On Monday, after a 40-minute period of pro-con debate, the CUSG Senate passed a resolution to condemn the public display of the Confederate flag by student and community groups on and around campus after suspending the rules to vote on the resolution the night it was introduced.
Senators Dahvier Alston and Matthew Innocenti, the resolution’s authors who both sit on the newly created Inclusion and Equity Committee, argued that the rules should be suspended because the condemnation would be less powerful if it came next week.
Resolutions and bills normally go through a first read and question-and-answer on the night they are introduced, and a second read featuring pro-con debate at the following meeting. Suspending the rules to pass legislation in CUSG is typically reserved for emergency funding bills and for the final senate meeting of the year.
Senator Matt Phillips objected to the motion to suspend the rules, stating that some senators had only seen the resolution 24 hours before it was introduced on the floor, but his objection failed. Senator Samantha Hayes introduced an amendment to take the resolution even further, changing the language to make it clear CUSG viewed the Confederate flag as a symbol currently tied to the KKK and American Nazi Party rather that historically associated with them, but this amendment also failed.
Senator Alston stated that they did not include “individuals” in their condemnation because of concerns about freedom of speech. When the TTO reached out to Senator Alston about whether there was a difference in freedom of speech for individuals compared to student or community groups, Senator Alston did not respond.
The individuals involved in the inciting incident, the public display of Confederate flags on Highway 93 and the Highway 123 pedestrian bridge on August 26th, were members of the S.C. Secessionist Party. According to The State, the event was a response to the taking down of the Confederate flag in Columbia’s Confederate Relic Room after the racially-motivated Charleston church shooting in 2015. Party chairman James Bessenger said this would not be the last time party members would have an event like this.
Supporters of the resolution argued it was necessary to respond swiftly given the university’s reputation among many, particularly people of color, for being slow to respond or outright unresponsive to racial instigation on campus. Opponents argued that the resolution should go through the normal deliberative process, and that CUSG had a legitimacy crisis among the student body for passing largely symbolic resolutions that will not change anything on campus for students.
The Tiger Town Observer reached out to Senators Dahvier Alston and Matthew Innocenti for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.