Change.org Petition to Remove Junior Class President

Junior+class+president+Sam+Philips

Junior class president Sam Philips

By Luca Hatzopoulos, Managing and Social Media Editor

Recently a Change.org petition was started to remove Junior Class President Samuel Philips. The petition’s author, junior Jake Pranian, alleges that Philips expressed racism, homophobia and misogyny on his personal TikTok account when he posted about his religious beliefs against homosexuality and abortion.

“Creating this petition was a way to show what was said online negatively affects a large amount of students (The black and LGBTQ+ community),” Pranian said. “If the staff in power claims that they honor diversity, equity, and inclusion, they need to walk the walk and talk the talk. They have gotten away with their performative activism for long enough. And as a Gay student, this makes me discouraged and ignored. If a Student Leader who represents a large group of individuals, they need to show up to all their grade, not just a select amount.”

As of Oct. 9, the petition accumulated 740 signatures from current students and alumni, many of whom are not members of the junior class. Petition signers have expressed varied opinions on the matter in the petition’s comments.

Philips, who ran unopposed this year, has been class president since freshman year of high school.

“I feel disheartened that people at my own school don’t respect others’ views and they can’t accept people who have a difference of opinion,” Philips said. “To the people who are hating against me, I have to say, shame on you. Shame on you for harassing people to change their views, shame on you for saying the nastiest things about me, shame on you for not being able to respect other people’s opinions no matter how it differs from yours. I just hope in the future people can be more mature and accept that not everyone thinks like you.”

According to senior Max Kleeberg, students should be able to express their opinions on social media.

“I think that it’s a petition that aims to silence a student who is just sharing his opinion. From my understanding of where these quotes came from, it wasn’t something that he said publicly but rather something you actively had to find,” Kleeberg said.  “I think that looking at what he said from those quotes regardless of whether or not the data backs up his claims, there is nothing extreme or offensive about what he said.”

According to junior Ibrahem Abdulla, a class representative should be inclusive to all types of people.

“What makes Niles West so special is that it’s filled with many different groups of people and is so diverse. So the person who should represent all these various groups shouldn’t be someone who says harmful things about those communities. No one is saying that Sam isn’t allowed to have his own opinions, he is, but to take a leadership role means he represents our entire grade, making students feel uncomfortable,” Abdulla said.

According to the Niles West Student Government Constitution Article 8, Section 2, “The Executive Board has the power, with the consent of the Student Government advisor and the Director of Student Activities, to dismiss any Student Government member on the following grounds:

  1. Failure to maintain minimum requirements for officer
  2. Continuous neglect of duties
  3. Failure to maintain eligibility according to the Code of Conduct
  4. Withdrawal at the member’s request
  5. Officers may be removed for unsatisfactory conduct at the request of the Student Government advisor or the Director of Student Activities.”

Since Philips did not directly target or address Niles West in the TikTok nor the comments, there are not currently grounds for his removal. His right to express his opinion is also protected under the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which also protects Pranian’s right to petition.

“I feel the petition against me is meaningless. It does nothing,” Philips said.

The Student Government Constitution also states, “A motion to remove a Student Government member may be made by another member who has secured a petition with the signature of one-third (1/3) of all Student Government Members.”

Philips does not intend to resign amid the controversy.

“As President of the Junior Class, I will not be resigning because I have done a good job as class President and will be staying as long as the people elect me,” Philips said.

According to Pranian, his intention was to bring awareness to the student body and school about what Philips publicly said on social media.

“Before all of this, I approached the school about this situation. They responded with empathy and that they would ‘investigate’. This left me with hope that they would take immediate action to what has occurred. However, that was not the case. While there was some noise and concern about these events, it was not enough. That’s why I created the petition. I had no other option,” Pranian said. “That’s why why I took matters into my own hands. I felt as if they (the school) didn’t truly listen. And to clarify, I did not make this petition to bully, harass, or humiliate Sam.”

Niles West Principal Dr. Karen Ritter said she cannot comment at this time.