30 to 40 students attended the student senate meeting on Feb. 23 as the senate discussed the use of derogatory rhetoric by members of USC’s Turning Point USA chapter in a group chat last week.
Several audience members were expelled from the senate chambers due to unruly conduct during the hearing, including yelling at student senator Anna Kelley during her statement about her involvement in a group chat that used slurs and other derogatory language during a senate hearing last week.
After the senate concluded, Speaker of the Student Senate Morgiana McDevitt issued a statement to the crowd saying that any use of slurs or derogatory language would not be permitted within the chambers. McDevitt said she heard someone shout a homophobic slur across the room as soon as senate ended.
“It makes me frustrated and upset and angry that people came in here and said things about the senators in my body,” McDevitt said. “That doesn't mean I'm any less willing to work through it.”
Kelley said she refuses to take credit for the behavior of others and wished the matter had been handled in private during her statement about the screenshots.
Kelley declined requests from The Daily Gamecock for further comment.
Audience members were divided on their opinions regarding Kelley’s involvement in the group chat.
“She liked the comment. That puts your support on it whether you want to realize that or not, and actions have consequences,” fourth-year environmental science student Victor Ponds said.
Students on both sides of the debate were present at the hearing.
“She doesn't have time to be policing what other people are saying — especially not grown adults — that’s not her responsibility," second-year political science student George Murphy said.
During the period of open discussion that happens at the end of each senate hearing, five student senators gave statements regarding the screenshots — including NAACP Youth Division President and student senator Courtney McClain.
“It is an embarrassment to have an organization in which its members felt comfortable enough saying slurs and racially motivated statements to continue to operate on this campus,” McClain said.
While several of the senators who spoke during the open discussion called for Kelley's impeachment or resignation, McDevitt said she does not believe her actions are impeachable offenses under the current Student Government codes.
“There is no proper support or reasoning that would justify me asking that. Because of the type of organization that Student Government is, it would essentially be a violation of her rights of free speech,” McDevitt said.
Speaker of the Student Senate-elect Noah Glasgow, who originally posted the screenshots on his social media accounts, said he believes it is important that the situation was handled publicly.
“I do not regret that I did it. Not at all. I'm actually very happy that I did it because we spurred these kinds of conversations that would not have happened had we just kept it within the body,” Glasgow said.
Christian Fredericks and Molley Jenkins, who recently proposed bills for sexual health information and contraception access also spoke.
“Personally, I was in favor of removing her from the body. But since that did not occur, and since I don't think it was able to occur, I would like to see more from her in terms of an apology, in terms of learning — maybe doing some sort of trainings on diversity and inclusion,” Jenkins, a fourth-year social work student, said.
Fredericks introduced two bills. One was to rename the women’s and gender studies program to women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, and the other was to incorporate sexuality studies into the major and minor.
“This was one clear area for me as I was looking through the comments and thinking of ways that I could contribute to more inclusion on campus,” Fredericks, a second-year political science and environmental studies student, said of the bills.