This article directly references content that is potentially upsetting. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
The Georgetown University Graduate Student Government has initiated the process to impeach current Vice President Heerak Kim after the surfacing of tweets the organization deemed unacceptable.
GradGov received a complaint from a graduate student Jan. 18, which alerted the organization to a number of homophobic, antisemitic, Islamophobic and racist tweets posted to Kim’s public Twitter account, according to second-year graduate student in the School of Foreign Service and GradGov President Lewis May. The GradGov executive board then released a statement to the GradGov Senate on Feb. 1 unanimously condemning the tweets and calling for Kim’s impeachment.
The executive board attached to the statement a complete Excel sheet download of all of Kim’s tweets should the tweets be deleted or the account be made private. The statement also directly included several screenshots of posts from Kim’s Twitter account, such as the following Jan. 1 and Jan. 6 tweets.
“Will God give cancer to politicians at local, state, and federal levels who aggressively push gay marriage, trying to lead Americans away from Bible Ethics condemning gay marriage as evil? God can mutate any cell in human body to become cancerous. Choice,” a Jan 1. tweet read.
“What may happen if Iran attacks USA? Democrats and Republicans can be united in declaring War on Iran and putting Muslim Americans in concentration camps as they did during World War 2,” a Jan. 6 tweet read. “It is a good idea for Muslim Americans to invest in projecting the image of USA patriotism.”
While the GradGov Constitution does not explicitly stipulate what constitutes inappropriate conduct, Kim’s tweets stand in direct opposition to GradGov’s overarching mission of creating a safe and welcoming campus environment, according to May.
“This is not appropriate for a member of the board, and that this absolutely has the potential to undermine GradGov’s broader reputational integrity,” May said in an interview with The Hoya. “While we respect his freedom of speech as an individual, as a student leader, regardless of whether it’s on or off campus, this is a serious breach of conduct.”
Kim, a second-year master’s student in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, avoided repeated requests for a meeting to discuss his tweets during the week of Jan. 20, according to May. When Kim attended the Jan. 30 GradGov Senate meeting, May said he pulled Kim aside and confronted him with the allegations.
“I said, ‘You committed hate speech, and you’ve hurt and scared a lot of people in here, and you need to leave,’” May said. “‘I cannot have you in this senate meeting.’”
In response, Kim denied wrongdoing, claiming that none of his tweets qualified as hate speech, according to May.
On Jan. 31, Kim called for a public apology from May for his conduct at the meeting the day before in an email sent to the GradGov executive board. May’s conduct at the meeting was physically aggressive, shocking and humiliating, Kim wrote in the email obtained by The Hoya.
“When I arrived at the GradGov Meeting for January 2020, and walked to the podium area, and greeted you and shook your hand, you pushed me across the room and out of the room,” Kim wrote. “In the hallway, you spoke very loudly, even yelling at times, saying, ‘You engaged in hate speech!’, an accusation which I denied to you verbally. But you kept saying this over and over again loudly, in the hearing range of GradGov Senators.”
May blocked the entrance to the meeting room, not allowing Kim to enter the senate meeting, according to Kim.
“The fact that you tried to block a legitimately elected Vice President of Graduate Student Government (GradGov) from attending GradGov Senate Meeting is an unacceptable behavior,” Kim wrote. “Acting with physical aggression and verbal aggression are conducts that are not in keeping with what is expected of students at Georgetown University, let alone a GradGov President.”
Kim is referencing an instance in which May poked him in the chest, according to May.
“Apparently at one point in the conversation I, like, booped him in the chest, sort of for emphasis, and he was like, ‘Oh, you physically assaulted me,’ and then called for my resignation,” May said.
Shortly after Kim sent out his email, the GradGov executive board sent a letter to Kim requesting his resignation. The timing of the two events proves that May requested Kim’s resignation as revenge, Kim wrote in an email to The Hoya.
“The demand for resignation was emailed to me on Saturday, February 1, 2020, and represents retaliation for my having reported GradGov Lewis May for physical assault of me,” Kim wrote. “GradGov President Lewis May is angry and his violence is motivated by his bias against my conservative evangelical Christian faith and values.”
Kim has since filed a police report against May, alleging physical assault.
After Kim denied the request for his resignation, the GradGov executive board decided to move forward with soliciting a petition from GradGov senators to push for Kim’s impeachment, the executive board wrote in the Feb. 1 statement.
“The Executive Board of the Graduate Student Government unanimously condemns the statements and has called for him to resign. Mr. Kim has refused to do so, citing baseless claims of political and personal persecution,” the statement read. “We plan to take every necessary measure to assure that GradGov fulfills its mandate as an inclusive, supportive, and welcoming organization that represents the diversity of Georgetown students.”
To begin impeachment proceedings, a written petition signed by two-thirds of GradGov senators must be submitted to the chair of the Internal Affairs Committee, according to the GradGov Constitution. The chair would then hold an impeachment hearing at the next senate meeting, at which the officer facing impeachment would have an opportunity to rebut all claims against them. A simple majority of those present can vote to remove the officer from his post.
The petition was sent out Feb. 3 and has garnered 54 out of the 60 needed signatures as of Thursday night, according to GradGov Director of Advocacy Henry Watson, a first-year doctoral student in the department of government, who was appointed by May to manage the impeachment process.
Kim’s comments on his Twitter have made him unfit to serve as a student leader, according to Watson.
“We hope that this will be taken care of expeditiously, but I wouldn’t want to set a definite timeline,” Watson wrote in an email to The Hoya. “It all depends on getting to 60 signatures, which we remain short of.”
Kim, who ran unopposed, was elected as vice president in 2019. Kim also serves as president of the Georgetown Collaborative Diplomacy Initiative, a diplomacy-focused graduate student organization, and is running for U.S. Congress in Virginia’s 8th District.
Other graduate organizations have also denounced Kim’s Twitter activity, according to third-year doctoral student in the department of linguistics and GradPride President Nick Mararac.
“GradPride and Spectra Alliance stand with GradGov in condemning the racist, homophobic, antimuslim, and anisemitic tweets by Heerak Kim and support any initatives to impeach him,” Mararac wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We don’t believe such views align with the Jesuit principle of cura personalis nor with our expectations of the Georgetown University community.”
Kim cannot remain as vice president for an inclusive organization that is dedicated to celebrating diversity, May said.
“We as GradGov, this is not our values,” May said. “We are an inclusive organization that’s working to promoting students in a way that’s absolutely anathema to the messages Heerak wrote on his Twitter.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia has since dropped all criminal charges against May. Read our coverage here.
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949), Counseling and Psychiatric Services (202-687-6985) and the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access (202-687-4054); additional off-campus resources include The Trevor Project, a national 24-hour, toll free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth (866-488-7386).