LIZ ANASTASIADIS & JOEY SEMEL – Managing Editor and Editor-in-chief
Politics often bring debate, but that’s usually on the national scale. Recently, the debate was brought a lot closer to home for Denison students.
After a 2018 election cycle that saw a student run unopposed for president of the Denison Campus Governance Association (DCGA), spring 2019 brought a close race between three candidates: incumbent Owen Crum ‘20, Atticus Daniels ‘20 and Brian Crotty ‘20.
Ultimately, Daniels won the election and with the result came much controversy.
Prior to the election, the candidates participated in debates expanding on their election platforms. As questions were asked, the topic of sexual respect was posed to the candidates.
Elena Meth ‘19, current President of both Sexual Harassment and Assault Resources and Education (SHARE) and the Denison Coalition for Sexual Respect (DCSR) described what ensued, “he went to talk about alcohol and the influence that alcohol can have on preventing sexual violence. During the debate, he said ‘indulging in alcohol use allows people who don’t believe in sexual respect to commit acts of sexual violence.’ He never used the words ‘victim blaming’ but the sentiment of that is considered victim blaming. He’s saying ‘you could have done something to prevent the violence from having happened to you,” says Meth.
The day after it became public that Daniels won the election, there was an email exchange published in The Bullsheet on April 26 between Meth, speaking as the president of SHARE and DCSR, and Daniels.
In the email, Meth provided a definition of victim blaming and gave Daniels a further chance to clarify his comments. She also stated at the end that she, along with representatives from SHARE and DCSR was not going to vote for Daniels.
Throughout the email, Daniels discussed how his response came from his background as a black male. He also referred to Title IX (Title Nine), as Title XI (Title eleven) twice throughout his response, as well as stating “my life, especially during this time, has made me reflect and feel fearful from the tragic story of Emit Till,” referring to the story of 14-year-old Emmett Till, an African American male who was murdered for allegedly flirting with a white woman in 1955.
Daniels closed his email with, “Lastly, your mention of not receiving votes means nothing to me if you don’t understand that not everyone is a white woman. If you want to start a lynch mob after my clean name, just make sure you and your friends do it publically and have an open casket.”
What followed only added to the chaos.
The Bullsheet posting was suggested to be taken offline by Dr. Laurel Kennedy, Vice President for Student Development. However, the email exchange quickly spread throughout the student body. Eventually, screenshots of the exchange made its way to the Denison University Student Body Facebook page. AfterThe Bullsheet staff met with Dr. Kennedy, it was permanently placed online.
Throughout the day it was posted, many students reacted to the emails both around campus and online.
Gabriella Caldwell ‘19, a black studies major from Columbus, Ohio posted in the closed Denison University Student Body group regarding Daniels:
“Atticus Daniels is an emotionally volatile human who attacked me physically last year … The amount of emotional distress Atticus has caused me through intentionally getting into elevators when I was already inside, forcing me to leave due to our no contact directive is unacceptable … I believe Atticus may have changed and grown immensely in the year since these incidents. However I am concerned that he has such a powerful position on campus.”
Those concerns were echoed by Fatimah Elghazawi, an international studies major and French minor from Cleveland, Ohio who serves as a ‘21 senator was the public relations (PR) chair for DCGA for 2018-19 and served on the elections committee.
“When the comments by Atticus were made [at the debate], I made the graphic that ended up circulating on Instagram that said that victim blaming is never okay,” says Elghazawi ‘21.“I sent it to a member of DCSR and that’s how it kinda spread. I left [the debate] feeling uncomfortable because DCGA is something I’m passionate about and his responses left me thinking about the harm that would cause for survivors and people who know survivors. It was unsettling. I ended up making the phone call to Atticus that night and it was difficult for me to do.”
The graphic was spread on the instagram and snapchat stories of various students.
Regarding the issues of race and sexuality the email poses, Omari Garrett ‘21, a black studies and philosophy double major from Detroit, Michigan and the newly elected Vice President of DCGA comments on the amount of outrage the emails and alligations caused.
“We are seeing the implications of a lack of nuanced and complex politics when it comes to race, gender and sex. I think there are a lot of black people on campus who are understanding of what is happening and what has unfolded in the past in a very race-first way that essentially prioritizes racism over sexism,” Garrett said.
“Its a real problem. It’s a problem because the implication is not that it simply displaces the harm that women experience but the sexual violence that women experience and more specifically, black women experience. It comes out of a very racist history of a white woman accusing a black man of sexual assault and it not being the case and the lack of a developed race politic on campus. Race, class and gender comes together to allow white men to stay out of the center of attention unlike Daniels and others find themselves in. Not that they shouldn’t be held accountable, but there is no equity in the way that attention is issued,” Garrett continued.
With the election of Daniels being hotly contested, there are some in DCGA who are aiming to get him impeached from his role just minutes after he is sworn into the position.
Garrett voices his opinion on the subject.
“The President elect Atticus Daniels’ position on victim blaming as well as his refusal to engage with his violent, abusive behavior compel me to demand his resignation and or impeachment. However, given the way he has proceeded, I doubt he’ll resign. Therefore, we as a community must impeach him and condemn sexual and physical violence for all Denison community members, not only those who fail to keep their violence out of the center of our attention.”
Daniels did not respond to a request for an interview from The Denisonian.
The last DCGA senate meeting of the year will be held on April 30, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. in the Curtis Provost Dining Room. The Denisonian will publish an online update following that meeting.