Some Inspire UI members ask students to withhold votes for party executives

Some Inspire UI members are asking students to withhold votes for executives on their UISG ticket following social-media allegations.


Lily Smith

The Old Capitol is seen on Nov. 25, 2018.

Marissa Payne, Managing Editor

On the first day of University of Iowa Student Government elections, some members of the Inspire UI ticket took to social media to call for the student body to withhold votes for the executives on their ticket.

UI student Ally McKeone alleged in public Twitter posts that a current at-large senator and Inspire UI ticket member Kevin Leahy retaliated against her after she sought an investigation for what she said was a sexual assault.

McKeone’s Twitter posts did not accuse Leahy of sexual misconduct, did not identify the perpetrator, and did not specify the alleged retaliatory actions.

“Due to this, and my concern for the rights of sexual assault victim/survivors on campus, I ask you all to hold him accountable for his actions and not elect him as part of UISG on April 3 and 4th,” McKeone wrote in her Twitter post.

In a later post, McKeone wrote she met with the leader of the party ticket a little less than a month ago to inform her of her concerns, but to her knowledge, no action was taken against the senator who she said engaged in the retaliation.

Leahy posted a public statement regarding the allegations on Twitter Thursday. According to the statement, Leahy was “not the respondent in the alleged incident of sexual assault.” Leahy wrote in the statement that he was called as a witness because of the relationship with the respondent. 

Leahy also wrote the Dean of Students Office recommended “to limit all further contact with parties involved” at the time of the incident.

“I never wanted to cause any distress through my silence, then or now, but was simply following the advice I received,” the statement said. “… I support survivors of sexual assault and will continue dialogue about supporting survivors of sexual assault… ”

No complaint has been filed against Leahy, according to his statement.

When asked for documentation about McKeone’s investigation request and any complaints filed against Leahy, UI media-relations director Anne Bassett told the DI in an email the university will not comment.

However, the UI confirmed there are no UI police reports filed against Leahy.

“We cannot confirm if a student, faculty, or staff member may or may not have filed a formal/informal complaint of any kind, which includes commenting on if there may even be any potential university investigations,” Bassett said.

A document clarifying Leahy’s disclipinary record provided to the DI by Leahy, dated April 18 and signed by Office of Student Accountability Director Angela Ibrahim-Olin, states Leahy “has not been investigated for violating the Code of Student Life, the Sexual Misconduct Policy, the Anti‐Retaliation Policy, or any other policies relevant to Title IX matters” during his time as a UI student.

The document noted Leahy’s participation in a Title IX investigation as a witness and said students are often advised of the Anti‐Retaliation Policy during such an investigation.

“In addition to being advised of the policy, at the time students were warned that discussion about the investigation or the parties involved with anyone other than an attorney, counselor, family member, or other professional support person, may be seen as retaliatory behavior,” the document stated. “Mr. Leahy was not subject to a no contact directive regarding any of the involved parties. Mr. Leahy is in good standing with the Office of Student Accountability at the University of Iowa.” 

Some members of Inspire UI have made social-media comments to the McKeone’s allegations.

Inspire UI senatorial candidate Lauryn Schnack said on Twitter she would not vote for Inspire UI presidential candidate Alexia Sánchez and vice-presidential candidate Madhuri Belkale.

“That saddens me, because Madhuri is one of the most genuine and hardworking people I’ve ever met, but I no longer support Alexia,” Schnack wrote. “I urge you to still consider voting for some of the senators on Inspire.”

Senatorial candidate Avery Brennan wrote in a public Twitter post he does not know what he is allowed to say.

“… I believe survivors and it would reflect poorly on my character if I stayed silent during this time,” he wrote. “Don’t vote for my executive ticket Inspire UI.”

RELATED: UISG presidential candidates debate platforms and campus issues 

Oscar Rodriguez, current Latinx constituency senator and Inspire UI senatorial candidate, wrote in a public Twitter post that while he urges students not to vote for the executives of the ticket or the Leahy, he still encourages students to vote for individual Inspire UI senators not directly involved.

“Any individual who stands idle in the face of injustice does not deserve to represent students of the University of Iowa,” he wrote.

Sánchez made a public post on Twitter Wednesday night to apologize to those affected — individual students, the community collectively, and members of her ticket. She wrote that members of her ticket were not involved in the conversations.

Her post was independent of Leahy and does not reflect the candidate.

“I believe survivors and I understand how my action or inaction may not have accurately reflected my convictions,” she wrote. “It was never my intention to discount a survivor’s concerns, especially as a survivor myself.”

Further, Sánchez wrote that Inspire UI’s “limited and delayed response” was not intended “to silence, ignore, discourage, or diminish the experiences of survivors,” and that she is “dedicated to supporting survivors on and off campus, as well as eradicating the pervasiveness of sexual violence in our world.”

“At the time that I wanted to publicly address this student’s concern, my team was strictly limited in what we could or could not say,” she wrote. “Yesterday, our team drafted several versions of statements to address students’ concerns, but none were approved. We were advised by the Elections Commissioner and the University of Iowa Administration — the University of Iowa Student Government Advisor — not to respond to the student’s post because of serious University of Iowa policy and legal implications that could be at hand.”