University of Michigan students react to controversy over hate-filled website directed at MSA president
University of Michigan students are backing their student body president today as Chris Armstrong is thrust into the national spotlight for a hate-filled blog directed at him.
Students also are calling on the Michigan Attorney General's Office to fire Andrew Shirvell, an assistant state attorney general and the author of the blog critical of Armstrong. Shirvell is banned from campus for his alleged actions, and Armstrong is currently seeking a restraining order against him.
The case drew national attention this week when CNN's Anderson Cooper interviewed Shirvell.
“I think it deserves every bit of national attention it got,” said Jason Konek, a U-M philosophy graduate student. “I don’t think (Shirvell) has a right to that post as a public servant.”
Konek, who attended a class earlier today, said “all the people in the room were talking about it.”
“I don’t want my tax dollars employing a bigot,” Konek said. “I’m just outraged. ”
Armstrong is U-M's first openly gay student body president, and Shirvell has accused him of pushing "a radical homosexual agenda." On his blog, Shirvell calls Armstrong “Satan’s representative on the student assembly” and a “privileged pervert.”
“I think it’s really unprofessional to attack someone like that,” said Dibella Wdzenczny, a U-M alumnus and Eastern Michigan University linguistics graduate student. “I think it’s really unprofessional of the assistant attorney general.”
Wdzenczny added, “It just seems so out of the realm of what (Shirvell) should be doing.”
A Facebook page in support of Chris Armstrong has been established, and as of 3:25 p.m. today, it had nearly 3,900 members. The description of the group says, "The university community stands by Chris Armstrong and his work on behalf of all Michigan students. As the university's elected Board of Regents said publicly at the Sept. 16 meeting, 'When one member of our community is targeted, we are all attacked.'"
“I know a lot of people on campus who don’t feel safe,” said Josh LeVasseur, a U-M political science senior. “As someone who is friends with Chris on Facebook ... I could be subject to (Shirvell’s) unwarranted attacks.”
When asked whether he thought Armstrong would be granted a restraining order against Shirvell, LeVasseur said, “There’s no judge in the world who wouldn’t give him a restraining order.”
“It just shows how much we need anti-bullying legislation in the state, and hate crime legislation,” he said.
Yesenia Harrison, U-M political science sophomore, said Shirvell is “so uninformed” on Armstrong’s issues as student body president. Shirvell has attacked Armstrong for supporting gender neutral housing on campus.
“It’s so sad because we elected Chris, and we respect him so much,” Harrison said. “No one should have to go to school fearing that someone’s going to hurt them.”
“Gender neutral housing isn’t Christopher Armstrong’s thing, it was going on before he was elected ... He just supports it, it’s not his movement,” she said.
Heather Lockwood is a reporter for AnnArbor.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.