A member of Emporia State University’s Associated Student Government has gained national notoriety after language in a recent, politically-charged Facebook status nearly resulted in her impeachment.
In the post, ASG Vice President Michaela Todd — a senior political science and communications major — voiced her support for Republican gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. In listing reasons for her support for Kobach, Todd wrote that he would, “Put Kansans first, not illegal aliens. The millions of dollars spent on public welfare for illegal aliens in Kansas hurts Kansas taxpayers every single day.”
Todd’s words received a mixed reaction online and on campus, with many standing in agreement and others expressing criticism, some of the detractors taking issue with the use of the term “illegal alien.” The post was eventually deleted but was still an issue of discussion among ASG members. During a Nov. 8 ASG meeting, Todd was asked to resign from her position, but backed her statements and cited her duty and “oath to represent the students of Emporia State University” in a firm refusal.
On Nov. 12, members of the student government’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee put forth a formal statement demanding Todd’s resignation, stating they would move forth with the impeachment process if she failed to do so. Among other issues with Todd’s post, the statement cited its choice of rhetoric:
“This rhetoric of ‘illegal alien’ dehumanizes an entire population,” the statement reads. “Emporia State has a large Latino population along with the city of Emporia. Other phrases such as ‘undocumented’ would have gotten the point across. Additionally, the idea of “undocumented peoples” not being “Kansan” dehumanizes people of Kansas as well.”
After the story caught national ears, Todd was invited to appear Thursday on the Fox & Friends morning news show. During a nearly three-minute interview, Todd said she had been receiving increased support from other students on campus and was pleased with the way university faculty had been handling the situation.
“I have also had a lot of students come out and support me in this when people were attacking me,” Todd said on Fox & Friends. “These students are a lot like me. They are conservative students and they haven’t felt like they’ve been able to voice what they believe in at Emporia State. So I feel like backing down would be doing them a disservice because they’re able to use this as a platform to voice their beliefs also.
“The administration at Emporia State is taking a very hands-off approach to this. They believe this is a student issue and it is.”
When asked why she used the words “illegal alien” in her post, Todd said she wasn’t aware people would be offended by the term.
“I used the term ‘illegal alien’ because that is what [Kobach] used in his platform, and it also is a legal term,” Todd said. “It is a legal term that’s used in the federal government, it’s used here in Kansas, and it’s also used in universities around the country, including Emporia State.”
Thursday evening, Todd faced formal impeachment proceedings brought forth by members of the student senate. She was not present for the vote. The motion needed a two-thirds majority to move forward to the next stage, but failed, with 11 in favor, seven against and three abstentions according to Reporter Sarah Spoon of the Emporia State Bulletin.
An informal meeting between ASG senators and students that was set to take place in the Memorial Union Ballroom was also canceled Thursday evening. An email from the ASG president’s office to the student body cited safety concerns as the reason for the cancellation. Despite the warnings, more than 70 students stayed to voice their concerns.
Several ESU administrators were in attendance, including Jim Williams, vice president of student affairs, Gwen Larson, assistant director of media relations, and Deanna Williams, director of diversity programs. The roughly 30-minute meeting proceeded without incident.
The Gazette has reached out for comment and will continue to provide updates on the situation as more information becomes available. The next formal meeting of the Emporia State University Student Senate is set to take place at 5:15 p.m. Nov. 29.