University issues apology concerning incident at pageant

by Editor-in-Chief Jasmine Fleming

The university released a statement Jan. 26 containing an apology to University Program Council Chairwoman Briana Tanner.

In a Facebook Live video, Tanner said she was escorted out of the Miss UNA 2017 pageant without reason Jan. 21 for being backstage, although she was running the Miss UNA social media.

“First and foremost, the university apologizes for the incident that occurred involving Ms. Tanner,” according to the statement. “We certainly never want to make any of our students feel unwelcome, and this is not an accurate representation of our culture at UNA.

“We are currently working with Briana and her parents to resolve the issue. Students make the University of North Alabama a special place, and UNA feels it is important to listen to and address all student concerns.”

Student Government Association President Sarah Green and Miss UNA 2016 Jocelyn Barnes said they asked Tanner to run the Miss UNA Instagram account as a friend, not as a UPC chairperson.

However, they did not inform others of the decision, Barnes said.

“If we knew that she was going to be there, we would have made sure the staff was introduced (to her),” said Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Tammy Jacques.

The stage manager during the event, Alice Gross, made the call to remove Tanner, Jacques said.

“(Gross) instructed (her) student workers to ask her to leave and go back to the audience,” Jacques said.

Although the intention was for Tanner to be able to join the audience, Jacques said Tanner might not have known that.

“My understanding is she didn’t have that clarity,” she said. “It wasn’t clear to her whether she could go or stay or not.”

In the video, Tanner said she communicated the incident to her adviser.

“Instead of him trying to resolve the situation, he just invited me back to the show,” she said.

Jacques said this conversation between Tanner and Pageant Director Tyler Thompson, who is also director of Student Engagement, occurred via text because Thompson could not answer his phone during the pageant.

“This (event) has given us the opportunity to look at some of our internal policies and see where we can be better,” according to the statement.

To ensure similar events do not occur in the future, Thompson said there will be signs stating those without clearance cannot be backstage.

Norton Auditorium staff has also requested a list of those allowed backstage for events, Jacques said. She also said they are considering a point person for Student Engagement events who will handle issues such as clearance so that technical staff does not have to address them.

Editor’s Note: Attached to this article is the full statement from the University of North Alabama.