‘He doesn’t represent me’: Student body president under fire after deleted TikTok resurfaces

The TikTok features Student Body President Maxwell Simonson making a joke using an Asian stereotype.


Screenshot from Student Body President Maxwell Simonson’s deleted TikTok.

Kendall Little, Managing Editor

Near the end of what would eventually become a successful campaign to become student body president, then-candidate Maxwell Simonson’s TikTok account became a topic of conversation.

Seven months later, students feel that one specific video Simonson posted has shaken their confidence in him.

On Feb. 19, four days before the election, the Elections Board — which oversees all student government elections at the university received an email from a student that contained a TikTok of Simonson.

The video depicted Simonson taking a dog out of a refrigerator with the caption reading, “when your Chinese friend forgets his leftovers at your house.”

After Simonson ran unopposed and won the SG presidential election, the deleted TikTok resurfaced when a student sent it to the UP. 

“The advisers and I talked about it and it never became an issue. I’m Mexican and my friend from Beijing did the same thing as a joke and nothing came from it. The posts have been long deleted and we moved on from it,” Simonson told the UP via text message.

Members of the Asian Student Union (ASU) feel that the video shows Simonson’s character, whether or not he made it prior to his election. They said they do not feel represented as a minority group under his leadership.

“He’s in a position of leadership where he’s supposed to be holding an example for all the students, so I feel he should apologize for making this video. It was insensitive at the very least,” ASU President Victor Lopez said.

Donald Van Pelt, the university’s director of student activities and involvement, met with Simonson on Feb. 22 to discuss the video and how it could be interpreted by the student body. 

“Maxwell understood the concern and cultural insensitivity surrounding the video. The video has since been removed, we also discussed the role of SG president and how his actions will now be under a microscope amongst other things,” Van Pelt wrote in an email sent to the student who made him aware of the video. Van Pelt did not disclose the identity of the student.

Pierce Eckelman, who was the supervisor of elections last February and graduated last spring, did not respond to repeated requests for comment by publication time. Eckelman’s job was to ensure SG elections ran fairly.

Though Simonson deleted the video prior to his election, ASU Social Media and Public Relations Chair Nya Craig is not quite satisfied.

“You expect to feel well represented as a student. We are supposed to be one of the most diverse schools in the country, yet what good does that do if we aren’t all represented?” Craig said. “[Simonson] doesn’t represent me.”

Van Pelt said that Simonson did not intend for the video to hurt others. “He may have deleted it after we had our discussion because he didn’t want any students to be hurt by his posts,” he said.

Craig is concerned that Simonson has opened a gateway for more people to use the stereotype

“Asians are constantly being stereotyped. If the FAU student body president says it’s okay to do, then others will follow,” she said. “How do we know he won’t do this again?”

ASU Vice President Isaac Thomas was at a loss for words after viewing the TikTok but after gathering his thoughts, had only one thing to say.

“This is pretty atrocious. This is racist, it’s cruelty to animals, and also if someone has these views, I don’t think they’re representing the student body,” he said.

ASU Secretary Catherine Valencia believes Simonson made the TikTok with no regard for how it may affect others.

“To actually post a video and put it out there is very disrespectful to Asians as a whole,” she said. “I think that he finds it funny, but it’s not. He has no idea how that may affect some people.”

Members of the ASU Executive Board all want the same thing from Simonson: an apology to the student body.

“I’m glad he took it down and I just hope he apologizes,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that the video makes him hesitant to get involved with Student Government at FAU.

“If I was working with the student body president, I’d feel like my voice wouldn’t be as big of an impact given his views on Asian people,” he said. “I will probably never want to work under the student body government if it’s under his leadership because I wouldn’t feel comfortable, nor would I have any high expectations for my voice to be heard.”

Simonson told the UP that the video looked insensitive and that he and his friend didn’t intend it to be.

“We understood people might not understand the background about it and we apologized and deleted it. It looked insensitive and we were and are apologetic. It wasn’t up for long and it was deleted shortly after,” Simonson said.

Simonson has not responded to requests from the UP for further comment as of Sept. 28.

“It just shows the type of person he is [and] what he thinks is funny or not. His character still kinda shows who he is based on that video,” Lopez said. “It just makes me understand who we have as our student body president.”

Kendall Little is the Managing Editor for the University Press. For more information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @klittlewrites.