Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The SGA's anonymous complaint

The blogger platform I post my blogs on has a feature that helps filter spam comments. One of the positives of this is that people just trying to sell you random stuff or infect you with viruses cannot post on your blog. The negative is that sometimes real comments are incorrectly regarded as spam and are thus not posted on my blog.

Usually, this is not too big of an issue as I check the comments fairly regularly and keep up with this kind of thing. This week, however, was Spring Break at West Virginia University, which meant that my girlfriend was in town for a week. Concord University's Spring Break was the week before, so between class, work, and spending time with Candace, checking my blog's spam folder was not a priority.

Finally doing so, I found a comment by a person going under the name "Anonymous X." This person left a comment on last week's blog about the 3/16 meeting of the Student Government Association. His or Her comment is below, in italics.

Greetings. You don't know who I am but then again no one will. Why? Because it is as you said the Executive Board is like a clique and when one of the members is in danger of being lost from their clique they protect them. That is why they shot that complaint down with such …..emotion.

I’m sure they will say that oh a complaint about an Executive member has to be too sent to the Attorney General and for it to be valid a name must be attached to it. It happens and why shouldn’t it that is the proper way…isn’t.

Now I did not attend the meeting. Why? I was busy. Even if I had I would not have stepped up. Why? I much prefer the Executive board to be mad at me. All I want is things fixed. They know what is incorrect and that what is occurring goes against the constitution and bylaws. If they could have disputed it easily then they would have instead of what they did. Couldn’t you hear the faint undertone of fear that was covered up by The Presidents anger as he called me a coward, or cowardly for not giving a name or was that just me? How gentlemanly of him.

Oh wait how do I know the tone…. I have my tricks. Now just so everyone knows I will let this matter drop if and only if the complaints are fixed. You know what they are and you know they are true. Heck I even told you how to check if they were true or not and if you were to find them false I’m sure great pleasure would have been taken in announcing the falsities. Since you did not that is all the confirmation I need. I’m not looking for anyone to step down or get in trouble I just want this fixed so that Concord can be a better place because Concord deserves a better place. Come on. It’s not that hard a thing to fix…

Anonymous ________X________


* * *

What this Anonymous X is talking about is the anonymous complaint that was filed by a person against an Executive Board member of the Student Government Association. Here's all I wrote about it last week - "The Ombudsman received an anonymous complaint about an SGA Executive. The complaint will not be investigated until somebody steps forward and takes credit for writing it."

The reason I didn't write much about it is because I have no idea what is going on. From what Anonymous X left on my blog, it would appear that he or she filed the complaint against the SGA member. What was the complaint? I don't know. Who was it filed against? I don't know.

I wrote in the last blog (and have written about it for years in various forms) about the SGA turning into more of a clique with the wrong kind of attitude. What I wrote last week was that I sensed this year's SGA having that clique mentality, but that it wasn't a bad thing yet. They still seemed to be getting things done.

I'll use this complaint as an example of that clique mindset. President Matt Belcher brought up the complaint and how it was cowardly to not stand up and sign your name to it. When mentioning the complaint, he never once mentioned what it was or who it was against. The way he spoke about it, I got the impression that most of the people in the room knew what it was.

I have a few questions and I'd like to use my blog as an open forum for this. What is the complaint and who is it filed against? If the complaint has no merit, then there should be no problem with letting people know what it is. If it has merit, then the student body of Concord University needs to know about it.

To Anonymous X, I'd like to apologize for not filtering your comment out of spam in a timely manner. If you'd like to add anything to this discussion, here is your chance.

If anybody else wants to get involved, feel free. Why did the SGA President mention the complaint but not say what it was? Why did it seem like other people in the room knew about it? These are all questions that need to be answered.

11 comments:

  1. The SGA executive board, hell even the senators and committee chairs form a set of cliques within the SGA leadership. I can say this from personal experience and will not deny it. I'm sure the more reasonable people who've filled various capacities in SGA can say the same thing.

    I think it mainly comes from a stance, an emotion, a drive that, "hey you're doing something good and can potentially affect many other people positively [or negatively] depending on how the situation is handled." It's very intoxicating and many people in power won't even admit to that and give some kind of self-righteous BS or something. It's good to have that kind of drive but there's a line that many step over; that line being the doing it from a selfless drive on one side and just wanting to be in that position of power for a myriad of reasons, no matter how little power that position has if it has any at all.

