Social media post throws MCSG executive elections into turmoil


Campaign posters hanging in The Link. Photo by Celia Johnson ’22.

Abe Asher, Managing Editor

A post on an anonymously-run Instagram account threw the MCSG presidential election into turmoil earlier this week — causing one leading candidate to drop out of the race and sparking new questions about the power of social media to affect campus life.

On the evening of Sunday, Feb. 16, the Macalester Memes Instagram account posted a picture of a sign promoting the presidential candidacy of Joe Bentley ’21 with a caption that began “not a meme but something equally important.”

What followed were serious allegations against Bentley and vice-presidential candidate Robert Green ’23, as well as a threat that any Macalester students who support their candidacies “won’t be any better than the conservatives you shit on.”

A number of people, both Macalester students and friends of Bentley and Green outside the Macalester community, left comments on the post lambasting the anonymous nature of the allegations and the account for broadcasting them.

By Monday afternoon, the account had been deleted — but the damage was done.

The voting period for the MCSG executive board elections was supposed to begin on Monday morning and run through Friday morning. Instead, MCSG’s Election Procedures Commission (EPC) postponed the start of the voting.

MCSG did not make any official announcement regarding its decision. However, MCSG President Blair Cha ’20 posted to her Instagram story that there was a postponement due to “circumstances,” and that she was in communication with the EPC, the executive board, Associate Dean of Students Andrew Wells and other interested parties.

“The EPC decided to postpone the elections in order for the Executive Board to discuss the implications of an Instagram post,” members of the EPC wrote in a statement to The Mac Weekly. “Following the Executive Board meeting we decided to continue with the election one day late.”

Meanwhile, discussion about the post and its fallout continued to circulate on social media channels throughout the day.

Then, around midnight, Bentley released a statement via his Instagram story announcing that he was dropping out of the race.

“Although I was deeply hurt by these accusations I don’t expect anyone to view me as a victim, nor do I place the blame on people who believed or circulated the post,” Bentley wrote. “My motivation for entering the race in the first place was to confront the mental health crisis at Macalester… I think this incident is a potential example of how mental health can be erased.

“To emphasize that this is my authentic truth and not some campaign strategy, I would like to withdraw my bid for class president,” he continued. “I know that Fatiya [Kedir ’21] will take good care of this student body and continue to work for a better Macalester.”

When the election ballot was sent out to the student body on Tuesday morning, Bentley’s name did not appear on it. That means that Kedir, the current Vice President and Student Services and Relations Committee (SSRC) Chair, is the only candidate on the ballot for president.

Green, meanwhile, posted a statement to his Facebook page reading, in part, “I am deeply saddened that a community I much love and cherish could post a situation of this caliber to social media. I look forward to having a conversation with the stakeholders of last night’s post.”

Green’s only opposition in the race for Vice President and SSRC Chair is write-in candidate Diana Paz ’21, who publicly launched her campaign on Sunday morning — before the Instagram post on Sunday night.

Instead of closing on Friday morning, as was originally planned, the voting period will now extend through Saturday morning. The EPC still expects to release the results of the elections on Wednesday.

MCSG had initially planned to address the post and its fallout at their meeting on Tuesday night, but, less than an hour before the start of their meeting, decided not to address it at all and instead focus their discussion on mental health at the college.

In a statement provided to The Mac Weekly on Tuesday night, Bentley wrote that he chose to withdraw from the race “due to the culture at Macalester that has allowed this baseless rumor to proliferate.”

“I wish to distance myself from that narrative,” he wrote.

Kedir, for her part, wrote in a statement to The Mac Weekly that the anonymous allegations “are harming everyone involved.”

She also expressed her interest in working with Bentley to establish a committee to address mental health issues on campus.

“Although I am frustrated, overwhelmed, and thinking about others during this time, I hope that members of Macalester see that if change is needed, it can be done,” she wrote. “If you think Macalester can be better, please, please try to be part of this space… and realize that you can impact your community and others.”

Margaret Moran ’21 contributed reporting to this article.