USUAA vice president’s social media comments questioned

Thumb Up DownKatelyn Jones, anthropology major, emailed an opinion piece to The Northern Light regarding the conduct of a student government leader on Facebook.

Andrew McConnell, vice president of USUAA, made statements Jan. 28 on USUAA Senator Kate Chaitoff’s status about Dan Savage’s upcoming performance.

McConnell’s first comment of concern read “Faggy McHitlerpants up here ^.”

Chaitoff commented, “Andrew you can’t reference Hitler on a Jew’s post. It’s just not polite.”

McConnell replied, “My bad. Faggy McStalinpants.”

Chaitoff liked McConnell’s last comment.

Screenshot of USUAA Vice President Mcconnell’s comments.  Click to see full text.

Screenshot of USUAA Vice President Mcconnell’s comments. Click to see full text.

According to the Ethics section of the USUAA Constitution, McConnell violated article 20 sub point five.

The sub point reads, “Student representatives will, while in a position of representation of this Assembly or university, refrain from using language, which is derogatory to an individual’s, or group’s ethnic or racial background, nationality, religious beliefs, sex, sexual orientation, lifestyle, or physical differences, or would otherwise discredit the Assembly. Continued behavior may result in dismissal from the assembly.”

USUAA advisor Paola Fish said that based on the statement in article 20 and the Facebook comments, she does believe McConnell has violated sub point five.

McConnell does not feel that he has violated USUAA’s code of ethics on the grounds that he was not harassing anyone. He emphasized that someone incited a “flame war,” setting the tone of the comments on Chaitoff’s status.

“Was it an ethics violation? If I had harassed somebody, yes, that is an ethics violation. If I say something in bad taste that isn’t something you guys (The Northern Light) approve of is it an ethics violation? It could be,” McConnell said, explaining his interpretation of article 20 sub point five.

According to Fish, in order to reprimand a seated member, a concerned individual needs to submit an official complaint to USUAA regarding their conduct.

It is then up to the Rules Committee to determine what any potential reprimand should be.

When Fish was asked if she warns USUAA members to be cautious about what they put on Facebook and other social media sites, she confirmed that she does.

“Yes. And, in fact, we had that discussion at their student government retreat last Saturday. We specifically go over article 20,” Fish said. “At the retreat, we specifically talked about how you can’t turn it (the role of being a USUAA member) on and off. There’s no switch.”

“I would say that we need to revisit the ethics policy,” Fish said, explaining how she wants to move forward in the future. “There might be needs for sensitivity training. Maybe going through the NCBI training.”

“I have no problem admitting that I said something like that. I could go panic and take it down and say ‘oh, no, no, no, I’m sorry,’ and say this big public apology and all this. Yeah, I apologize to anyone who is actually offended by that, but the thing is I said it, and I wasn’t swearing at anybody. It was obviously not a homophobic slur,” McConnell said. “I don’t take back what I said. It was funny. It was comedy.”

McConnell said he feels Dan Savage would find his post funny. Savage is noted to have previously made comments such as “This play will be deeply offensive to the deaf/blind community, so please don’t tell them. Keep your hands shut.”

Jones’ opinion piece also addresses controversial comments made by Savage.

McConnell said he does not understand how Jones can take offense to his comments.

“Another thing that was actually brought up which is really funny, by Kate (Chaitoff,) is the fact that the “faggy” part was the part that was brought up, and not the “McHitlerpants” part because she is Jewish, and it’s on her page. So in case anyone thinks the homophobic slur that I made was more offensive than the anti-Semitic slur – that’s interesting as well,” McConnell said.

Fish said she had not spoken with Andrew yet, and that she “can’t comment on something we (Fish and McConnell) haven’t discussed yet.”

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