Monday, November 20th, 2017

Apologies all around, Cummings and Ginn address senate

Posted on May 10, 2017 in News
By USM Free Press

By Sarah Tewksbury, Staff Writer

The student senate met Friday, April 28 on the Gorham campus in Upton Hastings Hall. The start time of 2 p.m. was delayed by an executive board meeting in which a Violations Inquiry Committee (VIC) recommended that Liam Ginn, former student senate chair, issue a second and separate apology for alleged Islamophobic comments.

According to VIC evidence, three witnesses to the incident, the accuser, the accused and an eyewitness bystander, all had different versions of the story. After lengthy deliberation, the VIC made their recommendation to the student senate. Once the weekly senate meeting was officially called to order, Ginn issued one public apology to satisfy his punishment. 

“I’m deeply sorry for any ableist comments and Islamophobic comments that I have made,” Ginn said. “I’m sorry if I have offended anyone.”

Following Ginn’s brief words, the meeting began with its usual formalities: attendance and introductions. As individuals in the room introduced themselves, it became clear that President Glenn Cummings was present to speak to students.

Cummings began by thanking the students who had chosen to participate in the senate, particularly during this intense academic year. He noted that this was a difficult and “rugged” year that hopefully would not be repeated in the future.

It became apparent that Cummings was there to issue a series of apologies. The first was in regards to how he felt the administration had failed the student senators. It was obvious that Cummings did not believe the administration had provided the student senators with the tools to combat the wide variety of issues that they saw.

“It is so important to have significant training,” Cummings said. “The administration did not train you for what you had to face this year.”

Switching gears, Cummings then apologized for not making his role more clearly known to senators and students at large. As the leader of the university, Cummings believes he has no say in how the senate is run and that in order for the governing body to exercise its power freely, he has to let it run without his influence. Though he acknowledged the fact that he has the right to suggest changes to the senate, Cummings fully admitted to his desire to allow the students to autonomously govern the USM student body.

Leading into the discussion of free speech, Cummings disclosed his upset over not having taken a stronger stance during the issue of Larry Lockman visiting the campus. Concerned about who was affected by the controversial speaker, Cummings issued several strong statements.

“I’m not sure I protected the people I was meant to protect. Larry Lockman was given a microphone to spread hate speech against the people I’m paid to, and want to, protect,” Cummings said. “If we have another conservative speaker at USM, we won’t have them up there alone—spewing their hate. We’ll have [them] debating the dean of the law school. There are ways to limit their microphones.”

Stemming off of this, Cummings went on to ensure those in the room that he is still learning how to deal with these kinds of situations. The motivating factor that led to Cummings’ presence at the meeting was a conversation with a student in which the student calmly explained why they were taken aback by the way USM handled the Lockman event.

Ending with optimism, Cummings proposed that the new senators for the 46th Senate work together with him to create policies that protect the rights of all individuals at USM and determine who can and cannot come to speak.

“We’re the university of everyone. You don’t have to agree with me because I’m the president, but I want you to know that you’ve gotten my attention — and more importantly, my respect.”