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Arlington, TX: Students say no to harassers in student government

By Mark Napieralski

Arlington, TX – On April 6, the last of the impeachment hearings against then-Vice President Thomason Clayton was held regarding his harassing and misogynistic attitudes towards female coworkers during his tenure as vice president of the student government of the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA).

This impeachment proceeding was one of the longest of the three, with four witnesses called upon by the impeachment manager and two called upon by Thomason. Throughout the entire hearing Thomason did not deny any of the allegations, instead the credibility of the witnesses was questioned.

After almost three hours of deliberations students outside waited anxiously for the final verdict, which needed to be 16 senators voting “yes” in order for the vice president to be removed from office. Only 14 senators voted yes; eight voted no, and one abstained from the vote altogether. Students outside were incredibly furious, the victims of Thomason felt as if they were victimized yet again by UTA and the senate.

Immediately after his acquittal, Clayton began reneging on all of his apologetics and declared himself the student body’s president. The students had other ideas in mind. Progressive Student Union, alongside allies and friends of the victims, promptly called for a protest on Monday, April 11 to demand that Thomason Clayton resign from office – as the student body should not be led by bigots or sexual harassers.

On April 11, the rally began at noon and would grow to 60 people. It featured several speakers from Progressive Student Union and those opposed to Clayton leading student government. All of the victims, including the impeachment manager, came to the protest. Meghan Flynn, a former senator and one of Clayton’s victims, spoke at length about how the vice president belittled and bullied her while in office and how she was aghast at the fact he was allowed to walk despite never once denying any of the allegations laid before him. She echoed what many other speakers would say – that Clayton is not fit for office.

Many spoke to their experiences with sexual assault and made the overarching point that victims need to be heard and supported by community on a personal level and at large by the institutions designed to represent us.

One of Thomason Clayton’s own witnesses, Dylan Hernandez, came to the protest and spoke briefly about how he agreed that Thomason should resign from office and apologized for even being a witness for Clayton.

Four members of Progressive Student Union listed out the community-focused demands which ranged from the immediate resignation of Thomason Clayton; a statement condemning the recent bigotry and misogyny of the student body executive branch; reiterating the demands for transparency regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as expansion of gender-neutral housing on campus.

Mark Napieralski, flanked by Joy Wells and Justin Bent, led the rally-goers in a march to deliver their seven-point demands to Lisa Nagy, vice president of student affairs, and Seth Ressl, director of student organizations. At least 40 of the students joined in chanting “No harassers on our campus!” “We believe survivors” and “UTA, do your job!” as the demands were delivered to their respective destinations.

Progressive Student Union ended the rally by stating that the struggle was not yet over, because even if Thomason resigned, there would still be much work to be done in regards to fighting for the rights of survivors.

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