Content Warning: This article contains references to sexual assault.

Throughout the 2023 student government elections, candidates found themselves and their campaigns as topics of debate on Fizz, a social media app where members of the Emory University community can anonymously publish text posts, polls and photos. The student government association (SGA) presidential election garnered the most attention.

“Stfu nobody cares about [Title IX] or [sexual assault] like you’re annoying asf,” the user wrote. “It’s not a real problem. College females in the US are the most [privileged] people on earth. Enough.”

After they uploaded the message on Fizz, other unnamed users were quick to respond. 

One respondent posted, “go f*** yourself,” while another respondent told the original user that their message “shows how misogynistic you are. literal piece of trash i feel so bad for your mom.”

The messages were among a slew of Fizz posts that followed the 11th annual Wheel Debates on Feb. 22 and largely criticized SGA presidential candidates Khegan Meyers (24B) and MaKenzie Jones (22Ox, 24C). Meyers ultimately won the SGA presidential runoff election on March 3, beating Jones by 11 votes.

(Ha-tien Nguyen/Podcast Editor)

‘What he said is WRONG and DISGUSTING’

Users critiqued Meyers on Fizz for a comment he made about Title IX in response to Jones, who told the crowd that Title IX is “practically in tatters.”

Jones explained that they want to look into why there is a high turnover rate among faculty in the Title IX office, as well as address why the “burden” to change classes and living situations falls on survivors if they want to avoid crossing paths with their assaulter.

“We have to be really careful about our language as SGA, making sure that survivors don’t feel uncomfortable reaching out to Title IX because they are a bevy of support resources that are available to them through the Office of Respect,” Meyers responded. “We’ve been very careful to make sure we don’t phrase things like ‘Title IX is broken’ because we really want to make sure that we are addressing those concerns and making sure that survivors reach out.”

Meyers went on to explain that he recognizes there are “flaws” in Title IX and wants to center the voices of activists putting in the work to address complaints with Title IX.

For the next couple of days, anonymous users flooded Fizz with posts about Meyers’ comment, some of which accused him of “mansplaining” that Jones was “wrong about Title IX.” Others also called the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity — of which Meyers is the president — an “incel” organization. 

“What he said is WRONG and DISGUSTING,” one user wrote. “ATO should be ashamed.” Another wrote that Meyers “should know that things that u say come to haunt you.”

However, Meyers defended his words, saying that he was not trying to condemn Jones, but rather avoid portraying Title IX in a strictly negative light, because doing so could discourage survivors from reporting their assault and force them to “process their trauma alone,” Meyers said. He briefly posted a letter on Fizz to clarify what he meant in the debate, but later deleted it because he did not believe it positively contributed to the conversation, according to Meyers.

Jones said they initially felt invalidated by Meyers’ comment during the debates, noting that they have experienced sexual assault as a feminine-presenting person.

“I’m of the firm belief that Title IX is an office that is made to protect universities, and it has not demonstrated substantial help to survivors,” Jones said. “Just to be told that I should talk about it a certain way, it just … made me sad in the moment just because it felt empowering for me to speak about it the way I did.”

However, Jones said they have since recognized that Meyers did not intend to invalidate them, noting that Meyers apologized to them after the debate. They added that Fizz users’ accusations against Meyers were “absolutely out of line.”

Meyers also noted that he did not always plan to discourage people from calling Title IX “broken,” as he made the same claims against the office in his original platform before campaigning and the Wheel debates.

However, Meyers decided to change his wording early in his campaign and before the Wheel Debates after discussing the situation with Amanda Wendler (25C), who has become a leading voice against sexual assault on campus after organizing the Stand with Survivors rally last semester.

“Inflammatory and accusatory language, like saying the office is broken, discourages students from having any trust or faith in that office,” Wendler told the Wheel. “Someone who has a platform like an SGA president can help instill confidence in the student body for an office that really can help them, not to say that it always will.”

Jones, however, said they are hesitant to recommend Title IX, and instead believes resources like the Office of Respect are better options for survivors. They said engaging in the Title IX office can be a “very, very traumatizing thing.”

“I have heard stories of people trying to reach out and trying to make appointments and they get canceled on and they’ll close their case without ever even speaking to them,” Jones said. “I hesitate to put someone through that process until we fix it and until it is a good space, a safe space, for survivors to go to.”

Meyers added that Title IX is federally regulated, and therefore cannot always be on the side of the survivors.

“They have to act as lawyers,” Meyers said. “Even though they want to believe survivors, they’re legally not allowed to. Therefore, Title IX is not always the best resource to go to, and there are significant flaws in it.”

