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SOU student body candidate says she has left school

ASHLAND — A candidate for student body president at Southern Oregon University who lied during a vigil for victims of the Virginia Tech shootings said she has withdrawn from the race and the university.

Brandi Freeman, who said she suffers from bipolar disorder, admitted that she hoped to garner votes when she told a public gathering Thursday that a relative of hers had been killed in the mass shooting April 16.

"I made a mistake that is now affecting my future education, my character [and] my credibility as a person," she wrote in a letter to the Ashland Daily Tidings. "I took away from the pain and sorrow that the real victims of this tragedy are going through. I made an impulsive action without thinking of who it would affect. I apologize to those that believed my fabricated story. ...

" I have since this issue removed myself from student government and withdrawn from the university because of ridicule from students and community members. It has made it impossible for me to live in my own town."

Freeman said she is now staying with her grandparents in Portland and seeking counseling.

SOU spokeswoman Lynn Green said Freeman and her running mate have withdrawn the race but could not confirm whether Freeman had left SOU, citing student privacy issues.

SOU students this week were still talking about the incident and its unintended consequences on the race for student body president.

"Shocked would be the word to describe the student body," said Elizabeth Tafeen, a junior at SOU.

Carl Barcroft, who is running for student body vice-president on a ticket with Douglas Peterson, said, "It definitely put a stir into the student body. I don't think we're used to seeing anything out of the ordinary in student body elections. They usually run pretty smoothly."

Peterson's lone opponent, Monique Teal, tried to be diplomatic about the events that led up to Freeman dropping from the election.

"I feel like that is her own personal issue and I should stay out of it," said the senior who is majoring in criminology. "However I hope she gets the help she needs."

Kelly Huruath, a freshman who said she knows Freeman from the student senate and from a legislative conference in Washington, D.C., said Freeman has "a lot of ambition."

"Sometimes stressful situations skew how people decide to follow that ambition," Huruath said.

Others on campus sympathized with Freeman.

"Here's a person, needing help, and instead received public derision," Colleen Sollars wrote in an e-mail to the Tidings. "Ms. Freeman made a few mistakes, one being hoping that she could function without medication, but she did not deserve to be crucified for them. She is a good person who has spent many hours of her own time working to bring better funding to higher education in Oregon."

A couple identifying themselves as Freeman's grandparents also sent an e-mail to the Tidings.

"Brandi made a very bad decision recently which has caused her many problems and heartache," they wrote. "Brandi has worked very hard this year for herself and for SOU. We truly believe that had she been taking her medication, she would have been thinking more clearly."

Robert Plain is a staff writer at the Ashland Daily Tidings. He can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or bplain@dailytidings.com.