Mint for Honi has announced they are withdrawing from the Honi Soit elections this week, via a post to their Facebook page.
The ticket seems to have fallen apart after a member, Georgette Bechara, appeared to endorse a queer-phobic comment that suggested homosexuality is a mental illness that should be prayed for this afternoon.
In a statement published around 10pm this evening, “MINT for Honi will withdraw from the Honi Election. We urge anyone whose mental wellbeing has been affected by today’s drama or anybody feeling frustration, anxiety and pain to call Lifeline on 13 11 14.”
The series of unfortunate events started when a Facebook user, who identifies as Bruce Parker, posted a screenshot of University of Sydney co-Queer Officer Will Edward’s account, with the caption: “So apparently this was 1 of the main thugs yesterday who was abusing the peaceful No voters at a Sydney university yesterday. Name and Shame”.
Bechara liked a comment on the post from a Facebook user who identifies as Faith Michael, which stated: “As a catholic I would prefer to pray for the mentally ill. Obviously this person has an unstable life. If he was to argue one on one, he could possibly have made a point. The fact that he needed 200 people shows that he is too feminine to fight and is suffering from short man syndrome. 200 people fighting a few isn’t heroic, it’s a fine example of cowards.”
“Well said Faith Michael,” Bechara replied to the comment.
“I’ve actually met this boy and spoken to him. They just need love and prayer,” she replied in a subsequent comment, referring to Edwards.
Mint for Honi responded to the situation earlier this evening with a statement on their campaign page: “We apologise to LGBTI+ students for any hurt caused by comments published by Georgette Bechara. These comments were made in a personal capacity and whilst we respect that they come from religious beliefs, we do not believe the relevant conversation embodied a place which was safe for genuine debate.”
The statement continued by assuring supporters that Bechara would “no longer participate in this election as a member of MINT,” and will be replaced pending an SRC motion should the team be elected.
However, Bechara fought back against suggestions that she would willingly step down from the ticket. In a statement published to the University of Sydney Conservative Society’s Facebook page, she wrote: “I understand that Mint for Honi do not wish to have me on their tickets… I will remain on the ballot, and reserve my decision regarding whether I shall be an editor for Honi, if duly elected, to a later time.”
The statement spurred the hashtag #IstandwithGeorgette from supporters.
Bechara’s belief that she could reserve the decision to resign as editor, should she be elected, demonstrates an ignorance of the SRC constitution. The relevant section stipulates an Honi team is able to remove an editor with two-thirds majority support within the team, and two-thirds majority support within the SRC Council.
Nonetheless, Mint for Honi member Michelle Picone announced she had withdrawn from the ticket, shortly after Bechara’s statement went live. Picone told Facebook friends, “I am deeply saddened and regret the homophobic comments that were said online by one of our ticket heads. I honestly had no knowledge or control over those opinions being expressed through social media. If I had any foresight, I would not have joined this ticket.”
Heat for Honi are the only ticket left in the race. However, at this stage in the campaign, it isn’t possible to remove Mint from the official electoral ballots, which have already gone to print. Consequently, Mint could be elected if enough punters cast a vote in their favour. If Mint have genuinely withdrawn from campaigning, without competition, it should be fairly easy for Heat’s campaigners to score a winning majority of votes.
Voting for this year’s SRC and Honi elections takes place 19 – 21 September.