Calls for Phelps’ resignation unfounded after apology

Unless you’ve been out with the flu for the last two weeks, you should know that there has been a recent controversy involving an e-mail sent out by our Student Government President Nick Phelps. As of right now, the debate surrounding the issue seems to have gone out of control. I hear complaints from several different viewpoints, and each viewpoint seems to omit some key facts. As a member of the Muslim Student Association, I feel it is important that the facts behind the situation are set straight before any conflict goes further than it must.

To begin the discussion, it’s important to know why members of the Lexington Muslim community would have an issue with Phelps’ e-mail.

Muslim students oftentimes face issues of prejudice. Whether it be a fellow student telling a Muslim that he or she is unwanted in America and should “go back to your home country,” or a prospective employer asking a student to consider changing his or her “foreign-sounding name” to get a job, it is not uncommon for a Muslim student to be put in a compromising position.

Compared to most of these situations, a chain e-mail is of little concern. So, why was the e-mail by Nick Phelps so controversial?

First, the e-mail was signed on behalf of the SG president and finished up with UK Board of Trustees credentials. This makes such an e-mail an official representation of our SG (and, by extension, our university).

Secondly, the e-mail had a request to be forwarded. Therefore, even if the e-mail were just for a private group of friends, it had every opportunity to spin out of control and end up in the hands of plenty of more impressionable individuals who put their trust in public leaders like Phelps.

Even with all of this in mind, the issue could have been resolved privately. Almost a full month of private mediation, however, was met only with resistance. The e-mail went public because nobody seemed to want to correct what could be interpreted as an official, public expression of bigotry by our SG.

After the Kernel reported on the issue on Feb. 5, meaningful actions began to take place. Students, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, expressed their concerns over the issue, and Phelps and SG promised to take action toward resolving the controversy and improving diversity. MSA and SG had meaningful, productive conversations, and now action has been taken on the issue. Phelps showed maturity and sincerity in his apology and in his promise to continue efforts to achieve diversity goals at UK.

However, others still seem to be throwing punches. MSA (and the rest of the Muslim community, as far as I know) never asked Phelps to step down. We realize his immense contributions to our campus, and we feel a mistake like this does not warrant resignation.

Although MSA welcomes the help of every student organization that wishes to give it, including the UK College Democrats, I feel this issue should not be a partisan one.

There are plenty of international and interfaith groups on campus that SG can now work with to spread diversity without forcing politics into the issue.

For this reason, I encourage everyone to put an unfortunate event behind us and look forward to a brighter, more productive future in campus diversity.

With Phelps and SG promising progress, and many diverse student groups willing to assist, the positive and desperately needed change in campus diversity many have hoped for seems to be on the horizon. And try not to be skeptical: If any party doesn’t keep up with its promises after all of this, you’ll be hearing from me again.

Matthew Longacre is a management sophomore and a member of the Muslim Student Association. E-mail [email protected]