Correction: The original version of this article misstated Brian Fu's title.
In a statement to the student body on Saturday, American University Student Government president Nikola Jok announced his resignation from the position in order to focus on his mental health.
The announcement follows a week of mostly anonymous online allegations against his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, among others. The allegations have resulted in growing support for the abolition of social fraternities and sororities.
In his resignation letter, Jok said that he has disaffiliated from Sigma Phi Epsilon and that he believes he is not the best leader to represent AU’s student body.
“Although I have not committed any acts of sexual harassment or assault myself, I have been complicit by remaining ignorant to the actions of those surrounding me,” Jok’s statement said.
In the statement, Jok also criticized AU’s Title IX Office for failing “students time and time again,” after students voiced their concerns on social media with the office’s handling of sexual misconduct cases.
In addition to mentioning misconduct allegations in his statement, Jok said that peoples’ mental health, especially members of the Black community, should be prioritized at this time.
“As a Black man, I cannot even go jogging down the street without fearing for my life,” Jok wrote. “More needs to be done for the Black community, particularly Black women, in the spaces we call home.”
Jok did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brian Fu, the inspector of SG, said that comptroller Justin Levine is next in line for the position. According to Fu, Levine will hold both positions for the next 30 days, or until a special election can be held to elect a new president.
“I respect Nik’s decision for resigning,” said Mulan Burgess, speaker of the Undergraduate Senate. “When the new election is held, I hope students will rally behind whoever is elected, but we need to have a serious conversation with whoever runs about what race, diversity and equity looks like at AU.”
Burgess also advocated for reforming the Title IX process, saying that he has had personal experiences with misconduct and abuse that have been ignored by AU’s system.
“There needs to be reform in SG,” Burgess said. “Hopefully whoever runs will be able to usher in that reform. I want students to know that we’re doing our best to effectively advocate, and we’ll still do the work we set out to do for the summer.”
The only recent example of an SG president resigning occurred in 2018, when then-president Taylor Dumpson, who was the first Black woman to hold the position, stepped down. Months before, a racist hate crime targeted her and her sorority at the beginning of her term.
Fu said that he believes Jok’s term was the shortest of any president in SG history, as he only took office at the beginning of June. Jok’s transition as president was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Fu said in an earlier interview.
During the spring SG campaign, Jok’s fraternity came under attack by presidential candidate Eric Brock, who claimed in a tweet that Sigma Phi Epsilon has “a history of getting Title IX complaints and covering up for their members during AU investigations,” The Eagle previously reported.
While Jok was not named in the tweet, he was the only candidate running for president who was a member of the fraternity.
Sigma Phi Epsilon did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
American University did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Students have expressed their concerns regarding the culture of Greek life and its implications, in addition to Jok’s resignation.
“I think that [resigning] is a noble thing for him to do and the right choice with the climate at the moment. However, I would hope that if he is able to disaffiliate from student government, he can do the same for his fraternity. Also, I do not think a member of Greek life should be the head of student government.” Sarah Miller, a rising sophomore, said.
David Leshchiner, also a rising sophomore, is somewhat less focused on student government.
“I care about ending abuse and rape culture at AU, and I think that Jok’s resignation is evidence that those who are complicit with sexual assault will face consequences. This is a step towards a safer AU,” Leshchiner said. “Basically, I’m happy that sexual abusers and bystanders to abusers have to reckon with their actions, and that the arc of justice is finally going somewhere, but I’m not too worried that AU student government is a complete mess right now.”
For some, there is an even broader range of concerns.
“I chose AU because I wanted an environment where I could learn and be empowered by my classmates,” said Isha Merchant, an incoming freshman, after voicing concerns about whether or not Jok’s statement possessed any true remorse. “As a bisexual woman of color, I don’t feel safe. I don’t know if change will happen, and we need people who are ready to punish frats and sororities for their actions. Greek life is a system that just encourages this kind of behavior.”
This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
This story has been updated since it was first published with reactions from students.