A student government scandal
A look into sophomore class president Chris Montalvo's remarks and reactions from students
By Ariana Spinogatti
The Student Government Association and the Multicultural Student Leadership Council invited members of the community to come speak at its event, “Your Voice, Our Quinnipiac.” The event was hosted in the Carl Hansen Student Center Piazza. The event was scheduled for Monday Oct. 23 to promote the “My Culture is not a Costume” campaign before the start of Halloween weekend. At this open-mic event, students spoke about their personal experiences with diversity, racism and sexism.
Sophomore Class President Chris Montalvo took the stage that evening and said he was going to share his life story. However, Montalvo made remarks that he disagreed with the previous speakers and made statements that left viewers in shock. The overall theme of this speech was that he ignores racially biased individuals and believes students should be educated about various topics before speaking.
Joseph DeRosa, a senior who attended the event, said that after Montalvo spoke he generated a lot of resentment from the crowd.
“I think he made any student who may feel discriminated even more fearful,” DeRosa said. “We already go to a school that severley lacks in diversity. It doesn't bolster anyone's confidence in being who they are if the Class President expresses borderline discriminatory views.”
DeRosa said that Montalvo left shorty after he made his comments with a look of disappointment.
“I personally feel that his role assumes much more responsibility than normal, and he should have known better than to spark controversy,” he said. “He also should have stayed to hear the remaining stories the students shared. In my honest opinion, leaving early after saying what he said is quite cowardly.”
Senior Class Representative Ian Zeitlin drafted a petition to impeach Montalvo from The Student Government Association after expressing himself that evening.
On Oct. 25, SGA held its weekly general board meeting where students and other members of the executive committee could participate in an open forum to express their concerns. Students and faculty spoke both for and against Montalvo, but no conclusion was made on whether or not he would be impeached.
10 signatures are needed from current members on the executive board in order make the petition for an impeachment. An impeachment does not always mean an immediate removal from office. There will be a further investigation of Montalvo’s actions to determine a proper evaluation and punishment.
Junior Class President Jack Onofrio said that aside from an impeachment, SGA should censure Montalvo. This would show that student government is disapproving of his comments.
Camilo Lemos, a senior who attended the general board meeting, spoke out against Montalvo.
“I think it has brought up the issue that many students here at Quinnipiac are vastly uneducated in racial sensitivity and sociological education, and can feel free to make offensive comments simply because of their right to, rather than taking time to word things that creates discussion, while remaining inoffensive,” Lemos said.
In wake of the event, Montalvo gave out his personal phone number and email address and offered to speak one-on-one with anyone who was offended or wanted to have a deeper conversation.
Lemos said how he felt Montalvo handled the situation once he saw the impact his speech had on the student body.
“I’d like to preface this by saying I don’t know Chris Montalvo personally, so my comments are based upon what I saw and felt through the days after the speech,” he said. “I know that after I brought up to the SGA that his comments were offensive and that I believed that he should be removed from office, I was contacted by Chris Montalvo on my personal cellular phone asking if I would rather talk to him and instead work it out between him and I personally.”
Lemos said that he rejected Montalvo’s request and saw it as a way for Montalvo to avoid a public issue.
“I saw his wanting to meet with me privately as wholly based upon his reputation and position, rather than wanting to resolve the actual issue,” he said. “His comments on Wednesday during the SGA meeting, that he was sorry about the way people felt about his comments, indicate to me that he is not sorry about what he said, but rather that people wanted to remove his power because he said it. Most of what he said, that he was not a racist or a bigot and that he felt offended by my accusations of such.”
On Wednesday Nov. 15 SGA will have its weekly general board meeting where they will discuss the fate of Montalvo’s position in student government.
Montalvo spoke to us days after he gave out his personal contact information to see how he felt students have reacted to his jester and how he has changed since this event occurred.
What were your initial intentions before getting up on stage at the event?
“My initial intentions of speaking were to offer my story, and to try and show that it is unfair to rank one’s individual experiences because at the end of the day you don’t really know how that person felt.”
What do you think it was that you said in your speech that got students to react so strongly?
“I’m not quite sure exactly what it was that triggered certain students, but I do know that my words were unprepared, and often times when I go on tangents my word choice is boggled. I made the mistake of not preparing what I was going to say, and the affect that that made is evident.”
How have the responses been with members of the Quinnipiac community since giving out your contact information?
“Unfortunately, nobody has reached out to speak with me. That however, is my fault; I shouldn’t have expected them to do that. What I should’ve said is I will be reaching out to those I offended and see if they are open to a discussion. I am currently working with a member of SGA to try and set those meetings up.”
How do you feel you have changed or evolved since this event occurred?
“I now truly see the need to be prepared when speaking in a sensitive environment. Not being the best public speaker, this is something I need to work on, and will do in the future to avoid this from happening again.”
How did you react to the “impeachment" and “censoring” comments from SGA?
“While I believe there are no grounds to impeach me, I trust the process that is put in place to give our students a voice. I agree with the censure, as my words are my own and should not reflect the Student Government Association if they truly disagree with them.”