their first semester as vice president, having previously been a senator. At the time of their election, the two were involved in a romantic relationship. The specific details of their relationship and conflict are omitted out of respect for both parties’ privacy.
Following an interpersonal conflict with Chen on May 18, Lloyd-Burchett wrote a resignation email addressed to Senate and several Reed administrators, including President Audrey Bilger, in which he said, “I know this will come as somewhat of a shock, but I have to resign, this is for personal reasons and I am at fault.” Lloyd-Burchett later said in an interview with the Quest, “I would definitely see it as being coerced to resign.” Lloyd-Burchett said that Chen added the entire phrase “this is for personal reasons and I am at fault” to his email, while Chen said, “This is false. He had written ‘this is for personal reasons’, and I asked to add ‘and I am at fault.’ He nodded, and I typed it in.” Lloyd-Burchett rescinded his resignation the following morning on May 19.
Chen then responded with their own amendments to this account, which included a statement to Lloyd-Burchett. “It’s become very clear that you do not respect me at all,” Chen said, according to the statement. “Senate expresses discomfort towards working with you.”
Following the conflict on May 18, Senate began to deliberate about the best course of action. On May 21, Senate met to hear an account of the interpersonal conflict from both parties, after which, they gave Lloyd-Burchett 10 days to decide whether or not he would resign.
Lloyd-Burchett expressed concerns about losing his income from the position. “[A] lot of folks elected me to this office, and that’s not nothing.” Lloyd-Burchett said.
Chen said, in response, “I will literally write you a check every time I get a deposit from this job for the full amount I have been paid.” They continued, and said, “Offering you the president wages, assuming I am going to become president, is an act of self love and sacrifice, considering I want you out of my life and still care enough to want you to be okay.”
Lloyd-Burchett did not accept them at that time due to the fact that the statement was attached to a document and the wages were not offered directly to him, and Lloyd-Burchett was concerned about the inherent power dynamic insinuated by accepting those wages. The wages would be a significant enough portion of money that it would have been effectively something Lloyd-Burchett relied on.
Had Lloyd-Burchett decided not to resign on his own, Chen said in an interview with the Quest, “I would have asked Senate to suspend the bylaws to vote to impeach him, and if Senate didn’t feel comfortable doing that… I would have started a recall campaign.” Under a recall campaign, if 20% of the student body signs a petition to recall an elected official, and then 35% of the student body votes to recall in the ensuing special election, that official is immediately removed from office. Chen expressed confidence that Lloyd-Burchett would have been recalled under such a scenario.
On May 23, four days into deliberations and two days after asking Lloyd-Burchett to resign, Senate reached out to Honor Council to request “community rights mediation,” which they provided within the next three days, according to an email sent by Mangipudi to members of Honor Council.
“We as a Senate decided that we were definitely not qualified to decide on the honor and fairness of [Chen and Lloyd-Burchett’s] actions as people, and thought that it would be best to consider how their actions relate to us as a representative body and community, rather than as friends and acquaintances,” Mangipudi wrote. “We want to be able to move forward with a clearer understanding of how their actions and our subsequent decisions will impact the community, especially given our roles as student body representatives, and to feel confident in our assessment of the honor of their actions.”
Senator Billy Fish said that no one from Senate had been in a similar situation, which is why they reached out to Honor Council. “We were a little uncomfortable with being in the position to adjudicate something of this scale,” Fish said in an interview with the Quest. “We reached out to Honor Council to help us through some of these questions that we had on conduct and our role.”
In an interview with the Quest, Chen said, “In that seven-to-ten day period [that Senate gave Lloyd-Burchett to decide whether or not to resign], Senate was in really long and intense Honor Council mediations. We did not recommend that he resign lightly,” Chen said. “Pax and I were removed from the rest of Senate, and we met with the mediators separately—well, I should say we met with the Honor Council members separately—and then Senate met together. So in that sense I feel like Pax and I were on equal ground.”
In a follow-up interview, Lloyd-Burchett said that the Honor Council mediation was more individual than he had expected. Lloyd-Burchett said that at one point there was scheduled to be a group mediation between him and Chen that was cancelled, and Lloyd-Burchett was not a part of that decision making. Lloyd-Burchett said the Honor Council member that was assigned to him acted as a procedural aid between him and Senate. Once Lloyd-Burchett was given the 10 day deadline to decide whether or not to resign, he did not meet directly with Senate, and instead the Honor Council member acted as a go-between, communicating messages between Lloyd-Burchett and Senate, said Lloyd-Burchett.
However, as the Honor Council is unable to investigate the validity of accusations or promote particular results, it was ultimately up to Senate to decide how to handle the conflict.
On the day of Lloyd-Burchett’s deadline to decide whether or not he would resign, he emailed Senate asking for an extension. “A lot of my misgivings with the process have been magnified by the way the conversation around race, and particularly blackness has unfolded in the U.S. at large,” he wrote in the email, alluding to the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department six days prior. “I don’t think me simply resigning or not resigning would be the best thing for Senate right now.”
