Blog post detailing sexual harassment in TUSG casts doubt on DeGravina ticket

VPP candidate Dayton Potter and campaign manager Jacob Lille are accused of "suppressing" concerns of sexual harassment in TUSG

blog post describing an “institutionalized suppression of sexual harassment or assault victims” and written by Morgan DiFelice, Tempe Undergraduate Student Government Internal Operations Director and secondary education junior, began spreading rapidly on social media today.

The blog post alleges TUSG vice president of policy candidate and current senator Dayton Potter and others in TUSG downplayed DiFelice’s accounts of sexual harassment by a former director.

The former director, John Ghazoul, was originally confirmed to be the Arizona Board of Regents’ student regent. The student regent is a student from a state university, confirmed by the school’s student government, to represent the interest of Arizona's university students to ABOR.

Each state university nominates one of three recommended students on a rotating, yearly basis, and the governor selects one of the three to be a student regent for the next year.

Both Potter and Jacob Lille, the campaign manager for the DeGravina executive ticket, voted to confirm Ghazoul to the student regent position, after hearing DiFelice’s account of harassment delivered by current TUSG VPP Kenzie Johnson.

According to the blog post, Lille described DiFelice’s statement as “hearsay," saying there was not enough evidence to consider blocking Ghazoul from the nomination. 

The State Press reported at the time that during the TUSG meeting to vote on Senate Bill 31, the bill bearing Ghazoul’s name as a student regent candidate, Lille said that he didn’t think the assembly was the “platform to attack someone’s character.” 

After Ghazoul was confirmed by USG as the student regent nomination from ASU, a special session was held two days afterward to remove his name from consideration. At this meeting, DiFelice gave personal testimony of the harassment she received from Ghazoul, and Ghazoul was in fact removed and is no longer a member of USG.

The blog post also alleges that Potter and DiFelice spoke by phone, concerning a "secret recording" of DiFelice's testimony recorded by Potter during the special session that removed Ghazoul's name from the official list of student regent nominees.

Aundrea DeGravina, the TUSG presidential candidate from the DeGravina ticket, responded to the allegations today.

After first directing concerned students to a statement made on her campaign's Facebook page, DeGravina said that they wanted to refocus the campaign onto policy issues.

According to the statement, the meeting in which DiFelice was recorded was a public meeting, like all USG meetings. 

"Recording is allowed, and transparency is encouraged," the statement said. "The larger issue stems from Ms. Johnson bringing the matter between Mr. Ghazoul and Ms. DiFelice to the Senate floor in the first place. It should have been handled through the appropriate channel."

The statement further explains that the debate on the USG Senate floor that day should have been handled by the Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities, as it says "USG is not equipped to rule on issues relating to sexual assault/harassment."

DeGravina is concerned with the timing of the blog post lining up with this year's elections, which begin Tuesday. 

"Running in a USG election is not that glamorous; it’s hard work, you lose sleep, people attack your character, but I did not expect it to get to this point," DeGravina said. "I’m not making excuses for anyone’s previous bad actions. That’s the one thing I think we want to make clear, we’re not excusing whatever happened in the past with Morgan, that would be wrong."

DeGravina said that her campaign has been very open and sought to have students bring any issues with the ticket forward early in the campaign. 

"The problem is, like we said in our statement, there’s no substantial evidence, or there’s no evidence for that matter, to claim that Dayton told her to retract her statements," said DeGravina."We’re causing a huge debacle over a conversation where he says one thing, and she says the other, and I don’t think that’s fair."

DiFelice's blog post does not have any audio of the alleged phone call between her and Potter.

Johnson said in an emailed statement that she was proud to stand with DiFelice, as she said she has done since learning of the matter last semester.

"Sexual harassment and rape culture are pervasive issues at ASU and universities around the country," Johnson said. "I will actively continue to speak out against these problems and support survivors."

Editors note: Morgan DiFelice previously worked for The State Press. She did not participate in the production of this article. 

Correction: Due to a reporting error, the process for picking a student regent was incorrectly explained. This article has been updated with the correct information.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Morgan DiFelice was a former member of TUSG. This article has been updated with the correct information.

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