Editor's note: This is a developing story.
Confidential sexual assault resources for UR students include CARE Advocates, which can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 804.801.6251; Peer Sexual Misconduct Advisors (PSMA), at email@example.com or 804.346.7674; CAPS, at CAPS@richmond.edu or 804.289.8119; Virginia LGBTQ Partner Abuse and Sexual Assault Helpline (24/7), at 866.356.6998; Greater Richmond Regional Hotline (24/7), at 804.612.6126; National Sexual Assault Hotline (24/7) at 800.656.HOPE.
Junior Hoor Ain was disqualified from the Westhampton College Government Association presidential election on March 31, a day after deleting a post stating that there were sexual predators in the Richmond College Student Government Association.
During Ain’s time in student government, she had to work alongside known sexual predators, she said on a March 28 Instagram post where she answered questions about her campaign. In a 38 second video and a post, Ain addressed how she would handle rape culture. Ain deleted the post and issued an apology to RCSGA on her Instagram on March 30, clarifying that she spoke from her own experience and didn’t mean to cause harm.
Following the disqualification, Ain reuploaded the video and post about sexual predators in RCSGA because she felt like she was being silenced, she said. She also explained that she had not stepped down on an Instagram post on March 31.
“I was disqualified and removed from the election,” Ain said on the Instagram post. “While I am not sure what the violations were that led to my disqualification, I am sure about some things: Our student body is ready to talk about rape culture, policing by authority figures, free speech, race and xenophobia.
“However, there are people that do not want us to.”
Westhampton College Associate Dean Kerry Fankhauser announced on March 31 that the presidential election would not take place less than three hours before the scheduled debate between Ain and current president Penny Hu. The email sent to members of Westhampton College did not mention Ain or provide a reason for the change.
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“I write to let you know that there has been a change in the candidates for president of WCGA,” Fankhauser wrote. “There is only one candidate, Penny Hu, and she will serve as 2022-2023 WCGA President.”
Elections Committee Leader junior Lily Dickson notified Ain via phone call on March 31 that she had to step down or be disqualified because of multiple election guideline violations, Ain said. Westhampton College deans, who serve as advisers to the WCGA, did not reach out to Ain before or after sending the campus-wide email, she said.
Dickson declined The Collegian’s request for comment, stating that all election matters were confidential.
Ain chose to address sexual assault problems in RCSGA because she said it was an issue she, her friends and other members of Westhampton College had dealt with.
“I wanted to highlight the issue that I have heard of since freshman year,” Ain said. “Everyone keeps talking about it, but no one really does anything to address it publicly. This is an issue that I have faced personally.”
Westhampton College Dean Mia Reinoso Genoni did not tell The Collegian what guidelines Ain had broken in order to be disqualified from the election.
“All students who wish to run for any WCGA position are required to attend a meeting in which the regulations are discussed,” Genoni wrote in an email to The Collegian on March 31. “The regulations are also emailed to students running for office, and students sign a Google Doc in which they acknowledge that they have seen and will adhere to the guidelines.”
WCGA candidates are prohibited from using “comparative, inappropriate or insulting language,” according to the spring 2022 election guidelines. If a student is notified that their campaigning broke the guidelines, they have 12 hours to remove the material subject to the violation, and if the content is not removed, they could face further consequences. The election committee leader and the dean of Westhampton College (or their designee) may remove or ask for the resignation of candidates found guilty of a violation, according to the guidelines.
Dickson asked Ain to remove the post about RCSGA and issue an apology on March 30, according to text messages between the two obtained by The Collegian. Dickson approved Ain’s apology. The following day, Dickson asked Ain multiple times if she wanted to step down after informing her that she would be disqualified if she didn’t. Dickson also notified Ain about the email that was sent out to Westhampton College students, according to the correspondence.
RCSGA will work to combat sexual violence against all community members of UR, said junior and president-elect Arju Patel, who won the RCSGA election on March 23. Patel said RCSGA had not asked for Ain to be disqualified from the race. Although Patel trusts the election committee’s decision, he said that disqualification was “probably not warranted.”
Patel is not aware of any Title IX investigations against current members of RCSGA, he said.
“I hope we as a community understand the harmfulness of generalizations about groups of people because we have seen time and time again where generalizations about groups can lead to serious repercussions such as dividing communities or inciting violence,” Patel said. “I think creating accountable communities requires us to empathize and listen with an open heart, open mind, open ears.”
Hu, who is the first WCGA president to serve two terms, was shocked that Ain had referred to members of RCSGA as sexual predators without “solid evidence,” she said.
“From what I know about RCSGA, they would 100% not tolerate a person on the body if they knew there is a Title IX perpetrator,” Hu said.
The Title IX process is also confidential and Tracy Cassalia, the deputy Title IX coordinator for students, did not answer The Collegian’s question about whether there were any Title IX cases against RCSGA members because an interview request had not been submitted through Cynthia Price, associate vice president of media and public relations.
Ain stands by her statements regarding RCSGA members and said she was going to find other ways to continue her activism.
“You cannot expect the deans to be on your side when you are trying to highlight issues that are conflicting with their interests,” she said.
Fankhauser, who made the announcement about the change in the election, was the deputy Title IX coordinator when UR faced a federal investigation about its handling of sexual assault cases in 2014. Fankhauser is married to Richmond College Associate Dean Daniel Fabian, who was also the Richmond College deputy Title IX coordinator when the investigation took place. A former student who filed a Title IX complaint said Fabian had mishandled her case and told her he “thought it was reasonable for [the accused] to penetrate you for a few more minutes if he was going to finish,” in a Huffington Post article in 2016.
A forum will be held at 5 p.m. on April 1 on the Westhampton Green for students to discuss sexism, rape culture and exclusion in Westhampton College.
Contact editor-in-chief Jackie Llanos firstname.lastname@example.org.
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