Harassment allegations surface during SGA speaker of the senate deliberations


Nithin Reddy Nagapur

Senator John Kirk is sworn in as Speaker of the Senate on April 27, 2022.

Following accusations of harassment towards women by a fellow SGA senator, John Kirk, at-large senator, was elected the next speaker of the student senate at the April 27 SGA meeting. 

At-large Senator Jacob Unruh shared the allegations during the debate portion of the meeting. He claimed that multiple women spoke to him about uncomfortable moments with Senator Kirk.

When The Sunflower asked him about the claims, Senator Kirk declined to comment.

Multiple senators spoke in Kirk’s defense after the allegations, most sharing positive experiences they had working with Kirk. 

Senator Jay Thompson said that Kirk is a kind and compassionate person. 

“He advocates for every person he meets, every underrepresented group that I’ve ever tried to work to create new systems for on campus; he’s always been a major supporter of that,” Thompson said. 

After many senators shared concerns about lack of proof, Unruh said he did not feel comfortable sharing the evidence.

“Because the people in question … do not feel comfortable at this time making themselves not anonymous with this situation it would require putting those people out there and having their story to tell,” Unruh said. “I was merely reporting what I learned talking to my constituents, which is my job as a senator.”

Several senators spoke about the importance of these claims, and why it’s important to handle them in the proper way.

“I am an avid supporter of women’s rights to feel comfortable in every situation. Kirk has never made me feel uncomfortable in any situation,” Adriana Owens, at-large senator,  said. “Going about these allegations in the right way is very important … So we can see these and make sure that they are handled properly.”

LAS Senator Victoria Owens said that while she was unsure about the allegations, she felt it was important to bring into consideration when selecting a speaker. 

“There is obviously no proof to these allegations, however allegations like these should be handled seriously and not just brushed aside,” Owens said. “Something that we should all consider and take into heart that this is an issue and if we are questioning whether or not we can trust a senator … I’d like to make sure that our constituents are as safe as possible and we in this room feel as safe as possible.”

Kirk won 30 votes out of 35. Hunter Minette also ran for the speaker position.

The speaker of the senate serves as the presiding officer of the senate and head of the legislative branch and serves in the line of succession to the office of the presidency. The speaker also appoints senators, which is new to this session.