SG divide: conflicts persist within Senate Chambers
Student Government (SG), by definition, is supposed to represent the student body. Since the start of the spring semester, the already hostile Senate Chambers have developed into a verbal war zone filled with hate speech, actions that aim to vilify one another and ultimately a resignation.
Sen. Spencer Tate, a representative for the College of Arts and Sciences, resigned in an email Wednesday night after he was at the forefront of the conflict. His peers have gone from the confines of the Senate Chambers to their personal social media accounts to label him as racist, discriminatory and, above all, hateful.
The most recent incident involving Tate’s peers spreading emails sent to the Senate involved his stance on the almost unanimously passed resolution in support of DACA recipients.
“I don’t think it is proper for you to include a ‘DACA’ resolution on the Senate meeting agenda,” Tate said in an email that was posted on Facebook by Sen. Murzia Siddiqui. “It is a gross misuse of power for you to advocate for these illegal aliens. Despite your promotion of anti-American Sentiment, to promote the advocation of illegal immigrants over American citizens in which you represent is disgusting. These ‘dreamers’ get in state-tuition even though they are foreigners and they bring issues to campus of all types.”
Tate said the response to that one email was blown out of proportion.
“When they attacked me personally and spread it through emails and social media, it was pulled out of context,” Tate said. “I do not think it is fair.”
Despite the hate rhetoric, Tate is adamant that the problem of divisiveness within SG stems from elsewhere.
“What has been causing the divide has nothing to do with me,” Tate said. “SG leadership is trying to paint me as a bigot and a racist to silence me. I can assure you, I am the furthest thing from that.”
Senate President Amani Taha, however, disagrees and said it is the language and actions of Tate that fueled the division within the Senate Chambers.
“There is a divide within Student Government,” Taha said. “The issue is that there is a senator who typically likes to say things in order to trigger others. And that is noted by so many emails of bullying.
“He (Tate) told a senator that Senate was not a safe space and that she has to stand for the American flag. It was a whole crazy email chain. That, to me, is the divide. It is the toxicity of one senator using bullying against every single other senator that he crosses paths with.”
Sen. Aida Vazquez-Soto also weighed in on the divisive nature that fills the Senate Chambers, and said she believes that Tate has a major role to play in the constant state of bickering.
“Spencer (Tate) is at best, a confused right-winger, who doesn’t know how to verbalize his thoughts without coming across as racist,” Vazquez-Soto said. “He is trying to make SG a political stage where it does not need to be one … Spencer (Tate) has been divisive since the summer and I do not appreciate people who waste time and make meetings less efficient.”
Taha said she has been the target of slanderous remarks made by Tate a number of times.
“There are times that I have felt personally attacked by many of the things Tate has said,” Taha said. “That just goes to show, I have been the victim of Islamophobia, of sexism and of discrimination as a whole. And you know, everybody may call it free speech. And that’s fine, it is free speech and he (Tate) can say whatever he wants, but I am a human.”
Despite the remarks made toward her, Taha said she does all she can to serve as an example and maintain a positive attitude.
“No matter how many times he personally attacks me, I try my best to keep my poker face on within the Senate,” Taha said. “I want to show the other senators that in the face of this kind of adversity that I am their strength. I feel like if I show them that I can be strong, when he attacks them, which he often does, that they can be strong too.”
Taha said she is not the only one who has experienced inflammatory comments at the hands of Tate and there are some within the Senate that feel in danger at times.
“Senators are literally worried about their safety because of the comments that Tate makes,” Taha said. “Unfortunately, safety concerns aren’t grounds for impeachment. The safety concerns, the attacking and the discrimination — none of that is grounds for impeachment.”
The current standards for grounds of impeachment include: committing a wrongful or improper act, committing a proper act through improper methods or motives and failing to fulfill an obligation or requirement.
Taha said though inflammatory comments are made, she would not want to label someone as a racist without knowing what is in their heart, but that Tate does make offensive remarks.
“I think that Tate says racist things,” Taha said. “Whether he, in his heart, is a racist or someone who really hates people on the basis of things that they cannot control, like where you are born, I do not know, because I personally cannot stand the thought that people actually believe some of the things that Tate says.”
Tate, however, feels as though he is not discriminatory rather that Taha and the other members of Senate that target him are the ones who discriminate.
“I am not at all a discriminatory person,” Tate said. “In fact, I come from a community that is inclusive of all cultures. I think it is them (SG leadership) that are discriminating. I do not see religion, I do not see color, I do not see anything that separates people.
“The only thing that I see is good and bad people, and right now, the Senate is full of bad people. Just to be explicitly clear, I condemn racism, bigotry and discrimination of any kind in all aspects.”
Tate also said the discrimination against him is not limited to fellow senators.
“I have received three death threats in the past two days, because of SG blasting me all over,” Tate said. “But, I won’t allow them to intimidate me. Which is actually the definition of terrorism: using intimidation for political means.”
Tate also said although Taha and other leaders in the Senate may be in leadership positions now, things always change.
“At the end of the day, I realize that they think they are powerful now and that they have a whole lot of power as Student Government Senators,” Tate said. “But I can recognize the fact that in the real world, this is not how things work, and time will tell that what they are doing is wrong.”