CLEMSON, S.C. --- On September 25, Jaren Stewart, the vice president of Clemson University's student government, was among a dozen students to sit for the Pledge of Allegiance at a student senate meeting.
The students chose to sit in protest of racial injustice on campus and across the nation, Stewart said.
A little over a month later, Stewart faces possible impeachment with a campaign to remove him from office fully underway.
"This is social lynching, in a way," Stewart said. "There’s a deeper systemic issue in which people are choosing what they want to hear, choosing what they want to believe exists and that’s why sitting for the pledge was so important."
Stewart, who is black and a junior at Clemson, said days after he sat for the Pledge of Allegiance, a photo of a Clemson University incident report involving himself was published online and became the basis of student senator Miller Hoffman's effort to call for an impeachment trial. He said allegations brought up during an effort to approve an impeachment trial against him are "not true" and the push to oust him is a reflection of racism on campus.
"This had come right after I had sat for the pledge," Stewart told the Anderson Independent Mail. "They’ve already made up their minds because of this trope of the villainous African-American male. Ultimately, this stems from implicit bias."
Hoffman, the student senator, alleged Stewart was fired from his position as a resident assistant, charged with trespassing and unlawful entry, and issued a no-contact order.
Stewart declined to comment on the charges, but said the matter was dealt with over the summer. He said he was suspended from his resident assistant position last year and reinstated after eight days. Stewart is not an RA this year.
"It's been completely resolved," Stewart said. "If any of the comments made were actually founded, I wouldn’t be the vice president. I would be removed from office."
Chris Miller, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said the university could not comment on the report's content, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
"We are not at liberty to have any conversations or discussions about any matters involving the Office of Community and Ethical Standards," Miller said.
Trespassing charges and no-contact orders, Miller said, could be handled through the Office of Community and Ethical Standards — and not necessarily through the campus police department — and would be protected by FERPA, unlike police reports.
The incident report, dated April 27, was written by a complainant who is a member of the student senate. A community director filed the complaint to Clemson's Office of Community and Ethical Standards.
Stewart confirmed it is an authentic document but said the claims are exaggerated. The report alleges Stewart, while working as an resident assistant, would spend time in the complainant's room without invitation and take items without permission.
"Upon entering the room, whether they were in the room or not, he would take food, cleaning supplies and their vacuum," the report said. "Similarly, there were times that he would enter their room after his Rugby matches and he would leave the room covered in sweat, dirt and grass."
Stewart's residence hall floor had an "open-door policy," he said, meaning they were all comfortable with dropping in unannounced to see one another or to borrow something.
"I did not step out of my realms of being an RA and being there for my residents," Stewart said. "It’s not true. I was literally — they lived right next door to me. I wouldn’t go out of my way to hurt someone that lives next door to me."
Hoffman made a motion Monday to introduce the articles of impeachment during the senate meeting and talked about why he wanted to move forward with a trial. He said the motion was solely a reflection of the incident report.
"I cannot stress enough how the situation has absolutely nothing to do with the flag protests or contain any racial motivation at all," Hoffman said on Monday. "Such a narrative is without evidence and completely untrue."
Miller Hoffman, a member of Clemson University's student senate, introduced the articles of impeachment on Monday, Oct. 23 in an effort to oust Jaren Stewart, the student government vice president. (Photo: Georgie Silvarole/Independent Mail)
An impeachment trial date been set for Nov. 6, said Leland Dunwoodie, Clemson's student senate president.
Stewart said he's not sure how it will play out, but hopes his peers will understand what he's been trying to communicate all along.
Stewart's impeachment will take place on Nov. 6 during an executive Senate session, The Tiger News reports.