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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Op Ed: Being Black in SGA

SGA Administrative Coordinator Hazel Murray `22 outside the SGA office. Photo by Paul Hansen.

Hello everyone. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Hazel Murray, I’m a fourth year, and I serve as the Administrative Coordinator for Student Government Association (SGA). Many of you have likely seen my posts on my Instagram (vakker.h) about the shit I’ve had to deal with while serving in this role. If I had to sum up my experience working in SGA — especially this year — in one word, it would be debilitating. I have had to constantly be careful of how I say things so that I’m not permanently labeled as aggressive” or intimidating” solely for having an opinion. After I more recently experienced blatant racism and anti-Blackness from two specific high-level cabinet members, however, my approach of attempting to censor and edit myself was no longer sustainable. 

Towards the end of winter break, myself, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Chair Raven McClendon `22, President Fernando Rodriguez `22 and Treasurer Jade McMahon `22 began to discuss the plan to hire a new Assistant Treasurer to fill a vacancy. After interviews, we were left with two candidates and the decision was split 2-2. Because of the split decision we decided to conduct a round of follow-up interviews to help guide us in our final decision. Although we were making steps forward, there were quite a few mistakes embedded in this process. 

First, the hiring board did not consist of all the appropriate people according to SGA policy. Second, a member on the hiring board brought in outside information about a candidate and their ability to work with other people (which is not allowed). Third, when there was a split decision, Jade was to make the final decision about who would be chosen for Assistant Treasurer (this also was not originally intended). 

After conducting interviews, the four of us had a FaceTime call to begin making our decision, after which Jade claimed to have felt cornered by myself and Raven. This was a surprise to me as this was a hiring process, so disagreement is natural. But also, to accuse the two Black people in the conversation of cornering you for simply stating our stances on the candidates and providing evidence based on applications/interviews that is a problem. This was supposed to be a discussion. Claiming to be cornered implies that we were incessantly pressuring her into siding with us when that is not at all the case. It felt as if we were not allowed to have our own opinions and were supposed to agree with whatever the other group members decided; , even if it was against our best judgment. 

In the beginning of February, we had one more meeting to discuss the potential hire. At the meeting, we were talking in circles. I explained to Jade why I didn’t agree with the basis of her pick. In doing so, I expressed that so many times in job searches a woman of color with outstanding credentials is overlooked in favor of a white man who makes simple buzzword statements. Though Fernando and Raven agreed with me, Jade said she identifies as a woman of color, a child of an immigrant, and the owner of a green card, so it was unfair for me to say that she could disadvantage another woman of color. I replied and stated that she misheard me and listed my own identities, specifically stating that I was a Black bitch from the hood, because I wanted her to hear how ridiculous her statement was. 

I later found out that Jade interpreted my statement to mean that I was going to beat her ass. All I did was name myself and my identity. That is not a threat. There is something vile and racist about associating the phrase Black bitch from the hood” with violence. 

Personal issues aside, Raven and I were not content with how this hiring process had been conducted. Thus, Raven went to our supervisor, Ashley Adams, with a detailed account of what had occurred and what we, supposedly, did wrong. Ashton told us what we did was inappropriate because it only further derailed the hiring process. Nevertheless, Ashley Adams referred our complaint to Jana Grimes in Human Resources, who then instituted a training on equitable hiring practices during which Raven and I had to listen to everything we had already told the hiring board. Just imagine how fun that was. 

Now in comes the VPAA, Ashton Aveling. We had a conversation on February 9th where we spoke about the ongoing hiring process and situation between me and Jade. He apologized and claimed to not be biased, but Ashton had previously said to the other execs that he didn’t think Jade’s comments were anti-Black. Let me make this clear: white men do not get to decide what is and isn’t anti-Black, and that goes for anyone else who isn’t Black. 

Now let’s fast forward to the last week or so. The initial four of us are to be involved in the hiring process once again, but Raven, Fernando and I wanted VPSA Andy Kenley to be involved instead of Ashton, because of Andy’s involvement in almost all the hirings this year. However, Jade and Ashton were not on board with this, and thus Ashton decided to send a strongly worded email to Fernando about his discontent. 

Keep in mind, Ashton claimed to not be biased. 

Unfortunately, I am limited as far as what I can and cannot say about this email and situation in general because Fernando has refused to turn it over to me (and quite frankly did not even want me to talk about it to anyone). What I will say is that this email was a clear indication of Ashton’s stance in this situation, and his feelings about yours truly. It also showed that he lied to my face about not being biased and that his apology was nothing but empty words. 