This extension was refused by Senate. “We do not believe an extension should be a possibility,” according to an email written by Senator Aziz Ouedraogo to Lloyd-Burchett. “This is out of respect for Al as they have conveyed that, should the process not be timely, they will be resigning.”
One minute before the final deadline, at 3:59 p.m. on May 31, Lloyd-Burchett informed Senate and 15 Reed College administrators that he was resigning. According to his resignation letter, he wrote, “[A] part of my resignation that’s difficult is that as it has unfolded a lot of terms that are commonly used against black people, particularly black men, [that] have been raised against me: abuser, monster, inhumane—that flavor of remark.” Lloyd-Burchett further wrote, “Given the scope of the situation, I am surprised that at least one other person isn’t resigning with me.”
However, Fish said, “Students can feel confident that this was handled the best possible way, at least in my opinion.” He also said that Senate did not make their decision lightly and acted with caution, as they made sure to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, which help guide parliamentary bodies in their discussions and decisions to ensure that every member’s opinion is heard.
As of June 29, Chen is Student Body President, Mangipudi was selected to fill the seat of Student Body Vice President, and there will be a special election in the fall to fill Mangipudi’s empty Senate seat. When asked about Mangipudi becoming vice president, Fish said, “We’re really confident in her experience and felt that she would be good for the position.”
Because this type of situation is unprecedented in the Student Body Government’s recent history, Senate had to decide how they were going to manage it. While Senate Bylaws contain explicit clauses regarding presidential succession and the filling of vacant Senate seats, the bylaws do not offer guidance on the interpersonal conflict of this situation. As such, many of the decisions and procedures prior to Chen and Mangipudi assuming their respective positions as president and vice president were not dictated by Senate Bylaws, though they were guided by Honor Council.
Article IV. Section 5.A. of the Senate Bylaws state, “The Vice President of the Student Body shall immediately fill any vacancy of the Student Body Presidency, and shall serve until the next regular Presidential election. The Student Senate shall immediately choose a Senator to fill any vacancy of the Student Body Vice Presidency.”
Although the bylaws outline Senate’s process of succession in this situation, discussion arose in Senate regarding suspending the bylaws given the circumstances, in which case Chen would have remained vice president, and Senate would hold a special election to fill the vacant president spot.
“When [Senate] had discussed it briefly before Pax’s resignation, [Chen] had said, ‘Yeah, like I would probably prefer to stay vice president anyway,’ and then once it came down to it, we deliberated without [Chen] again,” Mangipudi said in an interview with the Quest. “But once they said that it would just be more time and more effort to suspend the bylaws and hold a special election, I think everyone was like, ‘Okay.’ They were just sort of done with it.”
In some ways, Senate was limited in what they could do to resolve this conflict, Senator Alondra Loza said in an interview with the Quest. “[Senate] is expected to look over budgets and policies, not personal affairs,” she said. “Everyone was kind of out of their depth, and people seemed really confused.”
According to Lloyd-Burchett, Senate was originally planning for Chen to remain vice president if Lloyd-Burchett resigned, a decision that would have required them to suspend the Senate Bylaws. After Lloyd-Burchett resigned, however, Chen became president. “My understanding was that Al would remain vice president because of some of the initial hesitancies [sic],” Lloyd-Burchett said in an interview with the Quest. “It seems that [Chen has] sort of gone against what I understand to be Senate’s recommendations, and sort of a part of my understanding upon resigning was that Al would remain Student Body Vice President. But it seems that they’ve exercised a right that they have to become president.”
Chen had a different account of what happened. “Senate did not recommend that I stay vice president, nor was it ever decided, but I did state that I would feel comfortable remaining the VP,” they said. “And then when we met after Pax had resigned… people asked me if I wanted to stay VP or if I wanted to be president. I said that I was comfortable with either position.”
In an email to Senate, Mangipudi discussed the role of Honor Council. “Once we have completed [Honor Council] mediation, the goal is for Pax’s decision to resign to be shared within the time frame allotted (once again, by May 31st at 4pm at the latest) [sic], and for us to schedule a meeting thereafter with next steps regarding appointing/electing another exec [sic],” Mangipudi wrote in her email. “We would request that both Pax and Al be there as well in order to ensure a smooth transition for us as a Senate.”
The anonymous senator provided an account closer to Lloyd-Burchett’s. “Initially [Al] said that they would like to remain in their VP role. That was before Pax resigned,” they said. “Then Pax resigned, and, I don’t know—in a word with maybe less negative connotation—in a very suspicious way they changed their mind and wanted to be president, which I think is interesting because they knew it was a factor for us.”
Loza, a rising sophomore who was newly elected this spring, said, “When Pax’s email, his last SB info, came out, there was a group chat that I was in with a bunch of first-years, who aren’t a part of Senate, so they don’t know why Pax resigned,” she said. “And the first thing that they asked was like, ‘Why didn’t the other person resign if it was an interpersonal conflict within Senate?’ And I feel like that’s a question that we can’t ignore, because it could lead to distrust in what Senate represents.”
