ISG condemns Jeff Sessions visit, prompts response from Illini Republicans


Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Former U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, speaks during an event at Washington DC on Oct. 7, 2011. The ISG has denied the Illini Republicans request of having Sessions visit the campus.

By Ashley Gilbert and Lilli Bresnahan

The Illinois Student Government passed a resolution last Wednesday condemning the Illini Republicans for inviting former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak at an on-campus event on Tuesday.

The resolution said that allowing Sessions to speak on campus is a “slap in the face” from the University, especially considering the University’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion.

On Thursday, the Illini Republicans responded to the ISG in a statement where they condemned the ISG resolution, stating that it was “attacking” Sessions. 

Garrett Forrest, sophomore in LAS and one of the ISG resolution’s authors, said in Wednesday’s ISG senate meeting that Sessions is on the “wrong side of history” and is perpetuating policies, norms and social cleavages that harm people of color. 

“Throughout his career, Jeff Sessions has antagonized African Americans,” Forrest said. “In 1986, Mr. Sessions was denied a federal judgeship because he described organizations such as the NAACP and the ACLU as ‘un-American.’”

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The resolution also noted that Sessions called the Federal Voting Rights Act “a piece of intrusive legislation,” and has been criticized by several well-known Black individuals such as Coretta Scott King and Rep. Barbara Lee. 

According to Josh Small, sophomore in LAS and one of the authors of the resolution, this was not a political issue and the resolution was meant to acknowledge Sessions’ presence on campus as “uncomfortable.”

Forrest noted that Feb. 1 is the first day of Black History Month and that the University and the Illini Republicans should have taken Sessions’ previous statements into consideration when scheduling the event. 

“Many Black students and students of marginalized groups view hosting Sessions on campus as inappropriate and insensitive,” the resolution said. 

Because of this, the authors of the resolution hoped to have the event moved off-campus and outside the month of February. 

“I only ask that they acknowledge the discomfort felt by many students of color, and in light of that acknowledgement, move the event off campus,” Forrest said. 

The resolution also noted that Sessions made “sexually violent comments” in the past.

Additionally, the resolution claimed that Sessions’ security personnel could “pose risk to peaceful protesters,” highlighting the fact that Sessions had to be escorted off campus by armed security amid “a 150-person protest” when he was invited to speak at Northwestern University in November 2019.

In their statement, the Illini Republicans “emphasize the importance of fostering diverse political views on campus” and said that the RSO believes interacting with those of different views will allow for “maturity in a functional society.”

The statement said that the date of the event, the first day of Black History Month, was a coincidence and described it as “arbitrary and unrelated” to the event. 

“We believe that, like the University, the ISG should value freedom of speech and adopt a content-neutral approach to campus expression,” the Illini Republicans said in their statement. 

In their resolution, ISG stated that they respect the freedom of speech, but feel that they have a duty “to condemn insensitive and discriminatory statements, actions or the presence of any individual that promotes such behavior.”

The Illini Republicans will continue to host Sessions on campus on Tuesday.


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