Former AMS presidential candidate and ASUS representative to the AMS Alexander Prescott was censured on Tuesday night by ASUS Assembly after he made controversial comments about rape on Facebook.
Prescott was censured in a Special Assembly called to deal with the motion to reprimand him, with a vote of 17 in favour and five against. The agenda for the special meeting was set at the previous week’s regular ASUS assembly.
Prescott’s Facebook comments, left on Feb. 25., suggested that a degree of the onus for rape should be on victims, based on their conduct.
Despite much opposition, Prescott stood behind his comments and clarified them further at the Special Assembly, stating that he doesn’t condone rape culture.
However, he stated in Assembly that “some responsibility lies with victims who put themselves in risky situations.”
Censure was defined by ASUS president John Whittaker as a formal reprimand, meaning that ASUS doesn’t condone his actions.
“It’s a slap on the wrist,” Whittaker said in assembly.
During the assembly, a motion was brought forward by a member to impeach Prescott.
The motion was deemed unconstitutional by the ASUS assembly speaker.
“It did not fall in accordance with our policy, which requires a two-weeks notice of motion,” Whittaker told the Journal via email.
When the Speaker’s decision was challenged, it went to a vote by assembly, requiring two-thirds of votes in support to pass. The motion didn’t pass and was officially abandoned.
Many of those present publicly expressed their opinions of Prescott’s comments; most believed the comments promoted rape culture and victim-blaming.
Jeffery Ingold ArtSci ’14, a member at ASUS assembly, shared a personal story of sexual assault.
“It may not be the easiest thing we do, but it is about time to change the society we live in,” he told the crowd, which was standing-room only by the time the assembly began.
“Having an opinion that makes so many people feel uncomfortable, makes me feel uncomfortable, but the fact that Prescott has shown no apology towards that has made me uncomfortable,” Mike Young, ArtSci ’15, told the room.
Prescott said he believes people had misconstrued his comments and that he was stating his opinion as “Alex Prescott,” not “Alex Prescott, ASUS representative to the AMS.”
Alexander Rotman, ArtSci ’13 and also an ASUS representative to the AMS, defended Prescott’s right to “freedom of speech.”
“What I’m personally worried about is a state where I could not post anything on Facebook for fear of it offending someone else,” he said. “I don’t think this is a slope that we really want to be going down on.”
On Tuesday night, debates became heated and some members were eventually asked to leave when their behaviour was deemed inappropriate by the Speaker.
Also during the meeting, assembly members Daniel Basilio, ASUS representative to the AMS, Chelsey Morphy, chair of ASUS Board of Directors, and Greg Allan, ASUS representative to the AMS publicly announced their resignations. None of the three felt comfortable working with someone who holds such beliefs as Prescott’s, they said.
In an email to the Journal, Morphy stated that during the course of the evening ASUS had “taken actions that leave me feeling unsafe while I volunteer and are condoning a discourse that I fundamentally disagree with.”
Whittaker said given the sensitive nature of the topic, they were never expecting a calm assembly, but said he was very disappointed by the “malcontent” displayed by members of the gallery.
“Above all else, we are concerned for the wellbeing of our members and we hope that any ill-will would not extend beyond the confines of ASUS Assembly,” he said.
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