Clemson admin proposes ideological litmus test for student gov

A Clemson administrator has proposed requiring student government candidates to pass an “intercultural competency” test before being permitted to run for or hold office.

The “intercultural competency” test requirement for Student Government candidates who wish to run for office was just one of the ideas Altheia Richardson, Clemson’s Director of the Gantt Multicultural Center, proposed in a recent presentation to Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) Senate. As an alternative, Richardson also suggested group training for CUSG members once elected.

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“So when it comes to this whole idea of intercultural competence, what would it look like to have a standard for if you’re going to be elected as an officer, or hold a seat within CUSG, that you have to demonstrate that you have a certain level of intercultural competence, before you’re allowed to take that office, or that seat,” Richardson stated, according to CUSG Senate’s public livestream.

When asked by one CUSG senator to elaborate on “the standard for intercultural competency,” Richardson responded that “it could be training, workshops, things like that. It could look very different, but it was just a suggestion that I made to some of the folks that came to me.”

In a follow-up question, the senator asked whether Richardson was “implying that if there’s a threshold that people who have been elected democratically to this body, are then not allowed to serve those peers, because of a certain level they don’t reach in certain areas.”

“Well, it could happen before the democratic election process,” she answered. “If that is set by your Elections Board as a standard, then if you’re vetting the candidates who are running, then it can happen even before the democratic process takes place.”

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Richardson told Campus Reform that she presented the proposals on her own initiative, saying she believes they would create “opportunities for growth” for student government representatives.

“The thoughts shared were my own and focused on areas of strength, opportunities for growth and development, and strategies to take advantage of those opportunities,” she asserted. “Intercultural competence was one of the areas that I noted as an opportunity for further growth and development.”

According to publicly available salary information, Richardson makes over $100,000 per year as of October 1, 2016.

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Numerous members of CUSG Senate were outraged by the comments. Senator Samuel Thompson put it this way,

“Ms. Richardson's comments about multiculturalism at the last Senate meeting unnerved me,” Sen. Samuel Thompson told Campus Reform. “Vetting the candidates ideologically before elections even happen, through a process of measuring their level of commitment to ‘inclusivity’ and ‘multiculturalism,’ represents a kind of creepy totalitarianism that has no place at a true university.

“It reminds me of the kind of political totalitarianism that one sees in modern-day fascist and communist regimes,” he concluded, noting that “the purpose of having a student government is so that ALL views of students are represented—not just the ones that fit your ideology.”

“Clemson needs to decide exactly the kind of school it wants to be,” declared Sen. Matt Phillips. “Will we allow students of all opinions to be represented, or do we believe our agenda is more important? If we choose the latter, we compromise everything we say we stand for.”

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One CUSG Senator, who spoke with Campus Reform on condition of anonymity, was even more forceful, labeling the idea of an “intercultural competency” test a threat to the very idea of student representation.

“As a Senator for Clemson University's Student Government, the idea of a test of 'intercultural competency' before an election threatens the very fairness and integrity of the election process itself,” the senator argued. “This idea is an awful one and completely negates the idea of a democratic election.”

Campus Reform reached out to CUSG Senate President Leland Dunwoodie, but he declined to comment.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @RobertMGunter