Mar 31st, 2018, 12:54 AM

A Reaction to Vulgarity

By Gabriel Green
A heated discussion has arisen after senior speaker candidate Eleanor Dickinson was disqualified from last week's election following her presentation of a speech containing alleged vulgarities. Illustration credit: Gabriel Green
Some AUP students push to unionize after a controversy surrounding the senior speaker elections.

After a heated discussion erupted following last week's Speech Night, a group of students are pushing for the formation of a student union at AUP, a re-vote for the senior speaker position and are calling for the resignation or impeachment of Student Government Association executives who are found to be complicit in influencing elections, among other reforms. 

On the evening of Tuesday, March 27, senior speaker candidate Eleanor Dickinson presented her campaign speech to the student body during the AUP Speech Night, alongside SGA executive candidates for the Fall 2018 semester and fellow senior speaker hopefuls. The content of Dickinson's speech created some concern, as it contained language that some deemed unsuitable for the context in which it was given. Following the speech, the controversial content was brought to the attention of AUP administrators, in particular, Vice President for Security, Operations and Student Services Marc Monthéard. Addressing concerns regarding the content of Dickinson's speech, citing the use of vulgar language, Monthéard made the executive decision to remove the senior speaker candidate from the ballot. 

"I gave a speech on Tuesday night and was informed Thursday night by Marc Montheard it was his 'executive decision' to disqualify me from running because of my speech, which was informal, aimed at students, and meant to demonstrate the energy I would bring rather than give another run-of-the-mill speech," Dickinson stated, explaining her account of the incident. She went on to elaborate that her main concern is "that any student who voted for me, their votes have now not been taken into consideration since I was still on the ballot until the polls closed Friday. This is now a question of representation rather than censorship," she said.

This executive decision sparked an outcry from Dickinson via Facebook on the evening of Thursday, March 29, calling for fellow students to email Vice President Monthéard, Dean of Student Development Kevin Fore and AUP President Celeste Schenck with the message "I stand by Eleanor's right to continue her candidacy as senior speaker." In the same post, she claimed that Monthéard's decision to disqualify her amounted to "undemocratic censorship." 

Dickinson's initial Facebook post calling for action from students, following her disqualification from the Senior Speaker candidacy. Illustration credit: Gabriel Green

In a repost of Dickinson's call to action, Christopher Knapp, a senior philosophy student, encouraged peers to "email the authorities, demand the resignation of all SGA executives involved and boycott graduation." Undergraduate Student Council French department representative and senior speaker candidate Ciat Conlin also reposted Dickinson's appeal with the message, "even as a rival candidate, I find this completely unacceptable. Email!" USC Gender, Sexuality, & Society department representative Dhouha Djerbi was also among the two SGA members who reposted Dickinson's call to action. 

By Friday morning, an AUP Student Union group had been created on Facebook, administrated by Ciat Conlin, Dhouha Djerbi, and Christopher Knapp. Student Union organizers have since printed and distributed flyers around AUP buildings outlining a list of demands. Their demands include a "re-run of the senior speaker elections, with ALL candidates present," claiming "recent actions have invalidated the election and infringed on the rights of students." The Union organizers also are calling for "any government members involved in manipulating elections and excluding candidates," to either "resign immediately, or face impeachment by the student senate." Within the student union's initial charter several other reforms are outlined: The procedures of SGA, independence of student media from faculty, the amount of money provided to grant recipients and "the creation of a cafeteria space, or the ability to actually eat outside food in the Amex." 

Flyers outlining a list of demands were distributed around AUP buildings by Student Union organizers on Friday. Image credit: AUP Student Union

These events take place following weeks of previous controversy and concerns from SGA executives, senators, AUP administrators and student observers regarding the rules, procedures, professionalism, and conduct to be upheld during Senate sessions. Monthéard reached out to seniors and second-year graduate students via email on Friday afternoon, inviting them to participate in a discussion on Tuesday, April 3, at 6 p.m. in the Amex with himself, Dean Fore and President Schenck to discuss concerns surrounding the senior speaker elections. "A number of students have approached me to express concerns on both sides and some students have shared their opinions on campus and social media. I see this as an opportunity to have a dialogue and to learn together as a community," Monthéard said in his email to graduating students.  On the following day, Wednesday, April 4, at 11 a.m. in the Amex, organizers of the AUP Student Union movement will hold their first meeting. 

An email sent by Student Union organizer Christopher Knapp to SGA members and AUP administration expressing grievances regarding the senior speaker elections. In a subsequent email sent Monday morning to SGA members, Knapp, who's signature listed himself as co-president of the AUP Student Union, extended an invitation to attend the Student Union's first meeting on Wednesday, April 4, stating "After recent student election mismanagement and fraud, we have decided that enough is enough and are making a stand to defend the rights and interests of the students here at AUP."


An email sent to graduating seniors and graduate students by AUP Vice President for Security, Operations and Student Services Marc Monthéard extending an invitation to participate in a discussion with AUP administration at the Amex on Tuesday, April 3 at 6 p.m. 

Student Union organizers, SGA executive members, senators and AUP administrators have been contacted for official comment on these matters but were not immediately available. The Dean of Student Development and Undergraduate Student Council President were asked for comment but declined to do so until after Tuesday's discussion. Additionally, SGA members recorded the entirety of Speech Night on video, including the speech of Eleanor Dickinson, but have chosen to refrain from publishing it online until after the weekend, when all members have had a chance to convene.