“I would like to know why you should be able to take office despite your homophobic and transphobic comments on Facebook,” Oneta Cantlon asked Chase Gildea, at last week’s open forum for candidates of next year’s Associated Students of Southern Oregon University positions.
After Cantlon asked their question the crowd quickly reacted and began calling out to the two candidates. Some of the crowd began booing and cursing at Cantlon to “Sit the F*ck down,” while others yelled at Gildea, one demanding he “answer the F*cking question.” Calming the crowd ASSOU president and forum facilitator, Torii Uyehara, soon moved on to next candidate.
What followed was an official grievance filed against Gildea, who was running for the Clubs and Organizations Senate Seat, by Cantlon ASSOU’s Associate Justice, resulting in an investigation by ASSOU’s Election Committee and a one day suspension of Gildea’s campaign.
As of Friday evening May 21, preliminary election results indicate that voters have chosen to not elect Gildea.
“Chase displayed inappropriate behavior on social media,” said Cantlon, “Chase’s posts display transphobic, homophobic, and Islamophobic behavior.” Cantlon cited numerous social media posts made by Gildea as a reason for filing the grievance. The posts indicated a violation of ASSOU’s bylaws promoting inclusivity and brought to question Gildea’s ability to represent SOU’s diverse campus.
To name a few, these posts presented Gildea’s beliefs that he shouldn’t have to announce his pronouns before establishing a conversation (from Gildea), criticized gender neutral bathrooms, and in a Tweet about Kim Jong Un used a homophobic slur, this according to the Election Committee. Gildea said that the comment was made over 2 years ago, he has matured since then and apologized if it was misconstrued. “Some of the recent posts are just my views, and I don’t even remember saying some of those things,” said Gildea.
“I just didn’t feel comfortable doing it,” continued Gildea when asked about the use of preferred pronouns, “I don’t personally think I should have to but I’m going to do it to make everyone feel more comfortable.”
“Keep in mind I don’t know exactly what Chase said… but pronouns are a way to really recognize someone and to not do misgendering,” said Coordinator of the Queer Resource Center, Thomas Arce, “[It’s a way to] say don’t look at me for how my gender expression is, I’m going to tell you what my pronouns are and that’s how I want to be known. [At SOU] it has really helped students feel affirming”
The hearing was last Monday, to determine whether Gildea was suitable to continue running for office and if any disciplinary measures should be taken. After deliberation, the committee determined that Gildea’s campaign would only be suspended for one day on the basis that the student vote should decide if he was fit for office.
“If elected, we can make it clear that these posts will not be tolerated as a representative of ASSOU. We should treat this as a teaching moment,” said ASSOU Elections Committee member Jenna Stafford at the hearing, “We can’t expect someone to change their views. We can only educate them on how to handle safe-space situations. By expecting them to change their views and beliefs, it is proposing a sort of ultimatum where we are basically saying you can’t run if you don’t share our views. You can educate yourself while still maintaining your inherent belief system. Chase has already said he is open to the training, so we should give him an equal opportunity to run.”
In addition to the suspension, the committee requested that Gildea visit SOU’s various resource centers in order to educate himself on opposing views of the groups he mentioned in his comments. The committee also wants to receive written confirmation that he has done so.
“I am lacking knowledge on all of this, I have never been trained on this and I am learning. I never even heard of being trans until I came to SOU,” said Gildea, “I’m not willing to negotiate (my views) about gender-neutral bathrooms, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to learn.” Gildea has yet to follow the committee’s request, but claims he is in the process of scheduling educational meetings with SOU’s Queer and Women’s Resource Centers. Prior to the election’s conclusion he further claimed that he will meet with the resource centers win or lose.
“It does not set my mind at ease because of the way he portrayed himself in the grievance hearing,” said Cantlon when asked about Gildea receiving education, “It was clear that he was not interested in learning anything.”
“I want people to know that I’m not a homophobe and I’m not transphobic. You have the right in life to the pursuit of happiness… I’m not going to stand in your way of loving who you want to love or doing what you have to do to love yourself,” said Gildea.
Preliminary results say students have spoken and do not want Gildea to have a Senate seat. Still Gildea has expressed interest in gaining a seat on the new executive cabinet. ASSOU’s next President will have to decide if Gildea’s claimed desire to learn outweighs the student vote against him.