While political races can be ruthless, the current race for one UVUSA position just turned personal. On Thursday, March 1 various club presidents received an email from an anonymous email account denouncing candidate Tom Hawkins because of his sexual orientation. Hawkins, who is openly gay, is running for Vice President of Clubs and Organizations.
The email, which was sent from “firstname.lastname@example.org,” claimed that because of Hawkin’s sexuality, “his judgment is impaired and biased.” The email continued by stating “If we are to allow a gay student into student government, next they will be allowing students to advocate for same-sex marriage.”
The email also stated that because of “our traditions, beliefs, and values here in Utah, and specifically Utah County, we cannot afford to let this person into the VP position.” The email went on to claim, “Because of Tom’s sexual orientation, he will not be able to perform his job the same way his opponent can.”
When Hawkins, who is a co-chair of UVU Spectrum–LGBTQI/Straight Alliance, decided to run, he was concerned that his sexual orientation would come up, “…but I never expected something like this.”
“My initial reaction was to quit. I was pretty upset about it,” Hawkins said. “Now, I’m even more determined to win.”
While Hawkins has not received any direct emails or messages from people opposed to his campaign, the email did rattle him.
“Everyone is entitled to their beliefs and values but personally I felt a little attacked,” Hawkins said. “My sexual orientation has nothing to do with how well I do my job and my duties.”
After receiving a copy of the email, Cory Duckworth, Vice President of Student Affairs, was adamant that the email does not reflect the views of UVU.
“The expressions that are there are totally inconsistent of anything supported or represented by Utah Valley University,” Duckworth said. “We pride ourselves on being highly inclusive and creating an environment where every student can feel comfortable and can completely participate in our programs.”
While Duckworth acknowledges that people have the right “to think and feel the way they want to, it is unfortunate that they need to do it in a way that is hurtful to other people.”
Aaron Samudio, who is running for Executive Vice President on Team Aspire, reinforced his team’s support for Hawkins.
“We support Tom 100 percent…Part of our platform is to ‘Serve Diverse Lifestyles,’” Samudio said. “Supporting Tom supports diversity. He is a genuine, well-spoken, intelligent person with real goals and ideas. All of that is separate from his sexual orientation.”
Chad Workman, who is running for Student Body President on Team Impact in the UVUSA elections, also voiced his disapproval of the anonymous email.
Workman works with Hawkins as Workman’s Department Representative for the Behavioral Science Department in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
“As far as this anonymous email is concerned, it was extremely out of line to speak so poorly about Tom, especially in expressing their assumption that Tom will ‘be imposing his biases and judgments into all of the clubs and organizations on campus,’” Workman said. “This was written by an uneducated individual who could have expressed their concerns in a more appropriate way.”
Team Exelerate, the third team running for the Executive Council in UVUSA also released a statement regarding the email.
“Team EXELerate does not endorse nor approve of discrimination in any form, including sexual orientation,” said David Millet, who is running for Student Body President on Team Exelerate. “We believe that Utah Valley University should be a place where all students should feel welcome and included. We believe candidates should be looked at based on their experience and capability to do the job and on nothing else.”
Sarah Roseborough, current Vice President of Clubs and Organizations, sent out an email to all of the club presidents condemning the email they received regarding Hawkins’s sexual orientation.
“This email is in no way endorsed by the Clubs Office or any department of Utah Valley University,” Roseborough said. “As a matter of fact, if you read UVU’s mission statement there are several places which endorse professionalism, diversity, individuality, and inclusiveness… I ask that as you learn about each candidate and their platforms you remember that sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sex, national origin, pregnancy-related condition, or disability, should not determine an election.”
Other students have expressed their outrage over the email. Lisa Beaudry, a Business Management major read the email after her daughter received it.
“I wanted to go to a school where different religions, different ethnicities and different sexual orientations were talked about and welcome,” Beaudry said.
Beaudry was especially angry that the anonymous emailer most likely used the UVU website or the corresponding Orgsync website to acquire the emails of club presidents.
“It’s one thing to have an opinion, but it’s another thing to use UVU’s resources to impose that opinion on other students,” Beaudry said.
The university and President Holland have released an official statement regarding the email.
“As an institution, we pride ourselves on being a place that is hospitable to all. We condemn intimidation, harassment, and discrimination against any student. Inclusivity is one of our core themes and values as a university. The reported viewpoint represents one anonymous individual’s perspective and is not shared by the University. In fact, we denounce such vitriolic, uncivil and counterproductive dialog.”
By Kelly Cannon & Vanessa Fraga Perkins
Life Editor & News Correspondent