Sunday morning, Student Senate held a special meeting in the KC Stack. The purpose of the meeting was to determine whether or not Student Senator Ted Woodcock had violated the Student Senate constitution, specifically Article II, Section 6. This section states that a Senator may be removed if they exhibit “conduct detrimental to the interest of the Senate or Albion College, for lack of sympathy with its objectives or for refusal to render reasonable assistance in carrying out its purposes.”
In order for a special meeting to be called by the Senate, a petition must be presented with no less than 200 student signatures calling for the removal of a Student Senator.
Mark McGraw, Farmington Hills Senior, started the petition, based on racist, sexist, homophobic, and ableist posts Ted Woodcock had either tweeted himself or retweeted from someone else on his personal Twitter account. Up until he got wind of the petition, Woodcock’s twitter account was public. Anybody on the Internet had access to it. Foreseeing this, McGraw took screen captures of the offending tweets and saved them to his computer. He created a Tumblr blog and posted images of tweets he found offensive or ironic.
Some of the tweets in question were: “you know it’s a good day when you can tell 2 asian males apart just by a quick glance #win”, “I’m laughing at my computer silently…I look retarded”, “man, fuck you, I went HAM on that homo”, and a retweet that said “straight fucking coonery”.
Do these offend you? They should. But if they don’t, they offend a significant number of your peers on this campus. Getting petition signatures was not too difficult. In about six hours, two people were able to amass over 200 signatures of students who agreed that Ted Woodcock should be removed from Senate.
On Sunday, around 20 students showed up to observe the meeting. During the public comment section, two of them offered testimonies defending Ted Woodcock. The rest spoke about how his tweets violated the college’s Discriminatory Harassment Policy, how the tweets were indicative of conduct unbecoming of a member of Student Senate, and how seeing these tweets offended them personally.
The final vote was over half of the Student Senators but fell just short of the 2/3 majority vote necessary to remove Ted from Senate. He remains a Student Senator.
This issue is bigger than one Student Senator. It’s about the message we send when we defend racism, sexism, homophobia, and other oppressive acts as a legitimate opinion. When we justify these -isms as protected by freedom of speech–which have very serious consequences in all arenas of political life–we reinforce their existence.
So here is some advice: if you are a student on this campus who is part of a majority group, don’t tell someone of a minority group how they should feel. How can you possibly know that? They live with the reality of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression every day. Take the time to have a conversation with them. And when it comes down to why they were offended by something, don’t speak, don’t interrupt, and don’t assume you know what they’re about to say. Listen. See what you can do to help and support them. And, most importantly, follow through with it.
And maybe, just maybe, we can begin to make some real progress on this campus.