Tweets Trigger Turmoil — Students sign petition to remove a Student Senator, motion fails

Student Senator Ted Woodcock, Norton Shores sophomore, has come under fire this month because of a series of tweets he posted. Screenshots of the tweets were published on a Tumblr blog titled Musings of an Albion College Student Senator, run by Mark McGraw, Farmington senior.

McGraw started a petition to remove Woodcock from Student Senate, and exactly 204 students signed it. The petition claims that Woodcock broke the Albion College Student Handbook’s Discriminatory Harassment policy.

According to the handbook,

“The College will not tolerate any acts of intimidation, or any behaviors that demean, slur, or stereotype an individual or group on the basis of sexual orientation, race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age or disability. These include oral and written remarks, symbolic speech, illustrations, innuendos and electronic messages or postings.”

Even though many students signed the petition, some are concerned that it came across as if it were a Student Senate document. The document had the Student Senate logo and the contact information of Student Senate President Casey Hoffman, Menominee senior.

“I never gave the petitioners permission to use my name, email, personal cell phone number or the Student Senate logo, as this was not a Student Senate sponsored initiative,” Hoffman said.

Woodcock’s tweets targeted Asian, African-American, gay and female students.

One reads, “You know it’s a good day when you can tell 2 asian males apart just by a quick glance (#) win.” Another tweet states, “(#)YouKnowYoureBlackWhen You call KFC to see how late they’re open.”

The Student Senate Constitution requires a hearing to be held for Senators to vote on the issue. On April 22, Hoffman conducted that meeting.

“This [was] the first vote that Student Senate [conducted] regarding interpretation of the new Student Senate Constitution and [it] will set precedent regarding how the Constitution may be applied in the future,” Hoffman said.

The motion to remove Woodcock failed. Out of 16 Senators, 11 needed to vote in favor of his removal, but only nine did. The newly elected Student Senate President, Mitchell Jeffrey, Marshall sophomore, abstained from voting.

“Abstaining from voting today will implicitly condone his tweets, affirm the values expressed therein, and destroy the ethos of student senate, while avoiding your own responsibility to make these hard decisions,” said Eric Highers, Monroe senior.

Before Senators voted, Darrian Hollonquest, Detroit junior, voiced her opinion.

“Allow this to be swept under the rug? No,” Hollonqust said. “If he gets away with this, then any other student will think they can get away with this. If that’s what Albion represents, then I don’t want to be a part of this.”

During the hearing, the Student Senator Michael Albani, Roseville junior, criticized Woodcock.

“We [Senators] do have a right to free speech, but there is also a right that every student on this campus has, no matter their minority status,” Albani said. “They have a right to feel safe and they have a right to feel like they’re represented. I believe these tweets are indicative of someone who does not believe in protection of those students.”

This is the first time Hoffman has seen Student Senate vote on whether or not to remove a Senator.

“While I won’t advocate for or against Ted Woodcock, I think it is obvious that his tweets are offensive to a large number of people,” Hoffman said.

Wally Kacher, Grosse Ile sophomore, read the tweets. He thinks Woodcock is being unfairly treated.

“Getting rid of this one person isn’t going to [change racist comments],” Kacher said. “Just punishing every student that uses ‘towny’ racially or ‘gay’ or ‘retarded’ inappropriately isn’t the answer. We should be informing them about the weight those words carry.”

Hoffman sees the whole experience as a teaching opportunity.

“Recent events have surely taught all the students involved the importance of being sensitive to diversity and communicating in kind ways,” Hoffman said. “I hope students will choose to put aside differences and appeal instead to the common interests we share as members of the same College community.”

Woodcock declined to comment on this story.

About Nicholas Diamond 50 Articles
Nick is a junior from Rochester, Mich., majoring in French and minoring in cell and molecular biology. He has interests in serving Doctors Without Borders and in writing medical journalism. Follow him on Twitter @docteur_diamond.

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