Allegations of misconduct were raised against a candidate for the student regent position in the Arizona Board of Regents at the last general assembly of Tempe’s Undergraduate Student Government on Tuesday.
The allegations were brought against candidate John Ghazoul, director of student development for Tempe USG, who acknowledged that comments he has made in the past have the potential to be misinterpreted, but denied intentionally inflicting any harm.
Daniel Goldberg and Megan Tom are the other two nominees. A student regent is a student who represents the students of UA, NAU and ASU to ABOR, which oversees the activities of all three schools.
Every two years, three names are sent to the governor’s office, who then selects one to appoint to the position.
During the second reading of Senate Bill 31, which would forward the names of the three candidates to the governor, Vice President of Policy for Tempe USG, Kenzie Johnson, charged the candidate with several disqualifying behaviors.
The allegations included claims that Ghazoul made demeaning comments toward his female cohorts.
“Exec has received complaints from female coworkers that Mr. Ghazoul made comments which they perceived to be uncomfortable, inappropriate, or crude,” Johnson said at the meeting.
She also said Ghazoul denied the existence of rape culture. Ghazoul denied this claim.
“The concern is that Mr. Ghazoul's comments regarding rape culture conflict with the platform and goals of USGT,” Johnson said. “There is a fear that these comments indicate he is ill-equipped to tackle this issue as student regent.”
The allegations were not confirmed by any party outside of Johnson and the "anonymous constituents" whom she was representing. The State Press gave the constituents an opportunity to identify themselves, but none have come forward at this time.
After the initial allegations were leveled against Ghazoul, the senate heard comments for over an hour on how the bill should proceed.
Some options discussed included tabling the bill, amending it with someone else's name on the list and only giving two names to the office.
The allegations came just days before the names were scheduled to be given to governor should the bill pass.
Jacob Lille, the committee vice chair of appropriations, spoke in support of Ghazoul and said the discussion was inappropriate for the setting.
“I don’t think this is the platform to attack someone's character,” Lille said. “You can attack someone's job record.”
Lille also took issue with the allegations of crude comments.
“It’s based on hearsay, and I have an issue with that,” he said.
After the meeting, Ghazoul said he had never felt more attacked in his life. He denied making any intentionally sexist remarks, but acknowledged that comments he has made in the past could be misinterpreted.
“I think that I am a very confident person,” Ghazoul said. “One of the females that works with me said that sometimes some of the things I say can be misconstrued, which is fair ... I don’t want to be portrayed as some rapist or sex offender.”
Ghazoul said the alleged denial of rape culture was likely based on a misunderstanding. He recalled an instance in which he commented on a presentation about sexual assault that may have contributed to the claims.
“I’m a relatively conservative individual, and I thought that the presentation was very biased one way,” Ghazoul said. “So I said, 'It’s not like a guy can't get raped or something.'”
This instance was not specified by Johnson in the allegations.
Andy Waldron, the president of Graduate and Professional Student Association, came to the defense of Ghazoul during the second reading, citing his continued commitment to sexual assault prevention on campus.
Several members questioned Ghazoul directly, including University Affairs committee Vice Chair Lindsey Williams.
ABOR denied to comment, deferring to the Governor's office, who was also not immediately available for comment.
ASU was not available for comment at the time of publication.
Minutes show Tempe USG passed the bill with an 11-3 vote, four people abstaining. In order for the bill to carry, all four campus USGs need to approve it. USG Downtown and USG West will vote Friday on the same bill, and Kenzie Johnson said she will be downtown to share the same concerns. USG Polytechnic has not made it publicly available when they will vote on the nomination.
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