Some calling for University of North Alabama SGA president’s resignation after social media post

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 10:35 PM CDT
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FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - A social media post is at the center of controversy playing out on the campus of the University of North Alabama.

A post on social media by the Student Government Association President is causing an uproar and some students are now calling for him to resign. The SGA president has apologized for his actions, but some members of the association still want him to quit.

In a statement, it says the association will move forward with a formal impeachment process if he doesn’t do so by June 30.

“My role as SGA president is to honorably represent all the students of UNA and I have failed at that ideal,” SGA President Jake Statom said.

Statom posted an apology Wednesday after sharing a post directed at the LGBTQ+ community on his personal Instagram page.

“I ask for your forgiveness and grace as I strive to be a better campus leader and servant for the students,” he continued.

The post, which we don’t have permission to show, pictured a rainbow with the words, “Born this way? You must be born again.”

This comes right in the middle of Pride Month. Students on campus tell us the apology can’t repair the harm this has caused.

“Members of the LGBTQ community don’t want him in that position of power, because he doesn’t think that we have the right to exist,” Sarah Arnsparger said.

UNA Sophomore Sarah Arnsparger says there are many LGBTQ members on campus, but many are too afraid to be their true selves.

“Someone reached out to me and told me that they’re thankful that I’m able to have this voice and talk about it because they’re too afraid to talk about it. And I think that it’s important that we talk about it and we put as much heat on him as possible,” she explained.

The Assistant Director for Rocket City Pride, a nonprofit supporting LGBTQ+ rights in north Alabama says she believes people can change for the better, but she needs to hear more from Statom.

“Saying I’m sorry does not let someone know what it is you feel differently about and what you’ll do differently in the future. I think in order for people to embrace the sincerity of his apology, we need to hear what’s that rooted in and what he plans to change,” Lori Ellison with Rocket City Pride said.

There’s a petition online right now calling for his removal. It has over 600 signatures.

In his apology, Statom says he’s committed to educating himself and welcomes feedback moving forward.

The university released a statement saying Statom’s actions do not represent the university’s mission of inclusivity, however, they can’t restrict someone’s free speech.

Read Statom’s full statement below:

“I just want to publicly say that I am deeply sorry that my Instagram story offended members of our community. I now see the story from a different perspective and I apologize. My role as SGA president is to honorably represent all the students of UNA and I have failed at that ideal. I thank all the students that have reached out to me to provide feedback. You have showed me that I have much work to do and I ask for your forgiveness and grace as I strive to be a better campus leader and servant for the students. 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 continuously train myself. Again I am sorry, and I look forward to working with all the students at UNA. Thank you.”

Official statement from UNA Communications & Marketing:

“A photo critical of the LGBTQ+ community recently posted to Instagram by SGA President Jake Statom is not representative of the University of North Alabama’s commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the UNA campus. While we know how upsetting this social media post is to our LGBTQ+ community and others on the UNA campus, we also need to recognize that Mr. Statom and others have a right to freedom of speech, even when it is offensive to others. A recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion on First Amendment rights observed that public schools have “an interest in protecting a student’s unpopular expression, especially when the expression takes place off-campus, because America’s public schools are the nurseries of democracy.” 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.”

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