These concerns were echoed by the anonymous senator. “We didn’t want to reward anyone in this situation,” they said. “And the fact that [Chen] and Pax were dating, [and] broke up, conflated with the fact that [Chen] gets a promotion, didn’t really sit well with at least me.” According to the anonymous senator, the option of having Chen resign was not pursued because the Senate had decided to avoid forcing anybody to resign. “Al made it very clear that, for very obvious and justifiable reasons, they didn’t want to work with Pax anymore,” they said. “Al presented Senate with a situation of… making us choose sides, in a more professional manner, but that’s basically what happened. We were asked to choose sides.”
In his interview with the Quest, Lloyd-Burchett said that part of why he was asked to resign and Chen was not was that Chen was much closer to Senate during the process. “I think Senate sort of walled itself off to me, and they weren’t particularly accessible,” he said.
Chen contradicted this account. “At the beginning, when Senate was trying to deal with everything just within Senate… Pax had equal opportunities as I did to change agendas, to email people, to be in contact. I felt very much out-of-the-loop as well,” Chen said.
Fish also felt that both parties were given equal access to Senate, although he initially had some doubts. “I did have some personal concerns about people not being involved, and I made sure to communicate those with Senate,” he said. “After some discussion we determined that we had given the opportunity to all parties to be present and to communicate their sides of the story, and that discussion put down some of the concerns that I had.” However, he also identified one possible reason that Lloyd-Burchett might have felt excluded. “Al was not comfortable being in meetings with Pax, and that was something that was difficult for us on Senate to think about,” he said.
“Pax, during his five minutes, didn’t really say much,” Mangipudi said, recounting the beginning of a Senate meeting after the events of May 18. “[Al] really provided a lot of information. They had a whole thing written out. Whereas Pax was very much wanting to keep his boundaries in terms of personal versus professional… In their first five minutes, Al definitely provided more information that influenced the decision made [to ask Lloyd-Burchett to resign] during the first meeting.”
Senate does not deal with investigations and was not necessarily capable of investigating the claims made by Chen and Lloyd-Burchett, Loza said. “We don’t deal with investigations, or stuff like that,” Loza said.
The Judicial Board (J-Board) investigates and rules on Honor Principle violations and other college policy violations. As a fact-finding body, J-Board must establish a preponderance of evidence before determining whether any sanctions are appropriate towards anyone accused of wrongdoing. However, neither party was interested in pursuing a J-Board case, in part because other bodies on campus such as Honor Council can help with restorative mediation, Chen said.
The anonymous senator said that they would have been more comfortable had J-Board been consulted. “I just kept thinking, I’m not a J-Board member. We have a judicial body to handle these things,” they said. “I would so much prefer to take action after the results of a J-Board sanction.”
Other senators expressed more confidence in how Senate managed this situation. “Every decision was made with everyone in mind, and keeping the harm to a minimum to the entire community was our main priority,” Mangipudi said in an interview with the Quest. “Everyone was committed to making sure that, if some freshman heard about this, that they would feel good about the decisions that we made as a Senate.”
Ultimately, Senate decided that the situation required action, and they decided to ask Lloyd-Burchett to resign.
“I think that Pax feels that he has been unfairly pushed out of the position, but quite frankly he acknowledges how dishonorable his actions were,” Chen said. “It was 12 members of Senate deciding that they didn’t feel comfortable working with him, knowing what he had done.”
In a document presented to Senate, Lloyd-Burchett wrote, “I believe that Al’s actions the evening of the 18 of May may represent a violation of The Honor Principle and college policy.” Later, in an interview with the Quest, Lloyd-Burchett said, “I think it’s important to remember that these are people who represent you, and they’re always flawed. You should always question everything that Senate does… At the end of the day, you’re paying for Senate.”
Lloyd-Burchett said in his resignation letter to Senate and Reed College head administrators, “I’m a black and I present as male, this other person isn’t, that’s the ballgame.” He continued, “The difficult part at this point is that I wish I could be sure that race had nothing to do with it.”
Chen saw the situation differently, and said that they and Senate acted in the student body’s best interest. “We did not take the process lightly,” they said, in an interview with the Quest. “There was an interpersonal conflict that bled into a professional conflict. It basically created a hostile working environment. And the interpersonal conflict involved Pax acting very dishonorably, and he acknowledges that.”
“We wish Pax the very best,” Chen said in the same interview. “We hope that he sees that this is a direct result of his actions.”
In an interview with the Quest, Fish said,“I think we followed the rules as we had laid them out. And I personally was really worried that because this was going to have to happen in somewhat of secrecy, I was worried that the student body would see this as undemocratic perhaps, or that the rules weren’t being followed.” Fish continued, “I definitely made it a point to ensure that we were following the rules as best as we could… and that Pax, Al, administrators, and the student body could be comfortable that there [were] no procedural mistakes that were being made.”