Student leaders to present demands to university next week tied to student body president; no petition planned

The day after Student Body President Maxwell Simonson crashed a meeting intended to decide how to hold him accountable for his controversial TikTok, the meeting planners met again in secret. Now, they have a plan.


Eston Parker III

Members of diverse student organizations met at S. E. Wimberly Library Thursday night to discuss how to hold the student body president accountable for his controversial TikTok.

Kendall Little, Managing Editor

Twenty-four hours after Student Body President Maxwell Simonson walked into a meeting uninvited to address his controversial TikTok, student groups met again to decide if they would petition for his removal. They won’t, for now.

In the since-deleted TikTok, Simonson makes a joke about Chinese people eating dogs. A student later sent the video to the Elections Board and Student Government Adviser Donald Van Pelt in February, which prompted a conversation with Simonson the day before his election.

After speaking with Van Pelt about how the student body could view the video as insensitive, Simonson deleted the TikTok.

Instead of petitioning for the student body president’s removal, student leaders plan to present a list of actions they believe will keep this from happening again.

The student leaders said that Simonson’s presence in the Wednesday meeting prevented them from speaking freely about his actions and how to hold him accountable – so they met again in private.

“He took over a meeting that was not his space,” FAU NOW Co-President Lillie Feller said.

On Thursday night, attendees came up with a plan to hold not only Simonson accountable, but also university officials.

Student leaders intend to send a list of demands to several university officials including:

  • Maxwell Simonson, student body president
  • John Kelly, university president 
  • Donald Van Pelt, student government adviser
  • Tikiya Henry, student government adviser
  • Audrey Pusey, assistant dean of students
  • Larry Faerman, acting vice president of student affairs

The organizations are still finalizing the demands but they plan to announce the list next week.

Meeting attendees included leaders from:

  • Alpha Psi Lambda
  • Asian Student Union (ASU)
  • National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
  • National Organization for Women (NOW)
  • Pakistani Student Association (PSA)
  • Students Demand Action (SDA)

Simonson spoke to students on Wednesday night about his TikTok and attempted to give an explanation for his actions.

The student body president says he comes from Mexican and Native American descent. He also stated that he and his advisers moved on from the TikTok eight months ago and that his status as a minority grants him an understanding of the stereotype he used.

“An apology then making excuses is not an apology, in my opinion,” SDA President Alisa Gonzalez said during the Thursday meeting, which took place in the S. E. Wimberly Library.

Other student leaders nodded their agreement before Gonzalez brought up the way Simonson presented himself on Wednesday. 

“The way he handled our questions showed a lack of professionalism and preparedness,” she said. 

Hannah Laguerre, president of FAU’s chapter of NAACP, felt the groups were too harsh on the student body president.

“People who mess up deserve a second chance,” she said. “We can hold someone accountable without being disrespectful. We don’t need to cancel him.”

Gonzalez cleared her throat before addressing Laguerre’s concern from across the library table.

“There’s a difference between canceling someone and holding them accountable,” Gonzalez said.

While it is unclear what the student leaders will do if their list of demands is not met, a petition for the student body president’s removal is not out of the question.

According to the student government constitution, if a petition for the student body president’s removal receives 10% of the student body’s signatures, approx. 3,000, the university will hold a vote. If the majority of the student body votes for Simonson’s removal, he will no longer be in office and the vice president will take over.

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.