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ASWU condemns anonymous accounts attacking election candidates

Updated: Mar 22, 2021

Emma Innes

Staff writer

Two different anonymous accounts were discovered on Instagram attacking candidates in the Associated Students of Willamette University (ASWU) executive elections. The first was a hate account targeting Senator Inéz Nieves (‘24) who was running for the Vice President position. She dropped out in the aftermath of the discovery of the account. The second account was advocating for Senator Giovanni Bautista’s (‘22) presidential campaign and attacked Oliver Kushen (‘23), who was also running for president.

The account against Nieves had no posts and was deleted. It was titled “saynotoinez,” and the account’s description unfairly labeled Nieves as only caring about the administration and not students. The second account is named [@wustudentsfortransparency], and targeted Kushen for his ties to Sigma Chi. The second account’s three posts have all since been deleted but the account has not been.

It is unclear when exactly the accounts were created. The Collegian found out about the first account the evening of Mar. 17. ASWU had learned about the account earlier. The second account was discovered by ASWU and the Collegian on Mar. 18 as voting began.

ASWU Vice President Mary Robicheaux sent out an email on Mar. 18 on behalf of the ASWU Executive council, condemning the accounts. The email stated: “This is not how we hope to see campaigning occur, even if it’s done by those who are not running. While this type of behavior is common in political campaigns, ASWU campaigns exist within our community and should be handled with community expectations in mind.”

During the Mar. 18 ASWU meeting, ASWU President Claire Mathews-Lingen (‘21) said they did not believe any candidate to be behind either of the accounts, and for one it was confirmed to not be a candidate. Mathews-Lingen explained that ASWU has no jurisdiction with how the student body interacts with campaigns, as they can only take action against candidates and within ASWU.

In the Collegian’s email correspondence with ASWU Exec, ASWU Exec was unable to confirm whether or not the students behind the accounts were connected to the candidates.

When reached out to for comment, Nieves said in an email that it is valid to hold representatives accountable and she has done her best to be transparent about her work within ASWU, but the week has been hard for her, saying: “Willamette is a small community, a tight-knit one, and I thought that would make me feel safe. Indeed, it did, for the longest time: all of the friends I've made here, the people I work with on ASWU, they've been so kind and compassionate. To have that security ripped out from underneath me, something I relied upon, something I trusted to feel physically safe, meant more than just a scuffed ego - it meant I was falling, falling in a free-fall, and I didn't know when or where I was going to crash.“ Nieves said she knows this semester has been hard on everyone, and she’s angry too, but lashing out at those trying to help will only make it more difficult for the community to move forward.

The Collegian reached out to Bautista and Kushen for comment along with another presidential candidate, ASWU Senator Zeke Druker (‘24). All replied over email.

Bautista said: "My heart goes out to Senator Nieves. She has been strong through a painful ordeal. I firmly condemn all these political attacks and hope the Willamette community will learn from them."

Kushen said he strongly supports people speaking up for the candidates they want, but there is no need to attack candidates in a student government campaign. He went on: “As leaders of our school government, our role is to unite the students and serve as a voice for their needs and concerns. Furthermore, I truly believe that all of the candidates running seek to make our school a better place. That certain individuals should anonymously attempt to attack students who are trying to improve our school is concerning and should not be tolerated by the Willamette community.” Kushen acknowledged that he was not the only candidate attacked and hopes the other student is okay, encouraging them to reach out to him. He also said he talked to Bautista and they agree this behavior cannot be supported.

Druker said: “I want to be absolutely crystal clear that this is totally not tolerable and I express my disgust at the personal attacks levied at Senator Nieves. In my capacity as a Senator, I have sought to balance robust debate and care for our University community, and the account in question is totally incompatible with those values. There is a place for productive discussion about policies that affect the student body, and that account is not it.”

See the Collegian’s statement on the accounts attacking ASWU candidates [here].

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