MU Student Body President Elections Scrapped After Offensive Tweets Uncovered

Mar 12, 2018

The Missouri Students Association presidential election has been canceled after three candidates dropped out and the MSA Board of Elections Commissioners disqualified their slates. A special election will be held before the end of the semester, but the MSA Senate has not set a date.

After offensive tweets surfaced from candidates’ personal Twitter accounts, former presidential candidates Blaine Thomas and Claire Jacobs dropped out of the race Tuesday evening and vice-presidential candidate Caius Gillen quit Wednesday morning.

Their running mates, Chad Johnson, Thomas Cater and Julia Wopata, respectively, originally intended to continue seeking the presidency alone until the MSA Student Court recommended the board invalidate the slates. To run for MSA president and vice-president, each pair needed to collect 500 student signatures for their slate. The court reasoned the students who signed were supporting the pair, not just one member.

“By changing the names on the ballot, they have nullified this support as these students did not sign on to an individual candidate,” according to the court’s decision statement.

Johnson, Cater and Wopata will be allowed to run in the special election, board chair Joseph Sell said Thursday.

MU junior Brett Stover, an editor and anchor at campus radio station KCOU, shared screenshots Monday evening of racist, homophobic and sexist tweets Thomas, Jacobs and Gillen had posted between 2012 and 2016.

Stover said this is the fourth MSA election where he has combed through candidates’ profiles as part of his election coverage, and this is the first time he has found “anything to this extent.”

He said the candidates “put (themselves) in the public eye by running a campaign for a paid position at a state university.”

After the offensive tweets were shared this week, the former candidates each released apology statements.

“There’s no excuse for what I tweeted. I’m deeply sorry for those words and images,” Thomas said in his statement. He also asked for forgiveness from anyone he had offended.

In Jacobs’ statement, she said she has sought out “diversified experiences and historical understanding” since her original tweets were posted. However, the statement was criticized by several in the MU community, including journalism students, for including an indirect criticism of Stover’s reporting.

Although Johnson, Cater and Wopata have not formally announced plans to run in the special election, they all expressed interest in continuing to run before their slates were disqualified.

Cater and Wopata spoke out on Twitter after their running mates’ resignations.

“For too long, MSA as an organization has not catered to all of its students and it’s time for a change. I share that frustration and it is my unwavering goal to improve the state of student government and to put students first,” Cater said.

The official campaign account of Wopata and Gillen tweeted that Wopata “will not stop fighting to make this campus the best it can be.”