How UT’s Student Government can (and will) overcome the Thor Lund scandal

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Chelsea Purgahn

Ugeo Williams and Horacio Villarreal.

Andrew Wilson

Two weeks ago, UT-Austin made national headlines when the viral explosion of former Student Government President Thor Lund’s blog post created what I’ve coined the “Thor effect.” 

On the one hand, Lund’s misogyny incited rage among students and non-students alike. On the other hand, his post did more than offend readers with its misogyny. Lund's post also threatened to undermine the legitimacy of student governance on the 40 Acres. The “Thor effect,” it seems, is far-reaching. 

Each year, Student Government faces a barrage of criticism. Students scoff at campaign funding, mock farcical elections and quickly realize that most campaign promises will never be fulfilled, all leading to a deep sense of disenchantment on campus with the election process and student government as an institution. 

Lund entered office after a controversy, and now he exits starting a new one. Many comments on The Daily Texan article that first called attention to his blog connected his remarks to Student Government. Some users expressed disbelief that he was ever elected, while others pointed out that the man of the sexist blog post received a large tuition stipend as a perk of his former position. 

Even though Lund’s term ended last spring, he should have anticipated his continued connection with SG in the eyes of the public. According to Natalie Butler, a former Student Government president, even after a student leader has left office, “[He or she] need[s] to be aware that [he or she is] still associated with the University of Texas and Student Government,” and that their “actions will reflect on the institution.”

“In order to be an ethical leader, you have to have value congruence. When those values don’t meet up they can cause conflict in various levels,” said Dr. Smita Ruzicka, assistant dean of students and director of the Leadership and Ethics Institute.  “It is really important for each individual to understand that they have to live by their values of leadership and understand leadership isn’t positional.”

There’s no doubt that many incoming freshmen heard about the post from this news outlet and several others. For many of these freshmen, the hyped-up media last week was their first impression of Student Government, and it was by no means a good one. 

But freshmen are an integral component of student governance throughout the 40 Acres. In three years, one of them will be elected Student Government president. If these impressionable members of our student body associate the negligent comments of one student leader with our representative system as a whole, the reputation and integrity of our student governance are undermined. 

“We have a vibrant campus [that will yield] lots of different opinions,” Dr. Ruzicka. 

That diverse student population serves as a safeguard against the actions of one individual, in this case, one misguided Lund. 

Moreover, the response of current Student Government President Horacio Villarreal helped re-bolster the organization’s image. 

In a tactful Facebook post written last week, Villarreal addressed his fellow Longhorns, writing that his administration “will always strive to move our university in the right direction with the utmost respect for the thoughts, beliefs, and identities of each and every Longhorn on the Forty Acres.”

Lund wrote an offensive blog post. He marginalized women and other members of society. His words infuriated many and they discredited him as a leader. But if Villarreal’s administration upholds its promise, the “Thor effect” may only make a small dent in Student Government’s reputation. 

Wilson is a Plan II and history major from Canton. Follow Wilson @andrewwilson92.

A longer version of this article will be published in the Aug. 29 print edition of The Daily Texan.