Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer

Award-winning, student-run, weekly campus newspaper of the University of Illinois, Springfield

The Observer


Former SGA President Speaks Out About Controversy

Kyle Stauder resigned as President in March after a raucous meeting | Photo credit: Kyle Stauder

UIS Student Government Association President Kyle Stauder resigned from his post last month after making a controversial comment at a meeting.

Stauder has been quiet about the controversy other than making a brief statement about his resignation in The Observer’s story. Stauder agreed to speak about the controversy, his resignation, and his time at the helm of president. This interview has been edited for length and for clarity. Opinions expressed in this interview are those of the subject and do not reflect the views of the author, the Observer, the University of Illinois Springfield, its staff or administration.

[Q] When you were going through the situation originally, with the Sunday meeting, did you anticipate any public outcry when there was the public meeting later that week?

[A] No, we didn’t know anything was really wrong until the next morning. The next morning, I received an email saying we might want to look at these again because we had rushed through them the Sunday before. We shouldn’t have, but we did. I called an emergency meeting with the executive board to reverse that decision. And we got the decision reversed, but by the time the decision was reversed the group that was affected was already upset. I think the damage had been done.

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[Q] Just to clarify, what was the decision that was reversed again?

[A] The decision was because there was the right amount of votes on SGA to turn that request down for the money for that situation. I had felt that it needed to [be approved] anyway, because SOFA (Student Organization Funding Association) had recommended to approve it. I thought it was the right thing to do. I called them the next morning and said, hey, this needs to be reversed. We called it and we reversed the decision. They (Gamma Phi Omega) got their funding, but they had already been notified their funding had been denied before we had reversed it because I had stuff to do all that Monday. I was working downtown and by the time I got done with one of my meetings I got them together and we had the decision reversed, but they (Gamma Phi Omega) had already been notified and they were already upset.

[Q] Do you think these past few weeks of controversy has changed you?

[A] I don’t know if I’d say it’s changed me. I think it’s made me think about things in a lot different light. I don’t think many students have had to deal with that kind of controversy. Probably, some people haven’t in their lives. Let alone have that kind of heat thrown at you. The past three weeks they’ve been tough. I’ve finally gotten over the emotional stress of it all. I would say it hasn’t changed me. I think it’s just made me reflect on the situation and how things were handled by the school, frankly.

[Q] Do you think your actions reflected poorly upon the SGA and other members?

[A] During the meeting, I think our actions were inappropriate for the setting, definitely. I think they’d probably be inappropriate in general. The situation was blown out of hand. It was blown out of hand and twisted to fit a certain narrative. Almost everybody I’ve talked to agrees that they were not racist comments. They were culturally insensitive, yes, but that’s just because we didn’t know exactly what the details were and we were just joking around and it was inappropriate. But, definitely all my words were twisted to fit a certain narrative, and I think that narrative is the one that that certain group was successful with and they got blown up out of proportion.

[Q] Do you think you should have read up on what the event actually was a little more beforehand?

[A] The way that played out is I didn’t even know we were even gonna have to be voting on that until 30 to 40 minutes into our meeting, because the SOFA meeting went way over. I don’t think our treasurer was able to show up to our meeting until 30 or 40 minutes later. We were in the middle of our meeting and (Chun, the treasurer) sent me an email. I hadn’t had a chance to look at the email. That was the first time that I was looking. Which, in hindsight, that’s not really our fault. I wish there was more time where we could have all sat down, reviewed and gone through all the details. They (the details) were thrown on us last minute. The way it has played out since then is just extremely unfortunate.

[Q] What was the discussion going on behind closed doors when the public meeting was paused before you announced your resignation?

[A] At that point tensions were so high in the room and it breaks my heart because there was administration in the room that I’ve known and respected and I still respect. I expect to have a relationship in the future too. But that situation shouldn’t have been allowed to get that out of hand.

I reached out to these two individuals (Ingrid Franco and Aislinn Diaz) on Monday. I said, hey, I owe an explanation. I tried to go about it in a reasonable way, but the situation shouldn’t have gotten that out of hand before we had to go back. Then when we went back the damage was done. There was no fixing it.

The anger had gotten to such an unreasonable level in the room. There are people screaming horrible things at my SGA members that going back and watching the video, [it] is just unfortunate the things that they said to some of my SGA members.  We just went back and at that point in time I announced because they wanted it. I was being pressured by certain people to just announce right then and there.

Nobody had time to process anything. I’m not just gonna go do this and then Emmanuelle (Yakana current SGA president, then vice president) would have to take over. I’m not gonna tell her right here. We need to go back. We need to have a conversation. We went back there, we had a conversation and everyone was upset. Being screamed horrible names for three hours takes a toll on anybody, if I’m honest. I went back there and we were all hugging each other. We’re there for each other and basically talked about what’s gonna happen next.

[Q] Do you have any regrets about this situation looking back?

[A] Obviously, we could have done better in SGA choosing our words. But, I don’t have in regards to resigning. Is that kind of your question?

[Q] Just any regrets at all, in general.

