by Kyle Chong
I was asked by a staff member in CICE to submit my ideas for a talk during Alternative Spring Break on Disability Justice. As I plan for that, I reflect on the campus culture and what the words “justice,” “equality,” and “access” mean to me. The campus climate on these issues seems a little strange. To me, these words mean the following for our campus:
Justice: Ensuring that people have what they deserve and need — simply because they are human beings — so they can be the best possible students, scholars and residents they can be for our campus.
Equality: Giving everyone a common starting point so that they can thrive during the time they call Puget Sound their home.
Access: Making sure that each student and resident does not feel marginalized or discriminated against because of how they identify. Whether that be in bathrooms, classrooms, or residence homes.
These seem like reasonable proposals that would allow our campus to be worthy of the progressive label that is slapped on Puget Sound. Why, then, have I been largely prohibited from candidacy solely on the basis of statements that have distorted the truth?
Regardless the answer, I now run a write-in campaign to ensure that our values and my platform still have a chance at continuing in the ASUPS Senate. Voting for a write-in candidate is simple — when asked to vote for a “Senator At Large,” you can vote for TWO, and you can type in the name (ideally mine) of your choice in that box.
I fully apologize for any and all confusions made in statements by members of the campus community against me, and I take full responsibility for putting myself in a situation that might cause one to come to the conclusions they have. I also assume full responsibility for any confusion caused by my own statements on social media for which I tried to promptly apologize for as a mere misreading of the elections sanctions against me. The fact is that I was barred from on-campus publicity for my Senator At Large campaign and my name removed from the ballot as a result of sanctions from the ASUPS Senate Committee on Elections. While I regret that, I own it.
In December, I was at an event having a conversation with a member of our campus’s queer community who quipped “how strange is it to be anything at all”? Her was response was simple “sometimes we’re not here.” That remark struck me. It is infuriating that a student on our campus could feel any less human because of how they identified or who they loved. I now ask “how strange is it to advocate for social justice on our campus?” and I think the answer would still be the same: “sometimes we’re not here.”
Don’t get me wrong, there are many great people working on this concept of “social justice” here at Puget Sound. That is not what I wish to question. I want to question why my advocacy and campaign is being silenced by exaggerated allegations, rumors, and slander.
In my time as ASUPS Sophomore Senator, I have voted to support social justice, equality and access for our campus. I fear that without a second term in the ASUPS Senate, ASUPS will lose its forward momentum in supporting the causes of our very concerned and active students. Even as recently as last Formal Senate, I voted to approve Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights as an official ASUPS Club. In the past, I have voted to fund social justice organizations, supported direct action groups, and voted to bring social justice clubs into our ASUPS family. My senate projects have been to sponsor Senate business that sent disaster relief funds and a letter of solidarity to the victims of the 2013 Snohomish County/Oso Mudslide, the sponsoring of the SPEAK UP! forum that one faculty member, Dr. Alisa Kessel, called a “profoundly rare event” where students could openly critique our campus’s policy on sexual assault, and the installation of ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant single user gender neutral restrooms (GNBs) and the support from, with the endorsement of President Thomas, over 200 alumni and the near unanimous consent of the ASUPS, Faculty, and Staff Senates.
I will continue to stand for social justice and to cultivate a culture of fairness and intolerance for injustice in our home — our campus. I fear that, without a second chance to serve this community as an ASUPS Senator on account of exaggerated rumors and questionable administration of justice, we will lose the ability to speed up the pace of positive social change on our campus. There is no guarantee that someone else will come to take up my projects. With a second chance, I will be one of the senior Senators and use my time to make even more connections with campus groups and leaders in the administration to be a voice to justice and access. I believe it is better that I am an ASUPS Senator than not — because I am accessible to everyone’s concerns. I was elected with no agenda, just to be your voice. I have listened and I have heard you. Now is your time to allow me to keep the conversation going. We say that we are a “liberal” institution, with a “progressive campus.” Let us be worthy of that distinction by merely letting our students have the same access to success though our facilities, tolerance of the marginalized and unapologetic defense of the ethical.
To even begin to be just, we need to ensure that we allow those who have been victimized by power-based personal violence, racial hate, sexism, uneducated bias, or discrimination to SPEAK UP. They must know they are loved on this campus and, if they choose, should be proud to identify as “they/them” not just “she/her/he/him.” Another constituent once told me that “We can do anything we can because too many will not. Anything is likely not enough but anything is everything when what we have is nothing, and when this nothingness is impossible….” I know that I can do something with your help. We, together, can do anything. Even if it is not everything, we have a unique opportunity to have a supportive and sympathetic voice in our student government. I believe I can do this with your help. I want to continue to do the work you want me to do.
I care about creating a campus-wide climate of tolerance, equity, and access. I want to continue my work to better our campus, our home, and Tacoma by working to eliminate power-based personal violence, increasing accessibility of our campus community and its opportunities to all people in order to cultivate a caring and equal space for all students. In spite of threats of violence and racial slurs thrown at me, I remain hopeful for our campus and the happiness of its students.
I need you to SPEAK UP, this week, and for the next year. This week, I need you to write me in to be your next Senator At Large. This next year, I need you to tell me where you experience injustice on this campus and where you experience inaccessibility or inequality. Those are the things we need to fix so we all can be a safer, more inclusive community — together.