That email was the motivation I needed to stop being silent, and so I took to Instagram. Then I investigated SGA’s constitution to see what could be done because clearly reasoning wasn’t enough. So, I organized petitions to impeach the VPAA and Treasurer because I was tired of standing by and letting things happen to me and around me. Make no mistake, this is not some petty, baseless vendetta but rather a course of action I had to take after recognizing there were no other solutions. It is draining having to sit in the same room as the people who are falsely accusing you of things you did not do because of their racist ideals, and I sure as hell was not going to be the one quitting; and leave SGA in their hands? I don’t think so. 

Where are we now? I have submitted a bias report via the college’s Business Intelligence and Reporting Tools (BIRT) process, which went to Schalla Rivera. Mutual no-contact orders have been requested by Jade and Ashton against me, as if I’d want to deal with either of them anyways. The funny part about that, though, is that the same day (March 24) I made my first post about what I had been dealing with in SGA, I received an email from Ben Newhouse stating that, due to complaints he’d received, a mutual no contact order between myself and Jade was to be put in place. Then, when I started talking more about Ashton’s role in this (as well as reposting other people’s experiences with him), I received a similar email from Ben Newhouse that due to complaints he’d received, another mutual no contact order was to be instated. For these to be mutual” you would think both parties would have to agree to them, but when I talked to Ben Newhouse, it did not seem like I had much of a choice. Instead, it felt more like the orders would be instated regardless of my thoughts. Instead of informing me of any supportive measures, Newhouse simply listed the parameters of the agreement.  

Alongside these no contact orders, Newhouse also told me to stop talking about the situation on social media and, recently, to take down all my posts. I will do neither, and if they thought these orders would make me shut up … well … they were sorely mistaken. Newhouse and the other staff involved are currently investigating how to remedy” these issues.  

Unfortunately, because the derailed hiring process has resulted in a vacant Senate, Jade cannot be impeached. But Ashton can. 

What do I want? Well, with my petitions for the removal of the Treasurer and VPAA surpassing 200 signatures, my hope was to hold a campus-wide referendum. Sadly, I do not know if this will be possible. Secondly, I want a genuine public apology to the student body and me from Jade and Ashton because since my coming forward, it is now clear that I am not the only one you have hurt. Lastly, the GWSS major in me cannot help but want for y’all to do some fucking reading; Ashton, you have claimed yourself to be an ally … you are not. Jade, being a woman of color does not absolve you of the ability to disadvantage other women of color. Learn, and then do better. 

And now a message to you Yik Yakkers that had many negative comments and speculations. I mean this with all the disrespect in the world: you all are cowardly, entitled, and could never have the courage to say half of the things you say on that godforsaken app to my face. I hope there comes a day when people don’t believe you or want to hear all sides when you have been harmed. Keep it cute. 

To the rest of the Cabinet, thank you to those who have supported me. To the rest of y’all you disappoint me, and your silence is WELL noted. To the future cabinet, please learn from our shitshow and do better than us. 

Lastly, thank you to those who haven’t been afraid to support me. Whether that meant signing my petitions, sharing my posts, messaging me, giving me the space to be angry, or checking in on me, it is very much appreciated and y’all have made this campus a little more bearable. For now, I’ll keep speaking my truth. 

Editor’s note: Ashton Aveling ’22 and Jade McMahon ’22 did not give comment on-record on the allegations in this op-ed within the week prior to publication. An investigative article on the allegations made in this op-ed is currently in progress in the S&B’s news section. This page will be updated with new developments or responses from the people named in this op-ed.

Update 8:28 p.m., April 18, 2022: Jade McMahon ’22 wrote in an email to the S&B that she and other parties involved in the issues described above are in discussions with Chief Diversity Officer Schvalla Rivera that McMahon hopes will “lead to a productive outcome.” McMahon wrote, “While many inflammatory words were used, I did not actually say many of the things and words that are being attributed to me, which is again attributed to miscommunications.”

Update 10:34 a.m., April 19, 2022: In an email to the S&B, McMahon said that she wishes to clarify the paraphrased information in the previous update. She sent the following formal comment: “After talking with Schvalla Rivera, it seems to me that there were both direct and indirect miscommunications on both sides that heightened this conflict.” McMahon wrote that she would also like to correct the paraphrase in the update above consisting of the sentence “McMahon denies what she described as ‘many’ of the allegations made in this op-ed,” saying that describing her response as a “denial” of specific allegations was inaccurate. For the sake of clarity, the last sentence in the update above has been edited to be the specific wording used by McMahon in her 8:22 p.m. email, rather than the editor’s paraphrase of the same. The S&B apologizes for any confusion.

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