The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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SBP candidate faces criticism over resurfaced Instagram post


On Feb. 19 at 4:45 p.m., TAMU Anti-Racism posted a screenshot of a deleted instagram post from Student Body President Candidate Ben Johnson.

UPDATE: A more complete screenshot obtained by The Battalion shows the date of Johnson’s Instagram post as Jan. 20, 2013.
UPDATE: This article now includes statements from both TAMU Anti-Racism and Ben Johnson.
A derogatory Instagram post from 2013 made by Student Body President candidate Ben Johnson resurfaced on Facebook Monday evening.
Johnson, who said he was a high school student at the time, posted a picture on Instagram of a damaged vehicle with derogatory hashtags about Asian-Americans on Jan. 20, 2013. Student activist group TAMU Anti-Racism posted a screenshot of the Instagram post Monday evening, along with a statement discouraging students from voting for Johnson. TAMU Anti-Racism said Johnson’s post remained on his Instagram page for nearly five years before being deleted in January 2018.
Johnson responded on Facebook with a statement verifying that he had made the Instagram post and issuing an apology. TAMU Anti-Racism replied to Johnson’s response, stating that Johnson’s apology was inadequate. The post has been shared by Texas A&M’s Council for Minority Student Affairs, the A&M Collegiate Chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens and Hunter Irion, director of outreach for the Texas A&M Asian Presidents’ Council. Johnson replied to each page with his original apology message.
In a group statement made by TAMU Anti-Racism, the group said they shared the post to alert the A&M student body as to why they believe Johnson is not the right choice for SBP.
“This is information that must be shared widely with the Aggie family. Students need to be able to make an informed decision this week on who they think is the best fit to serve as the representative for the entire student body. Clearly, Ben Johnson is the wrong choice, as his words and lack of transparency go against several of our Aggie core values,” the group said.
In an emailed statement, Johnson apologized for the post and said the comments made are not a reflection of his current character.
“I am deeply ashamed of the hurtful words and apologize to the Asian-American community, as well as all those who have seen the post and photo of my wrecked car. Personal growth and life experiences over the last five years have shown me how untrue and unfair stereotypes are. Looking back, I am saddened by the comments. I was young, extremely uneducated and did not have the maturity or self-discipline at the time to properly handle an emotionally fueled situation,” Johnson wrote.
TAMU Anti-Racism said that regardless of when the post was made, A&M students and candidates for student body president should be held to a higher standard.
“It’s reprehensible and not a comment fitting of an Aggie, much less a candidate for Student Body President,” the group said. “If an employer found this type of post, this is definitively without question the type of post that would cause you to lose a job or be fired,” the group said. “Why are we going to support him for Student Body President? Shouldn’t he be held to a higher standard if he’s going to represent students at this university?”
Johnson has served in the Texas A&M Student Senate as a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences senator and as Rules and Regulations chair for the 70th Student Senate session. Jasmine Wang, speaker of the Student Senate, responded to the content of the resurfaced post Monday night.
“In the context of Student Senate, it is both a responsibility and expectation that officers are held to a higher standard and are expected to respect all constituents and honor the office to which they serve,” Wang said. “These comments are both disappointing and distasteful and as rules and regulations chair, Ben Johnson works as my left hand in all student senate operations. He is well aware that I am the first Asian-American and Asian-American female to serve as speaker of the student senate and the comments were personally hurtful to myself and also disrespectful to the Asian community here at Texas A&M. This also reflects poorly upon the Student Senate because it’s both inappropriate and unacceptable.”
Wang said the Student Senate has not examined Johnson’s social media history to determine if any similar posts exist.
Johnson said he plans to move forward with his campaign and uphold his commitment to a diverse environment at Texas A&M.
“The post does not represent who I am today,” Johnson said. “When brought to my attention, I deleted the post. We all have made mistakes. This one is mine. I am accountable, even five years later and for that I offer my sincerest apology. The lesson is a hard one. The only thing that I can do today is offer my apology and assure everyone that I have learned from the mistake. The Aggie experience helps build us as people. I believe diversity and inclusion make us stronger. What each of us do and say going forward can make Aggieland a better and more inclusive place. Let’s build together and move forward.”

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