Student activists and progressive organizations on campus are speaking out against College Council Representative Kyle Lee and organizing a petition for his recall in the aftermath of a failed effort to impeach him. Lee’s conduct came under review after he wrote an allegedly homophobic e-mail to a fellow Council member.
More than 100 students and representatives of organizations signed a letter circulated by fourth-year Daniel Rabe, an LGBTQ programming intern for the University, which argued that Lee, a third-year, was “incapable of maintaining the professionalism and civility necessary to the operations of the Council” and that “Lee’s use of crude insinuations regarding his fellow Council member’s sexual orientation in an attempt to intimidate him into silence constitutes a blatant violation of both communal norms and University policy.”
The controversy stems from an e-mail Lee sent early this month to third-year Representative Ryan Kaminski, who had declined to participate in a Student Government–sponsored blood drive because he argued that donation guidelines prohibiting people who have engaged in homosexual sex from giving blood were homophobic.
“Are you yourself prohibited from giving blood? And I don’t mean because you traveled to Africa,” Lee wrote in an e-mail entitled “You’re An Idiot.” He also suggested Kaminski “crusade on [his] own time” and said that unless the College Council would “be sponsoring the ‘Chicago Homosexual Blood Bank,’ there are going to be restrictions on blood donation from certain groups.”
The Executive Slate stripped Lee of his post as chair of the Security Committee, and Kaminski pushed for his impeachment from the student government. The move fell two votes short of the two-thirds of the Council necessary for impeachment.
In response, Kaminski and his supporters pushed to have Lee removed from the Council by recall election. Under the SG constitution, a sitting Council member can be recalled if a petition is signed by 10 percent of the electorate. A recall election is then held within three weeks of the petition being submitted.
The council is currently considering a proposal to formerly censure Lee—a symbolic gesture of disapproval.
Since Lee is a representative of the class of 2008, advocates of his removal would need 10 percent of the class to sign a petition for a recall. Kaminski and RSO leaders began circulating such petitions last week around campus. A Facebook group advocating Lee’s removal had 261 members at press time, and Rabe’s letter has been forwarded to numerous listhosts.
“I remain firm and unwavering in my belief [that] College Council is not a place for silencing, discrimination, and intimidation, but a place for respectful discussion of issues facing our college community,” Kaminski said in an e-mail to the Graduate and College Council listhosts calling for further action.
If Kaminski succeeds in obtaining enough signatures, Lee could still retain his seat if he were to win re-election against yet-to-be-determined opponents.
Lee said he regrets the incident and wants to move on. He said he would keep his post as Council member, despite calls for him to step down.
“I’m glad I’m still a student government representative, I think it’s important that I still be able to represent the class, and I hope we can move toward some sort of reconciliation between Ryan and me,” Lee said in an interview.
Lee also dismissed the notion advocated by his opponents that he would discriminate against homosexuals or homosexual organizations in College Council, calling the accusation “ridiculous.”
“I was on SGFC [the Student Government Finance Committee] my freshman year and AnAll [Annual Allocations] for two years, and you can ask anyone in those meetings or anyone in those rooms and they will tell you that I never once discriminated against LGBTQ groups,” Lee said.