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Friday, September 29, 2023

Everybody makes mistakes, but not everybody gets to be Student Body president. The way some people have responded (or not responded, if affiliated with Student Government) has been a disappointment. Let’s put the facts revealed by the arrest video out there, plain and clear: not only did Smith try to steal and damage multiple motorcycles, but he also appears to have punched a witness before running away and apparently also performed a poor carjacking attempt. Smith was trying to drive, and had Smith been able to get a vehicle running, he would have undoubtedly been a deadly threat to everyone around him and himself. Drunk driving is no joke and there is no shortage of personal tragedies out there to remind us of that. In Smith’s recorded words, however, “it’s not my fault.”

Smith had the choice to take responsibility for his actions by resigning, but refused to do so. Instead of taking the high road of accountability, he took the subterranean underpass of choosing to weather public outrage. I was honestly worried about him as a colleague and human being — until he sent in his letter to the editor. You don’t end an apology letter with “best,” you end it with “sincerely.” Empty platitudes, no remorse and nothing actually done to take responsibility for his actions are why I am outraged.

In response to the outrage, there have been a lot of questionable defenses such as “he’s just a kid.” That’s ridiculous. Take it from someone who’s actually still a teenager: People use that defense along with the “boys will be boys” line to justify things such as rape, as we saw in the case of Brock Turner. Worse, perhaps, is the “he’s a good kid” defense. That’s just like when newspapers published Brock Turner’s swim times. Being a “nice person” doesn’t mean you get a “get out of jail free” card sent to your villa every month.

Look, what Smith did wasn’t nearly the same magnitude as Brock Turner did, but there are too many privilege parallels to be ignored. Much like how Susan Webster rose to the defense of her friend who she has apparently known her “whole life” (did anyone else find that weird?), one of Brock Turner’s childhood friends rose to his defense with a similarly themed letter praising his character, wishing away the negative attention and worrying about his future. Oh, if only people of color could even dream of such a thing.

“That would have been so out of his character.”

Who said it? Susan Webster defending Smith Meyers or Leslie Rasmussen defending Brock Turner? If you can’t tell for sure, then you understand why I take issue with those rising to Smith’s defense. If you’re mad about Brock Turner, you should be mad about Smith Meyers. Different crimes, same defense: both are unacceptable.

Everybody makes mistakes ... but we can do better than this. We need our “kid” to grow up and resign.

Zachariah Chou

UF Student Senator (Infinity, Independent)

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