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Michigan assistant attorney general a derisive critic of MSA president

BY DEVON THORSBY
Daily News Editor
Published September 13, 2010

An assistant attorney general in the appellate division for Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox is inserting himself into politics on campus.

University alum Andrew Shirvell has been actively speaking out against Michigan Student Assembly President Chris Armstrong since shortly after his election in March. Shirvell has periodically appeared at various campus events to protest Armstrong's presidency. He also maintains a controversial blog called “Chris Armstrong Watch,” where he criticizes what he calls the MSA president’s “radical homosexual agenda.”

Officials at the Attorney General’s office confirmed that Shirvell works for Cox and that they are aware of his public disapproval of Armstrong, including the blog. Officials also said on Wednesday that they would provide The Michigan Daily with a statement on the issue, but despite several follow-up inquiries over four business days, a statement was never received.

Shirvell declined to comment in an e-mail interview last month about whether his decision to speak out against Armstrong has affected his work for an elected official.

In the inaugural post on Chris Armstrong Watch in late April, Shirvell wrote about Armstrong’s election and his campaign to become MSA president. The first post was accompanied by a photo of Armstrong that has “Resign” written over his face and a rainbow flag with a swastika in the middle of it next to him.

In that post, Shirvell pointed out Armstrong’s time serving as chairman of MSA’s LGBT commission, which Shirvell describes as “a commission that solely focused on utilizing the student government to promote the radical homosexual agenda, including gay ‘marriage’ and adoption ‘rights.’ ”

“Armstrong's radical agenda includes mandating ‘gender-neutral’ housing,” Shirvell also wrote in the post, “so that cross-dressing students will not have to share a dorm room with a member of the same sex. This proposal, however, endangers female students, as it will also force heterosexuals of different genders to share the same room and will undoubtedly lead to a massive increase in rapes.”

When Armstrong arrived on campus this fall, Shirvell wrote a post on Sept. 1 entitled “What’s Past is Prologue: Armstrong’s VIOLENT Supporters & the Coming Persecution this Fall.”

In that post, Shirvell warned “…if events this past spring and summer are indicative of what's to come this fall when Armstrong is called out in public about his outright lies, then Christian, pro-life, and minority students on campus should be aware that they will be VIOLENTLY persecuted.”

Another post in early September criticized Armstrong’s comments at New Student Convocation. At the event, Armstrong told the new students in attendance that their “time here in Ann Arbor is as much about your own self-discovery as it is about your career.”

On his blog, Shirvell described that comment by writing, “It is clear that Armstrong's remarks constituted nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to cause sexually confused, and perhaps some impressionable, 17-and-18-year-olds to experiment sexually with members of their own gender.”

Other blog posts have been entitled “Chris Armstrong: The PRIVILEGED Pervert” and “Chris Armstrong & His Bullhorn: Portrait of a Radical Homosexual Activist at Work.”

In the interests of decency, the Daily decided not to publish some of the most inflammatory passages from the blog.

At last week’s MSA meeting, Shirvell called on Armstrong to resign during the community concerns portion of the meeting, criticizing his affiliation with senior society Order of Angell. In particular, Shirvell accuses Armstrong of lying during his campaign about his intention to join Order of Angell.

“Even the first gay MSA president is corrupted by his power,” he said at the MSA meeting. “You all should impeach him."

The society, formerly known as Michigamua, has been criticized for allegedly using Native American artifacts as part of its meetings and rituals in the past. In 2007, the organization formally changed its name, and in an effort to become more transparent, began publishing a list of its members and making its records available to the public. Its meetings and activities, however, remain secretive.

Tuesday night’s meeting wasn’t the first time Shirvell showed up at a campus event to criticize Armstrong. In May, students, LGBT rights activists and community members gathered outside the Walgreen Drama Center on North Campus to counter a protest by the Westboro Baptist Church. The church had planned to stage a protest against a production of “The Laramie Project,” a play that centers around the murder of Matthew Shepard, an openly gay student who was beaten to death in 1998.

Though the church’s protestors never showed, the counter-protest continued anyway, with signs calling for love and acceptance.

Shirvell, photographed by Daily photographers and identified in a May 20 article on PrideSource.com, also attended the protest, following Armstrong and holding a sign accusing him of racism.

Witnesses reported that when Armstrong addressed the crowd, Shirvell attempted to speak over him with accusations that Armstrong lied to the University community.

Shirvell first became aware of Armstrong and his presidency after reading an article in the Detroit Free Press in April, he wrote in the e-mail interview. The article — called “Gay student leader elected at U-M seeks activism” — reported on Armstrong’s status as the first openly gay MSA president, the support he's received from students and his campaign platform, which included issues like gender-neutral housing and weekend dining hall hours.

Shirvell wrote that after reading the article, he became concerned about what he called Armstrong’s “deeply radical agenda.” He decided to create a Facebook page to voice his criticisms of Armstrong. The page was later removed because it contained what Facebook administrators deemed offensive material, which prompted Shirvell to create his blog.

Shirvell — who graduated in 2002 and was active on campus in the pro-life community when he was a student — wrote that he feels compelled to speak out against Armstrong because of his ties to the University as an alum and because of his “pro-life, pro-family” beliefs.

“Armstrong’s agenda is immoral, in my opinion,” Shirvell wrote.

Shirvell has a history of taking controversial positions on LGBT issues.

A Feb. 7, 2010 post on the blog “Cox Watch” included e-mails from Shirvell to a member of the Michigan Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that focuses on gay and lesbian Republican activism. In the e-mails, Shirvell referred to members of the organization as “sick freaks.”

According to an Aug. 13, 2008 article in The Michigan Messenger, Shirvell celebrated the departure of Sean Kosofsky — then-director of the Triangle Foundation — when he moved from Michigan to North Carolina. Shirvell called Kosofsky “the state’s most visible proponent of the radical homosexual agenda,” on RightMichigan.com, according to the Messenger article.

In a Jul. 14, 2005 article in the Daily called “Gay pride sticker sparks controversy at pizzeria,” Shirvell was quoted discussing his dislike of a gay pride sticker placed on the door of New York Pizza Depot on East William Street.

Shirvell told the Daily at the time that he had been led to believe the owners of NYPD were pressured to put up the sticker “to appease the homosexuals who frequented NYPD on Friday nights.”

Shirvell also said at the time that he urged members of St. Mary’s Student Parish, which he said he was a member of at the time, to request the removal of the sticker. But Pat Waters, operations director and pastoral associate for the congregation at the time, said that members of the parish were more upset with Shirvell’s comments than the sticker’s presence.

Gabe Javier, assistant director of The Spectrum Center, said in an interview last month that Armstrong is a great role model for LGBT students on campus and that Armstrong will be able to deal effectively with the criticism.

“I think that Chris will arise to any challenges that come his way with integrity,” he said.

Armstrong declined to comment on the matter in an interview last month and after Tuesday night’s meeting, but pledged to serve the student body.

"I have always been open and honest about who I am in my life, and I can only do the same in my role as MSA president," Armstrong wrote in an e-mail to the Daily.

— Daily Staff Reporter Elyana Twiggs contributed to this report.

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