Editorial: Former MSA candidates’ past tweets are telling of MU’s current struggles

Racist, homophobic and sexist tweets from several MSA presidential candidates surfaced during the first day of campaigning.

After platforms were announced March 5 for Missouri Students Association president and vice president, KCOU journalists Brett Stover and Cassie Florido uncovered tweets from candidates on each of the three slates that contained racist, homophobic and sexist remarks. The content of the tweets ranged from the use of racial slurs to a photo of what appears to be one of the candidates posing in front of a Confederate flag. After apologies were released by the individuals involved, MSA Student Court decided March 6 to suspend the election.

The actions by the former candidates come at a time when MU is still trying to heal the wounds from the 2015 protests. The language that was used by these former candidates was in poor taste and incredibly harmful. It should come as no surprise that individuals who seek power must be held responsible for their prior actions and beliefs. We acknowledge the fact that people change, however, and as journalists, our job is not to represent individuals based purely off of their positive actions.

Rhetoric used by former presidential candidate Claire Jacobs in her apology said that Stover was using the tweets as his “journalistic golden ticket.” This statement deflects from the issue at hand and attempts to dismiss his dedication to journalistic ethics. Stover was simply doing his job, not searching for his “golden ticket,” and the candidate’s statement should not detract from that.

After the 2016 U.S. presidential election, a period in which Twitter was so heavily used by candidates and political commentators, it should come as no surprise that people who could potentially gain positions of power face increased scrutiny based on their electronic footprint. Everything that an individual puts on their social media, private or not, can be used in the future. People in power need to have an especially clean social media presence.

In this case, that kind of behavior was not reflected by the former MSA candidates. It is concerning that individuals with these kinds of pasts feel they should represent the MU student body. The BEC could have more than likely prevented this from happening by enforcing some sort of screening process for candidates. The more worrisome possibility is that if Stover had not investigated the candidates, these truths could have come to light after the election. The situation could have been much worse — one of these candidates could have been elected.

The information that came to light is telling of MSA. Something is wrong if these people are deemed as the best candidates to lead our student government and garner so much support without hundreds of students actually researching who they were supporting. The student body should look into past tweets and other online statements made by members of all forms of student-run governments at MU. The university should take time to further examine those in positions of power in order to continue to heal and learn from prior mistakes.

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