Student senator Jenny Sevilla filed a complaint to impeach fellow student senator Golden Ashby, who she claims sexually harassed her.
The student senate held an executive session Wednesday to discuss these allegations.
According to ORS 192.660, an executive session can be held by the student senate to “consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member or individual agent requests an open hearing.”
In an interview outside of executive session, Sevilla gave the details of the alleged incident.
She said that at the March 10 student senate meeting (that was interrupted by a protest) Sevilla, among other senate members and students, was protesting when a friend told her he had been assaulted (pushed) by Ashby.
“I was really upset, because my friend communicated to me that he was assaulted by Golden, or pushed. So I wanted to communicate nonverbally to Golden Ashby that I was upset with him and his actions,” said Sevilla.
“I did chanting, which is what everybody else was doing, except that I was looking directly at him while I was doing it. And he started winking at me, blowing kisses at me, flicking his tongue, rubbing his nipples, stroking his genitals, you know over his clothes, so he wasn’t really touching himself.”
A friend noticed what was occurring and joined Sevilla. Both started chanting, “shame on you” and “sexism has to go.” A third girl came and joined them.
Sevilla said the chanting lasted for about fifteen minutes.
“And then at some point in that time I felt really, really uncomfortable and sick to my stomach, so I turned around and I got a hold of myself, turned back around and started doing it again” said Sevilla.
“Later on, he turned his back. I don’t remember at exactly what point this was or how much time had lapsed since I turned back around to chant in front of him, but then he turned around and he was kind of looking over his shoulder and so kind-of looking at us to see if we were there and just kind of laughing like, ‘oh that’s really funny,'” she said.
In response to these allegations, Ashby said, outside of the executive session, that he did not harass Sevilla in any way.
“Perhaps she misinterpreted my actions or perhaps it is a political ploy. This entire event transpired because there was a riot during a senate meeting,” he said. “I was just protecting the school I love and reacting to the protestors’ outrageous behavior. There was no sexual or gender specific content to my reaction.”
In response to what he defines as sexual harassment, Ashby said, “my definition of sexual harassment is when somebody makes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. If this affects an individual’s employment, interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment.”
He said he did not engage in any behavior that fits this definition.
Sevilla doesn’t feel the senate is handling the situation appropriately. “As you saw in the executive session, it wasn’t facilitated correctly,” she said.
“I feel that there was a lot of confusion in parts, as far as Joe Johnson goes and the rest of the senators, and what exactly is executive session and what do we do in it. So I feel that there was a lot of chaos.”
After the alleged incident, Sevilla said she consulted the Campus Public Safety Office, which recommended she see Affirmative Action.
She filed a sexual harassment charge against Ashby.
Burt Christopherson, director of the Affirmative Action office, described the investigative process.
“We investigate it, and that’s just your stock investigation. Your side of the story and their side of the story, anybody else who was there to shed light on it,” Christopherson said. “We put that all together, you take all those facts and then we evaluate them and kind of, in light of the current status of the law about what counts as discrimination or what doesn’t.”
Vice President Joe Johnson said the Affirmative Action office has been interviewing everyone involved, mainly the three women who viewed Ashby’s actions as sexual harassment and Ashby himself.
Christopherson said they are still investigating the case, and that a result may be reached next week.
Johnson first heard about the alleged incident right after it happened.
He spoke with Ashby, who personally told Johnson that he had “blown kisses and kind of gave a nod and smiled.”
Johnson said, “he was being mocked and protested against, so he mocked back basically. But he said he never grabbed himself in that manner, so it’s definitely one person’s word against another’s.”
He sent Ashby to speak with Aimee Shattuck, coordinator of the Women’s Resource Center.
Johnson said that his hopes were that she would talk to Ashby about the effects of sexual harassment on women.
“You talk to anybody who knows Golden and they say this is really weird and out of character for him, because he’s usually pretty laid-back and cool about everything,” said Johnson. “He comes to senate meeting like everybody else and he’s always out in the Park Blocks talking to people and interacting. So this is the first anybody has ever heard of those kinds of actions from him.”
Johnson said he hopes that the situation can be dealt with quickly and efficiently and that all the facts in the situation will be taken into account.