More than 16 students shared outrage and hurt on social media, with some posts receiving 100 likes or shares, after the Associated Student Government vice president made a Facebook post yesterday in support of Kris Kobach that used the term “illegal alien.”
Michaela Todd, ASG vice president and senior communication major, apologized for the usage of the term in an emailed statement to The Bulletin.
“When I posted on my private social media page in support of Kris Kobach for Governor in the midterm elections, my sole intent was to reiterate his gubernatorial platform,” Todd said in her statement. “I was not aware of the negative connotations to some of the technical legal terms used in his platform. I sincerely apologize, and thank those who pointed out how the specific phrase is offensive – it was never my intent to offend or hurt anyone.”
The post, which endorsed Kris Kobach for governor, said Kobach would “put Kansans first, not illegal aliens.”
It was initially a public post, made on Todd’s personal Facebook account.
Todd’s post was edited to remove the phrase “illegal aliens” and she later deleted the post. Her Facebook account is now private.
Todd said she takes the incident seriously and has learned from it. Todd declined to comment further and declined an interview with The Bulletin.
“I will continue to honor the oath that I took to put the good of the university and students of ESU ahead of my own personal ambition,” Todd said.
There has been no official statement issued by ASG.
Martin Salazar, sophomore English education major and member of Hispanic American Leadership Organization, said that Todd’s words hurt him.
“My parents are ‘illegal immigrants,’” Salazar said, using his fingers to indicate air quotes around the phrase. “(But) just openly saying ‘I would vote for this person to make their lives more difficult,’ like my parents have a hard life like it is...It’s just really gross to hear that and it hurt me really bad.”
Salazar said his parents are “good people” and felt that Todd stepping down would be a good solution.
Naomi Martinez, freshman political science major and member of HALO, said that ASG needs to take steps to make sure that people who use negative rhetoric are not in positions of power.
“It’s not okay for her to continue being in that position because she doesn’t represent the student body,” Martinez said. “At the end of the day, I’d just like to see her not be vice president of ASG.”
After seeing the original Facebook post last night, Victoria Gomez-Medina, junior rehabilitation major, said that most hurtful part was the usage of “illegal alien.”
“That was very dehumanizing, (and) very hurtful, especially to someone who comes from a very immigrant background,” Gomez-Medina said. “I feel like she could have used so many other terms for that instead.”
The term itself brings negative connotations and gives the impression that they aren’t thought of as human, Gomez-Medina said.
“It isolates us, makes us seem like we don’t belong here,” Gomez-Medina said. “Even if in the eyes of the law we don’t, but most of us have been raised here our whole lives. We don’t know anything else other than here.”
April Taylor, junior Spanish education major, agreed it was dehumanizing.
“When you think of aliens, you don’t think of people. You think of those big green monster things,” Taylor said. “The fact that someone who is representing Emporia State is using this kind of language is inherently problematic.”
Taylor said she doesn’t want Todd to feel bad for her political views, but hopes that in the future, Todd will be able to move past her personal views and understand where ESU students are coming from.
“I would just encourage her...to look at how she can understand the background of these students who are offended by this and how she can help them, as their student body vice president,” Taylor said. “The majority just want her to understand what the weight of her words carry, especially given her position of authority on campus.”
Education on issues regarding minority students and more initiative from ASG were among the actions that students wanted to come from the incident.
“I don’t know how to come back from that, because again, the very people that were offended by this post are her constituents, the people she’s supposed to be representing,” Taylor said. “I would like people of that community, those who maybe come from families of undocumented persons, I would like their preferred course of action to be the one taken.”
The Associated Press Stylebook discontinued the term “illegal alien” in 2013, and discourages all use of the word “illegal” except when referring to an action, according to ap.org.
This story was updated at 1 a.m Nov. 8.