SGA members resign after allegations of racism

Jamie Williams

After two Student Government Association members were accused of making racist remarks, two SGA members have resigned, and others have expressed their concern over the alleged incident.

Former SGA members Braxton Powell, a former senator, and John McKinney, a former justice, resigned Wednesday morning, according to Senate Secretary Kara Lowry and Associate Chief Justice Annalicia Carlson. 

In his resignation letter, Powell cites scheduling conflicts as his reason for leaving his position, stating “I do not feel that I am giving my all and full dedication to SGA.” Carlson said McKinney resigned for “personal reasons.”

At this time, neither SGA member has confirmed or denied the allegations leading to the discussion of an investigation or claimed their resignations are connected.

At the SGA meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 11, Chief Justice Cody Cox said he received a complaint regarding several SGA members who allegedly made racist remarks.

“If someone was expressing racist rhetoric or behavior, and they were a member of SGA, I think that’d be a very heinous offense,” SGA Chief of Staff James Line said.

On Wednesday, Oct. 12, the SGA Judicial Council met to determine if it would conduct an investigation into the alleged incident. However, the investigation was nullified as the students to be investigated had voluntarily resigned from the SGA that morning.

While some members still held curiosity about the nature of the alleged incident, others were just glad that the situation had ended quickly.

“I think everything happened in a way that renders an investigation somewhat useless at this point,” Line said. “Therefore, I’m not necessarily concerned that an investigation is no longer happening.”

Since the council did not conduct an investigation to determine the validity of the accusations, SGA has not released the names of the accused persons and the nature of the racist remarks at this time.

“I myself would like to know, but I understand why we can’t,” Helen Vickrey, committee chair of MyCampusToo, said. “We can’t give their identity away like that when we don’t know the full story.”

Senator Francisco Serrano said he believes students should have a right to know who the members in question were, as they should be held accountable by the students who elected them.

“Those who were relying on them to be their voices are now left without a voice, and they don’t know why,” Serrano said in an email.

While the allegations have still not been verified, members of the SGA are still worried about the effect the alleged incident could have on the SGA’s reputation.

“When we go outside of the SGA chambers, we are not representing just ourselves,” Line said. “We’re also representing our student government, we’re representing WKU and we’re representing the type of principles and thought that those institutions embody.

“Students have a right to know that the people they elected to represent them actually care for their well-being and want to make a real difference for them at WKU,” Line continued.

Vickrey also feels the SGA is more than a representation of just itself and because of this incident, it may have lost some credibility.

“Being the MyCampusToo chair, my main goal right now is diversity on campus and how to make everyone more involved; to make a more inclusive campus for everyone,” she said.

Vickery and SGA President Jay Todd Richey released a statement on Thursday condemning the alleged acts and vowing to continue the SGA’s work with underrepresented demographics at WKU.

“Without addressing this specific situation and whether or not it occurred, we want to be very clear: racism –– and any kind of bigotry –– is completely unacceptable in WKU SGA,” Vickery and Richey wrote in their statement. “We have so much more work to do, but we’re confident that we can continue to build bridges between SGA and marginalized student populations at WKU.”

Reporter Jamie Williams can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected].