Gustafson discusses Andrew Shirvell-Chris Armstrong controversy

By Jake Thielen

On Oct. 14, University of Michigan student body president Chris Armstrong spoke at a Michigan board of regents meeting about the controversial comments made by Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell.

By now, many people in Michigan are familiar with the controversy surrounding Armstrong and Shirvell. Shirvell has attacked Armstrong, who is openly gay, through Shirvell’s personal blog. Shirvell called for Armstrong to resign due to his sexual orientation and accused Armstrong of using his office to promote a “radical homosexual agenda.”

Since Shirvell made his comments, Armstrong has received support from many people in the community and several other universities, including Oakland and Purdue. Shirvell has taken a leave of absence from his office.

Oakland University student congress passed a resolution in support of Armstrong during its Oct. 4 meeting. Several OUSC members, including legislator Andrew Gustafsson and Student Services director Brett McIsaac, spoke on Armstrong’s behalf during that meeting.

“I feel like we need to gather all the support we can,” Gustafsson said. “Basically, Chris Armstrong is being cyber-bullied, publicly attacked and being stalked.

“This is why we’re here to support him,” McIsaac said. “I try to think in my mind, what if it was happening to our student body president?”

OUSC student body president Brandon Gustafson also supported Armstrong. OUSC is planning to send a copy of the resolution to Armstrong, along with a gift pack and a letter of support, next week, Gustafson said.

Gustafson said it would have been difficult for him to handle the situation if he had been in Armstrong’s position, because of the media coverage. Shirvell’s comments about Armstrong have been covered by the national media, and Armstrong was interviewed by Anderson Cooper on CNN.

“It would be extremely tough,” Gustafson said. “Really all that I would want if I was in his shoes would be to know that there is support out there for what I was doing.”

Gustafson said that he was impressed with the way Armstrong handled a controversy that had nothing to do with his job.

“The whole thing is just kind of crazy, like there’s no real reason for it,” Gustafson said. “It’s just like, from my own standpoint, me trying to work on benefitting the school with everyone else on student congress, and then having somebody attack me for something that’s not even involved with what my job is.  It’s a tough situation, but I think the right thing will happen in the end.”

Gustafson also offered some advice for Armstrong going forward.

“My advice would be to keep doing what he’s doing, realize that (he has) great people around him, and just try to stay focused on what he’s got,” Gustafson said. “It’s kind of a weird battle that he’s even fighting because it’s not like the guy’s even arguing or challenging him on what his stances are, he’s challenging him as a person.

“He’s got a great network of people that are really supporting him and what he’s doing and that he’s not in the wrong. He’s trying to better the school, and he’s not doing anything wrong.”

Armstrong has not resigned as student body president, and he is seeking a personal protection order against Shirvell. A court hearing on the matter is scheduled for Oct. 25.