Although Wendler said that she is a “victim” of the Title IX system and did not receive the help she needed after reporting assault, she told the Wheel that she has seen “massive” changes on campus, such as quicker timelines for wrapping up cases.

“I wish every student could be in the rooms that I’m in with those offices, because since getting to know these people, I have so much faith and so much trust that they want what is best for every Emory student, and they are doing everything they can to work through an incredibly flawed system,” Wendler said.

Another user posted a screenshot of a transcript with Meyers’ full comment from the debates, prompting some users to come to his defense. Meyers said this helped some people understand the message he was trying to convey.

“He completely acknowledged that [sexual assault] happens and agreed that the victim should always be protected,” one user wrote. “What is wrong with you guys.”

Another user expressed that “99% of the people talking s*** on here don’t actually know what [the candidates] said/did. Stop spreading misinformation, be an adult.”

Wendler agreed, saying it is unfair to only read and discuss one line out of Meyers’ full answer, especially when doing so can affect the results of an SGA election that impacts the full student body.

“If students care as much about Title IX and sexual assault advocacy as they say they do, it would be beneficial for everyone to do that research before spreading a narrative that might not be entirely true,” Wendler said.

‘If [MaKenzie] was a guy I’d vote for her tbh’

Conversations about misogyny also arose amid the SGA discourse. One user wrote, “For the men who’ve had our voices oppressed since f****** feminism started in 1848. #whatcolorisyourbugatti” — a question social media personality and former professional kickboxer Andrew Tate popularized as a way to express one’s wealth. Tate rose to fame for his content, which many social media users have deemed misogynistic.

Another anonymous user wrote that the discourse surrounding Meyers “shows how f***** up guys are” because of Tate. 

These Fizz conversations included users saying they would not vote for Jones, claiming that “‘if [MaKenzie] was a guy I’d vote for her tbh.” However, Jones said that the most painful comments were not the ones explicitly saying not to vote for them, but rather a comment which read, “so we have an incel a do-nothing guy and a girl. Not great choices yall.”

Jones explained that it was hurtful to be characterized by their gender instead of their successes in SGA.

“[Meyers and Lubis] had characteristics attached to them, but I’m simply a girl,” Jones said. “That’s my only defining characteristic, and it really hurts that people can’t see beyond that.”

Meyers also condemned the users’ actions, saying he was disappointed that users took the controversy as an opportunity to “spread hate” and should instead seek “serious help.”

“We want people to direct themselves to educational resources,” Meyers said. “We want to say that you don’t have a place here at Emory if you’re spreading that hate and misogyny. … It’s not something that we identify with and we vehemently denounced in all aspects.”

Other users came to Jones’ defense, saying that “being a female is a state of existence” and asking why “people keep reducing [MaKenzie] to ‘the girl candidate’. Like you want change but don’t want it more than you want male president?”

Jones added that although they “somewhat” identify with the term “woman,” they also identify as nonbinary, adding another layer to the users’ comments.

“I’m constantly not technically being misgendered, but kind of, throughout this whole thing because people don’t recognize the fact that I am nonbinary,” Jones said. “Beyond all this, like, I’m not just a woman, I’m a person, I’m nonbinary, and now, also, I apparently have no worth outside of my perceived gender.”

Effects of anonymous platforms

The discourse surrounding the SGA presidential election sparked conversations about hate being spread on anonymous platforms, with Meyers expressing concerns that completely anonymous apps like Fizz can foster hate speech.

“Fizz should really explore seeing what option they have for hate speech and not letting it permit on the platform,” Meyers said. “That’s a really important move that other platforms have done.”

Jones agreed, noting that although they knew misogyny existed at Emory, they did not realize how prevalent it is until now.

“It’s really sad to see that discourse about Title IX brought in the kind of misogyny that it did,” Jones said. “It’s really hateful that people can hide behind an anonymous platform and they can say these things that they would never have the guts to say out loud.”

If you have experienced sexual assault at Emory University, Title IX resources can be found here and Office of Respect resources can be found here.

If you have experienced sexual assault and are outside of Emory, call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline at 800-656-4673 or visit the online chat hotline here. The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault can be found here. Grady Rape Crisis Center resources can be found here. Day League resources can be found here.

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Madi Olivier is from Highland Village, Texas, and is majoring in psychology and minoring in rhetoric, writing and information design. Outside of the Wheel, she is involved in psychology research and works for the Trevor Project. In her free time, you can find her trying not to fall while bouldering and watching Criminal Minds with her cat.