UPDATED: Paz loses two endorsements, position in Students Against Sexual Violence after allegations; will not seek to stall election
SG presidential candidate Bryan Paz was accused of unwanted sexual advances toward four students at Thursday’s Town Hall.
Final Update - March 29 at 11:30 p.m. Original story at bottom of post.
Student Government presidential candidate Bryan Paz has withdrawn a bid to stall the election. Paz previously asked for a delay after allegations on Thursday that he had made unwanted sexual advances toward four other students.
Paz, who has made sexual assault prevention a particular focus of his campaign, initially wanted to postpone voting until late April.
“I’m afraid of the damage that this can do to survivors on this campus,” Paz said in an interview with The Eagle on the night of March 28. “If we push it back, this issue will continue to elevate, and more and more students are going to be talking about this and that can be triggering to survivors on this campus.”
However, the Elections Commission, which oversees SG elections to ensure fair races for open positions, independently decided it would not change the election schedule.
“Despite recent allegations brought against Paz, the Elections Commission has found that the need to fill SG Executive Board positions outweighs the request for a postponement or decertification of the presidential election,” according to an unsigned statement sent out by Elections Commissioner Stephanie Maravankin.
Election results will be announced as scheduled in the Tavern on April 1 at 10 p.m.
On March 27, Paz lost the endorsement of the LGBTQ advocacy club Queers and Allies and on March 29 lost the endorsement of AU College Democrats, which announced the decision in a Facebook post.
Students Against Sexual Violence has also decided to remove Paz from its board and general body, according to a statement the organization released on Facebook.
“First and foremost, SASV was created as a safe space for survivors and those affected by sexual violence to come together to enact meaningful action” the statement said. “More than anything, it is important to us that this group feels safe and comfortable for survivors in our community to join.”
Paz was a founding member of SASV.
Paz now also faces two-week suspension from his job as a senator in the Undergraduate Senate, according to Speaker Will Mascaro.
“I want to be very clear: this suspension is not a judgment on the ongoing events or the investigation that has been launched,” Mascaro said in a statement sent out by SG Press Secretary Anna Bonomo. “But, I believe the Senate must be an institution that supports and believes survivors.”
The petition that initially urged Mascaro to approve a suspension was signed by two-thirds of the Senate, Bonomo said in a statement.
Paz said at the Minority Disenfranchisement Forum on March 27 that the University is opening an investigation into the allegations. The investigation was Paz’s initial motivation to postpone the election, he has said.
In the March 28 interview with The Eagle, Paz said he did not want to prolong controversy over the accusations.
“I’m telling you, once the campaign is over, these allegations are going to go away,” he said.
Clarification: This update, in addition to the original story, originally reported that accuser Shannon Lynch alleged Paz had acted inappropriately with six freshmen. He has since come to The Eagle to clarify his remark; he is now alleging it was four students, not six.
Update, March 28 at 11:22 a.m.:
AU Queers and Allies has rescinded its endorsement of Paz, according to an email sent by the organization on March 27 at 5:35 p.m.
Executive Director of Q&A Lex Loro declined to comment on the organization’s withdrawal. It is unclear if the allegations surrounding Paz and Q&A’s withdrawal are related.
Paz said at the Minority Disenfranchisement pre-election forum on March 27 that the University has opened an investigation into the accusations.
“After this was made public, the University is now opening an investigation on this and we will have results in the coming weeks and we are going to make sure that it’s a very thorough investigation,” Paz said at the forum.
Paz also wants the University to hold the SG presidential elections in late April when his investigation will likely be finished, he said in a second statement that he released on his Facebook page at approximately 11 p.m. on March 27.
Paz believes that waiting for the results of the investigation is fair to the voters so that they can have correct information “instead of believing just claims,” Paz said in an interview with the Eagle.
Update, March 27 at 5:23 p.m.:
Paz released a statement on Facebook last night in response to Lynch’s accusation. As of 3:30 p.m., the post had received 82 likes and 200 comments.
In the statement, Paz reiterated that he “did not engage in unwanted advances” and emphasized his passion toward sexual assault prevention.
Some commenters expressed their solidarity with Lynch by using the hashtag “#believesurvivors.” Others reminded students that the accusation needs to be further investigated before any judgements can be made.
More updates and a larger story will follow.
A student has alleged that Student Government presidential candidate Bryan Paz made unwanted sexual and romantic gestures towards four freshmen students. The accusations came during the SG Presidential Town Hall following the debate on March 26.
Paz is a founding member of Students Against Sexual Violence as well as a member of the task force implementing the sexual violence prevention campaign “It’s on Us.”
But freshman Shannon Lynch questioned Paz' credentials in fighting the issue, saying Paz himself has crossed lines in encounters with other students.
“How can you be such an active advocate for sexual assault prevention and awareness, when you yourself are one of the perpetrators of the very thing you claim to be fighting,” Lynch said during the town hall.
Paz denied the accusations during the town hall.
“[Sexual assault] is an issue that is really near and dear to me because a lot of my friends are survivors,” Paz said in a later interview with the Eagle. “The allegations that I would ever do that myself are not only disgusting and insulting but just fall flat on any measure of credibility.”
Paz also said that he and Lynch had a previous relationship that ended badly.
“We had a personal relationship a few months ago, and it ended really sourly and poorly and basically ended on really bad terms, so I’d imagine that’s one of the reasons he had the disgusting audacity to come and talk about in a public forum rather than dealing with it through University resources,” Paz said.
Paz said he would not comment further on the situation.
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