[A] I regret those words. I regret that we didn’t put actions in place before that meeting, so it didn’t devolve into giant, complete, total chaos. I wish we had more control over that meeting. I wish that we had set rules in place to make sure that we were allowed to talk. SGA members during the meeting, we were barely allowed to talk.

The meeting was completely hijacked and people were just screaming at us the entire time. We didn’t even have a chance to sit. if you go back and you watch the video every time we try and say something people would scream at us and try and scream over us. So, we weren’t able to coherently explain anything.

That’s a regret is the planning of that event. But obviously, do I regret saying that in the meeting? I regret saying something that people were able to take out of proportion and to twist into their own narrative.

[Q] You say you wish that you would have made some changes for the event itself. So it would have been more fair for both sides to speak instead of speaking over each other. Do you have any idea what those changes could have been?

[A] I’m still not 100 percent sure why the event was advertised as a town hall to come and we will answer your questions on how to run for SGA. There are social media posts made on them (the town hall). These past few weeks have been such a blur. I’d have to go back and look at the post made that said we’ll come answer your questions and hear your ideas for SGA.

That was a mistake because those lines allowed what happened at the meeting. We should have gone in there. We should have put plans in place and we should have said you’re allowed to ask a question. You’re not allowed to give a speech. These two individuals (Franco and Diaz) were giving a speech and it was not just a speech at SGA. It was a slander campaign against me.

We even tried to have one of our SGA members go over there and hold the microphone. They were yelled at. They (Diaz and Franco) said “get away from me, don’t touch me.” We needed more guidelines to the event. We probably should have (had more guidelines) after we knew what the event was going to do. Because our safety was at risk. My safety is at risk. The rest of the SGA’s were based on the tensions of the room. We probably should have canceled the event and dealt with it in a more reasonable way with everybody – tried to sit down in a reasonable way without letting it come out in such a public view because it reflects poorly on UIS that this happened, the actions of the people in the room on March 7 at the town hall.

Administration was in the room and let that happen. That’s the part that sucks. It makes UIS look bad. The school that everyone here loves. I’ve been here four years and I love it and it makes it look bad. We should have put more guidelines in place to keep that situation from going into the chaos that it did.

[Q] What have you learned from your 15 months of being in the SGA overall?

[A] I learned a ton. I’ve gotten to work with the administration, faculty, staff and students all across this campus. Everything from facilities to the chancellor. Every single department I’ve gotten to work with. I think you really craft your skills as a leader and obviously no one’s perfect. You’re not gonna learn all the skills for life as president of a student government association. But there’s a ton of things that you learn. You learn how to work with people and you learn how to be reasonable, because especially from my background if you don’t try and work with people that disagree with you, you’re never gonna get anything done. From my background, if I didn’t want to work with people who disagree with me, I’d have no friends, no relationships on this campus. There’s a bunch of reasonable people here on this campus, a bunch of reasonable administration, a bunch of common sense people who may disagree with me on a lot of political views, but that’s not everything.

There’s a lot of people on this campus that I’ve gotten to learn from and get to know that are really reasonable people and really want the best for this university. I was able to learn and grow with them as we try to make UIS a better place.

[Q] I know it was previously mentioned that you were interested in getting into the field of politics. Has that changed? Are you still interested in getting into politics?

[A] My sister asked me the same question after she saw the video. No, it’s actually made me want to go into it (politics) more, honestly. To make sure that there are the right people in place. They’re the right people in places that they need to be. Reasonable people that can work across the aisle and work with people who don’t see eye-to-eye on everything.

People who can sit down and have conversations with people and explain their point of view. The people that came and attacked us on March 7. Those people don’t know me and they don’t know any of SGA. And for them to make the accusations that they have, not only in person, but for a month on social media. From my perspective, those kinds of people will turn down every single opportunity to sit down and try and have a conversation with someone and see them as a person.

I think that’s another thing that this role has taught me is to sit down and see people for who they are and not for what they say. Actually learn about them and get to know them. I think once you do that your views on people really will change. A lot of the people who come, they judge a book by its cover. I’m seen as the white guy – they were screaming that at the event. Frankly, they call me the white guy who’s a racist and that couldn’t be further from the truth.

That’s just the narrative that was allowed to play out and we weren’t prepared to push back on that at an event. We weren’t prepared for anything to get to that level. I just wish people all across this campus would learn to sit down and have civil conversations with one another.

Anybody who acts that way in public, when you don’t get what you want, I don’t know any reasonable person who’s gonna go and treat people that way. That’s why I’ve been proud of SGA. The group that we have. I know that even probably on the worst days they would not go treat anybody the way they did, and especially not public of a way.

That’s why I’ve been proud of them really the past three weeks too with how they’re handing themselves. They haven’t responded to anything that’s been thrown at them on multiple social media platforms and in person. I think they’ve handled this appropriately and I think it shows that just because you have a disagreement with someone doesn’t mean you get to act that way.

It doesn’t mean you get to treat people that way. It doesn’t mean you get to call them certain things. I would encourage people from all different viewpoints on this campus to sit together. Sit down at the table, have dinner. Get to know one another. Learn about each other’s past and not just throw accusations at people.

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