SGA President’s controversial post calls for resignation


Lavette Williams, Editor-in-Chief

Students at the University of North Alabama called for Student Government Association (SGA) President Jake Statom to resign after he shared a controversial post to his Instagram story on June 20.

“Born this way? You must be born again,” The post said, sporting a rainbow, which is widely recognized as a symbol of the LGBTQ+ community.

After receiving negative feedback on this post, three days later, Statom posted an apology video to @unasga.

“I am deeply sorry that my Instagram story offended members of our community,” Statom said. “I now see the story from a different perspective and apologize.”

However, his apology only seemed to upset students more. Within the span of a few hours, the post had caught the attention of not only students, but the LGBTQ+ community, alumni and students at other universities.

“After watching the video to its fullest capacity, I realized [immediately] how insincere his apology was,” said Matt Anderson, UNA senior and SOAR counselor. “He was reading from a prompter the whole time.”

Anderson said that as a student leader on campus, Statom’s actions sadden him.

“I impact student’s lives on this campus in my involvement,” Anderson said. “So many students have found a home here where they can be safe and free, not brought down by hate. I’ve had numerous incoming freshmen who are scared to be coming to campus in general, let alone come to a campus known for spreading hate.”

Anderson is not the only student who felt this way.

UNA sophomore Aaron Herford said that as an “openly gay man,” he was offended by both Statom’s original post and his apology.

“His actions definitely deserve deeper consequences,” Herford said. “Statom needs to learn that when he spews hate, there will be consequences. I hope the university uses this as a chance to truly do the right thing, instead of preaching diversity while continuing to let bigoted actions affect the wellbeing of their students.”

Herford says that a president that does not support all of the student body should not be a president at all.

Standing alongside their students, SGA senators began to decline Statom’s apology and overtly express their support for the LGBTQ+ community.

“People are saying it doesn’t seem sincere, and I agree,” said Mackenzie Bullard, SGA Chair. “I am sure he regrets it because of all the commotion it has caused, but why did it take so long to get a response up? I think the students need more … at least some acknowledgment of the hurt that was specifically caused to the LGBTQ+ community.”

Bullard said that Statom should have known that the student body would see his post because he ran his entire campaign off of his personal Instagram.

While students are guaranteed their freedom of speech, Statom’s position as SGA President impresses additional factors to be considered in his speech.

SGA Chair Carson Brite said with Statom’s Instagram bio referencing his position as President and tagging the SGA page, he is the one that invited this degree of criticism by so closely associating his personal role with his institutional role.

“Also, in the SGA oath of office, there is a commitment to disregard personal biases and affiliations,” Brite said. “I see [Statom’s actions] as a violation of his oath as well as a violation of the SGA code of ethics – violations that must be swiftly addressed by the judicial.”

After listening to their students, and meeting with the Mitchell-West Center for Social Inclusion and Student Alliance for Equality (SAFE), several members of SGA put together a public request calling for Statom’s resignation by 5 p.m. on June 30.

In the request, it stated that if he refused to do so, the formal impeachment process would begin on August 26 at 3:30 p.m. in the SGA Chambers.

SGA Senator Ellen McDonald said SGA senators and executives used yesterday to look at those comments and to reflect.

“I spoke to members within the LGBTQ+ community before deciding to sign that letter, and after hearing their thoughts about the way it’s made them feel, I [had to] sign it,” said McDonald.

McDonald said since sharing and signing the request, she has received nothing but support.

“There’s a misconception that SGA started this conversation after [Statom] made that post, but in reality it started before,” McDonald said. “A lot [has gone] down behind the scenes and I’m glad that it’s coming to light.”

While Statom’s resignation would seem like an immediate solution, it would still draw attention to the small number of students who are voting. 

McDonald said SGA senators do not get as much control over who gets put in office. 

“It’s the student’s choice,” McDonald said. “It’s the people who take the time during election season to vote. With this last election, there were a little over 600 students who voted. That’s nothing.”

McDonald said that making SGA election season more public and reaching out to students who may not be on campus everyday can increase voter numbers.

“We also need to encourage students to look into the candidates and what they stand for,” McDonald said.  “One of the students that I spoke to [yesterday] mentioned social checks. She compared it to how when you apply for a job, your future employer will look you up on social media and I think that that is important for students [to do].”

As of right now, Statom’s impeachment is not presently available due to classes being in summer session.

Brite said that Statom has clearly violated his own campaign promises to dedicate himself to diversity issues and advocacy. 

“If the integrity of our student government is to withstand this newest controversy, it is difficult to see how that could be accomplished under the current leadership,” Brite said.