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Students raise concerns about speaker selection for Founder's Day

Mercer’s Student Government Association announced today that they will meet with administrators to discuss Founders’ Day after hearing complaints on the selection of keynote speaker Jay Sekulow.

Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice and a member of President Donald Trump’s legal team, is slated to deliver the annual Founder’s Day Address on Feb. 7.

Sekulow earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1977 and earned his Juris Doctor from the Mercer University School of Law in 1980.

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“As student leaders, we strive to attract prominent alumni whom students will find interesting and who celebrate our commonalities and our differences, and we believe that Mr. Sekulow fits that description,” said SGA President Olivia Buckner in a Jan. 24 Mercer press release announcing Sekulow’s selection. “We look forward to hearing about his experiences as both an undergraduate and graduate student.”

Sekulow has received criticism in the past for his statements about LGBTQ rights and protection in public schools.

In an interview in the Los Angeles Times, Sekulow made comments suggesting that public schools should not promote one lifestyle over another and if students in the Los Angeles school district receive protections for their sexual orientation, students should also receive protections for their religious beliefs.

Following the announcement of his selection, Mercer students and alumni took to social media to voice their concerns.

“Founder's Day is about bringing together the Mercer community, and he has a history of dividing communities. He has fought to criminalize some people for simply being,” Sean Kennedy wrote on the Mercer University Alumni Facebook page.  “This is already a divisive time.”

Others responded to the announcement on Twitter.

“This guy? This is the best representative of the university that we can find?” senior Justin Hanson wrote.

Some members of the Mercer community have suggested that students protest the event while others approve of the choice.

“Would love to hear this great American speak,” Linda Nichols commented on Facebook.

Members of SGA’s executive board met with administrators at 2 p.m. on Jan. 25 to discuss concerns raised by the student body.

Hours later, they shared a press release on the SGA Facebook and Instagram pages.

“As Bears, we should open ourselves to the marketplace of ideas that exists in our world. The speaker is excited to return home to campus to share the story of his Mercer experience,” SGA stated. “We are under no obligation to fall in line and agree with what is said, but not allowing them to share their story would contradict one of our core values as Bears, celebrating both our commonalities and our differences.”

The press release also stated that SGA and the administration are exploring the idea of holding a forum where students can share their opinions with Sekulow.

“While this is not by any means set in stone, due to the limited amount of time that we have, it is being explored,” the press release stated.

This report will be updated as more information becomes available.

[Editor’s note: this article was updated at 7:15 p.m. on Jan. 25 to reflect the results of the meeting between SGA and the administration]

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