Freshman In-Goo Kwak, notorious for posting a controversial flyer that some consider racially insensitive, is one of three students vying for the open seat on the Committee on Student Life (CSL), a body that often has the final world in major university decisions. Next week’s special election will decide which student serves on the Committee.
Kwak said that he wanted to promote freedom of speech and freedom of the press through the CSL. He said he made the decision to run for the position before the flyer incident occurred.
“Some people assumed that I’m running for CSL because I want attention or something along those lines, which isn’t true,” Kwak said. “The CSL actually has weight in making decisions that … make a difference on campus. That was what interested me.”
Senior Alex Daniele and sophomore Chris Walczyszyn are also running for the position.
The CSL is made up of approximately 10 members, including student representatives, professors and other Tufts administrators, according to CSL Chair Brandon Sultan, a senior.
Dean of Student Affairs Bruce Reitman and Judicial Affairs Officer Veronica Carter are among the administrators serving on the board.
The group makes final appeals decisions on disciplinary measures passed down to student groups or individuals typically by the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate or TCU Judiciary, Sultan said. The CSL is also charged with approving proposed changes to the TCU Constitution and other university documents.
Sultan said that he thought it ironic that Kwak is vying for a role on the CSL, whose role is to serve as an unbiased authority on controversial issues. The administration has not yet put the flyer incident before the CSL, but the body would be charged with hearing the case if it were to come to them.
Sultan praised Kwak for running, but said that given the nature of the flyer episode, the freshman may not be prepared to adequately serve in a student government position.
“I have much respect for someone who was just given so much attention,” he said. “Instead of shying away, he is willing to go out in the public to show his worth. I just don’t know if now is his time.”
Daniele said that he never met Kwak and was not particularly familiar with the flyer situation that has garnered so much attention over the past several weeks. Still, he questioned Kwak’s run for the CSL slot in light of the situation.
“It seems like he thought it was funny, playing some kind of a joke,” Daniele said. “His actions go against everything that the CSL kind of stands for. I don’t really agree with that.”
Walczyszyn similarly said that it was important not to judge the candidate for his previous actions, but added that while Kwak may have intended to be humorous in posting the flyer, he instead reignited the racial issues that rocked the university last semester when a physical altercation ensued between a white student and members of the Korean Students Association.
“Too soon, wrong place, wrong time,” Walczyszyn said. “We’ve had a lot of issues with this recently, and it shows a certain level of insensitivity.”
In an interview with the Daily, Kwak reaffirmed his position, saying that he posted the flyer in an attempt to be funny. If successful in his run for the CSL, he hopes to promote his views on freedom of expression.
“My sticking point is freedom of speech, freedom to express views free from fear of disciplinary actions,” he said. “I think it’s important that on a committee like this that all points of view are expressed.”
Sultan said that he was aware of no plans by the administration to charge the CSL with hearing a case on the flyer incident, but Kwak seemed to think otherwise.
Kwak said that in a meeting with Reitman on Tuesday, the dean told him that the CSL would hear the case at some point, but he offered no timeframe.
Sultan said that he did not know how the group would proceed if Kwak won his bid for the CSL and the case came before the body while he served,
“To be honest, I hope that doesn’t happen,” Sultan said.
Kwak said that under these circumstances, he would try to find someone who held his views to act in his stead.
For the CSL, arguably one of the least known of the three branches of student government — including the Senate and Judiciary — Kwak’s run has the potential to gain more publicity for the election.
“I think it is going to cause controversy if not more publicity, which I guess could be good for the election,” Daniele said. “I just hope it doesn’t affect the election in a negative way.”
Walczyszyn agreed. “I think it’ll be a very interesting special election,” he said. “I think it will definitely increase voter turnout to a level that hasn’t been seen in a while.”