Student government president Taylor Dumpson resigns
Special election to replace Dumpson likely to take place in late February
Student Government President Taylor Dumpson is resigning, she announced Friday.
“It has been a pleasure to serve in this position, however, effective immediately, I will be resigning from the presidency in order to focus on my health and education,” Dumpson wrote in a statement.
Though a vice president, comptroller and secretary have resigned from office in recent years, Dumpson’s resignation is the first for a SG president in recent history. Dumpson said in the statement to not look at her resignation as “a sign of weakness, but as a sign of strength.”
“My college experience has not been the utopia I thought it would be when I applied four years ago,” Dumpson told The Eagle. “But, I have spent every bit of my undergraduate career trying to make the AU community a better place and if people are going to allow rumors [to] cloud these achievements, then that’s their choice, because I know who I am and what I stand for.”
Comptroller Christine Machovec will replace Dumpson as president until a special election can be held, according to the statements released by SG. The three remaining members of the SG executive board -- vice president Solomon Self, secretary Kris Schneider and comptroller Machovec -- responded to Dumpson’s resignation in their own statement.
“We support Taylor’s decision to step down, and we thank her for her service to the student body over the past nine months,” the board wrote. “Our top priority as the executive board at this time of unexpected transition is to continue to work for the student body as we have throughout our terms.”
Dumpson, who was elected AU’s first black female SG president in March 2017, gained national media attention in May when bananas were found hanging from string tied like nooses outside campus buildings. This happened on her first day in office. Several of the bananas had the words “Harambe” and “AKA” written on them, referencing Dumpson and her historically African-American sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated.
Dumpson was suspended from the group's AU chapter on Dec. 13, Leona Dotson, the sorority's spokeswoman, told The Eagle in an email Friday night. The organization made this decision after completing an "internal investigation" and Dumpson is suspended until Dec. 31, 2018, Dotson said.
A second member, Kesa White, was also suspended from the chapter, effective the same time as Dumpson, according to an online database maintained by AKA.
In the wake of the racist act in May and the media frenzy that followed, Dumpson became the de facto face of the University’s response, earning profiles in the Washington Post and ESPN. As she led a town hall in May, Dumpson promised to address concerns about safety on campus and complaints about the lack of spaces for students of color. The multicultural space on the third floor of the Mary Graydon Center, which opened in November, was the culmination of Dumpson’s efforts.
The May incident was not the last time Dumpson was forced to address racism as president. In September, Confederate flag posters with cotton attached to them were hung in academic buildings, prompting a rally led by Dumpson. Her executive board also expressed outrage when anti-immigration posters were found on campus earlier this week, calling the posters “inconsistent with values we hold as a university.”
Prior to her election as SG president, Dumpson led the Intercultural Greek Collective, a group that represents the interests of eight multicultural Greek organizations on campus -- including Dumpson’s sorority.
The Student Government Constitution mandates that a special election take place within 30 days of a vacancy of the SG presidency. The matter is being referred to the SG Elections Commissioner, who will schedule a special election in late February, according to the statement from the executive board.
Machovec was temporarily suspended from SG in December when she failed to properly update the organization’s budget information on its website. She was reinstated by the start of the spring semester and therefore can take over Dumpson’s role, Schneider told The Eagle.
Students react to Dumpson’s resignation
Former AUSG President Devontae Torriente said that Dumpson’s resignation is “unfortunate” and that the priority right now is to focus on what comes next.
“I think they have a loss of a valuable leader,” Torriente said. “The work lives on, the institution is going to continue, but again they lost a really important asset and a leader in the organization."
As for what Dumpson was able to accomplish, he said Dumpson was “inspirational and transformative.”
“Taylor as a person, as a leader and as SG president, was able to get people to think about issues differently, to get people to think about institutional change differently,” Torriente said.
Students told The Eagle Friday they were surprised by Dumpson’s resignation.
“She’s a very accomplished person. That’s why she was elected president,” Joseph Cosgrave, a senior in the School of Communication, said. “As a fellow senior, I know everyone’s got a lot on their mind, so I completely understand if she just needs to take a break.”
Neah Gray, a sophomore in the School of Communication, told The Eagle that she hopes Dumpson will get “all the support she needs.” Gray was a freshman when she reported that a banana was left at her dorm room door. The incident sparked racial tensions in September 2016.
“I think that we should never judge someone’s situation or decision to put their mental health first,” Gray said.
This story has been updated throughout.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the statements were not emailed to students and that a special election will take place within 30 days of a vacancy, not 20.