Campus Reform | Student gov president under pressure to resign after voicing religious views on social media

Student gov president under pressure to resign after voicing religious views on social media

After expressing his religious views about the LGTBQ+ community, the student body president of the University of North Alabama faces demands for his resignation.

The student apologized for the post but members of the Student Government Association are still calling for his removal.

Following a public apology, the president of the Student Government Association at the University of North Alabama is still facing calls for his resignation after he posted his religious views regarding the LGBTQ+ community on his personal social media. 

UNA SGA president Jake Statom reposted a picture of a t-shirt with a rainbow and the message, “Born this way? You must be born again.” on his Instagram story. 

In response, a Change.org petition was started calling on Statom to “resign” as well as on the University of North Alabama to “ask” Statom “to step down” from his leadership position.

“While people are entitled to their own personal beliefs, as the SGA President of a university with an active LGBTQIA+ Community, Jake Statom needs to show that he is capable of protecting the interests of all students,” the petition states.

“As long as our SGA President is openly homophobic, it will be impossible for UNA to truly be a safe space for the LGBTQIA+ Community,” it concludes.

The petition has garnered 1,100 signatures in just over a week. 

In reference to the calls for resignation, UNA senior Morgan Bryson told Campus Reform that “this cannot happen.”

“He used his personal account to express his freedom of speech and religion. He has done nothing in office to discriminate against various sexualities, and he should not be forced to resign. This is not hate speech as some might claim; it’s freedom of speech,” Bryson continued.

UNA sophomore Sarah Arnsparger felt differently as she told Campus Reform, “I think SGA leaders should not post their views if it is hateful, discriminatory, or harmful to someone else’s life, as Statom did.” 

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Statom answered the resignation demands by posting a public apology for his actions on the UNA SGA social media.

“I am deeply sorry that my Instagram story offended members of our community. I now see the story from a different perspective and apologize. My role as SGA President is to honorably represent all UNA students, and I fell short of this ideal. I thank all of the students who have reached out to provide me feedback. You have shown me I have much work to do, and I ask for your forgiveness and grace as I strive to be a better leader and servant to students,” Statom said.

“I commit to educating myself using campus resources, including the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion. I will actively create intentional opportunities to get feedback from other students and continue to seek training for myself. Again, I am sorry and look forward to working with all of our UNA students,” he continued.

Arnsparger told Campus Reform that she believes “Statom should resign because he is effecting [sic] so many LGBTQ+ people’s lives and their life on campus. Some people are afraid that he is in this position of leadership and if he doesn’t resign, more people will be afraid. They will be afraid to stand up for themselves and others, and they will be afraid to report harassment, bullying, etc to UNA because they feel like nothing will get done.” 

Following the apology, members of UNA SGA made a statement to WAFF, stating that the association will begin formal impeachment proceedings against Statom if he does not resign by June 30.

UNA sophomore Kendal Crowell told Campus Reform that this decision by SGA is “ridiculous and unconstitutional.” 

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Associate director of digital communications at UNA Mitchel Moon shared the university’s statement on the matter with Campus Reform

Distancing itself from Statom’s actions, Moon stated that the post was “not representative of the University of North Alabama’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.” 

However, Moon pointed out that Statom has a “right to freedom of speech, even when it is offensive to others” citing a U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the public institution’s responsibility to protect all speech, even “unpopular” speech. 

“We encourage students and other members of our campus community to continue to find ways to educate one another on diversity, equity, and inclusion issues; however, the University is not the appropriate venue or authority to resolve differences of religious or political opinion among private individuals. Ultimately, we only have control over our own reactions, thoughts, feelings, and responses. You, as an individual, have the right to respond or ignore opposing views, including those presented on social media by a student,” Moon concluded.

Arnsparger said that she is “saddened with the way UNA handled the situation. They promote diversity snd [sic] inclusivity but when a situation comes up, like this, their actions do not support what they say.”

Bryson told Campus Reform that she does “not know Jake Statom personally; however, [she has] personally seen the incredible work he has done in service to UNA.”

Crowell told Campus Reform that Statom’s behavior exhibited on his social media is not new. 

“Jake ran a lot of his campaign on his personal social media account as well as all across campus. He won the election. He never stopped sharing his Christian beliefs during said campaign. That tells me that Jake Statom is exactly who the majority of the student body wanted running their Student Government Association. If the majority voted this way, why does it matter that one day he posted something insinuating his Christian beliefs, just as he normally would, and a few people got their feelings hurt?,” Crowell said. 

“I feel that Jake should not resign, or even have been asked to. UNA is all about pushing for an ‘inclusive’ image, but now we see how they react when religious views are part of the equation,” she concluded.

Campus Reform reached out to Statom, but did not receive a response.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @redwave1776