    The clique-ish mentality has been abundant in SGA since I first showed interest in it back in 2004. I started out as a representative for some organization I was in (I don't remember anymore), enjoyed what I was doing, got more interested by talking to then senator Jade Perez and Attorney General Patrick Frasier. At the time (and the following school years), most of the executive board was filled with TKEs and their friends. The accusations of clique-iness were there and have been since. The SGA office is/was the best place to hang out for a clique. It afforded a lot of privacy and enabled a lot of closed door meetings in my time.

    Most cliques don't take kindly to one of their own being outed, complained about,etc. Complaints, anonymous or named, should be investigated on a matter of ethical behavior by the ombudsman. Anonymity is sometimes the only defense a person has when lodging a complaint. It isn't a sign of cowardice and the President's lashing out is unbecoming and downright immature. There is no reason it shouldn't be public knowledge. The complaint is probably something that could be embarrassing for the executive board and god forbid they lose face in public.

    Personally, this anonymous person sounds more arrogant and demanding than cowardly. Want things fixed? Anyone can present legislation. Hell, get 3/5 signatures of the student body and ratify a new constitution and bylaws if that's your prerogative. It would make the current SGA crumble and a new organization rise. That's one the only ways things will truly get fixed. My knowledge of the constitution and the bylaws is a bit outdated by it was a mess when I was a senator and I'm sure it hasn't gotten much better.

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  2. Very good points, Justin.

    As I mentioned and you reiterated, there's nothing wrong with being in a clique and having that mindset of surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals if you have the best intentions. The problems arise when those people in power do not have the best intentions.

    I guess I didn't think much about it at the time, because it was my first meeting in a long time and there was a lot of other stuff going on, but that complaint should have been mentioned. If for nothing else, just for transparency. Right now, that complaint is a secret. The SGA shouldn't be keeping secrets. Is it nothing? Could be. Do we know? Not yet.

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  3. Chris,

    This happened to pop up in my news feed and the title intrigued me to look at your blog again. With that said, I would like to continue being left out of the SGA blogs. I would like to share my opinion on what I have just read in hopes it finds a friendly ear.

    First, I find it interesting the issue was even brought to the floor if the executive board had no interest in rectifying whatever the complaint is or was. This seems to be a poor decision by the executive board. This is particularly troubling because I have always believed the Ombudsman does not to have a choice in representing the students in matter which where give a voice, anonymous or not. Most of the complaints I have seen in the past came anonymous for numerous reason possibilities. Issue revolving around conflicts of interest for the Ombudsman should be given to the Vice President or an ad hoc position/committee voted on by the senate.

    Second, the result of the complaint given validity of the complaint in the meeting should have resulted in the Senate having the right to know what the complaint was and offering suggestion/slash voting on ways to remedy the issue if it truly had merit. The true power of the SGA has always meant to be in the hands of the Senate(The representative body of the Students at Concord) and the Executive board is suppose be the selected individuals who does what the Senate directs.

    Third, I would be surprised to see the complaint heard of again. I'm sure the Executive board has seen their mistake by validating the complaint and believes they make a valid statement to avoid any further issues. I doubt the anonymous members wants to speak out because of the lashing he will receive the rest of their college career if found unpopular, or has the possibility to be twist to something which was never intended. I know this fact to be true personally.

    Finally, without any true recourse or punishment for the executive branch nothing will ever happen. When somebody is impeached they are not forced to step down. A prior dispute between Curtis Kerns, Ashley Hicks, and Matthew Belcher has proven that nothing has to be done even if the court make a ruling. The only way a board member can be removed is if the member steps down or the administration of Concord believes it to necessary. Truly without that fear of being removed there is no reason anybody with a position to follow the rules if they prefer “special methods”. This is why we have had so many scandals such as the Washington DC trip, last minute changes to tickets, blatant abuse of power, clear violations of the constitution, stolen money? and many many more issues I’m sure I am even unaware of.

    The institution of the SGA has a lot of potential to be something great, but always falls far below par in reaching it. It is allowed to do so because the SGA is meant to be a “learning experience” to the students participating. I would guarantee if those select paid members were not given a check or organizations were not there to petition for money you would see who really cared about Concord and the student body. Until the time comes when changes are made on how student view the SGA or money is distributed to organizations on campus I truly see no hope for the SGA to be what it is really meant to be, an organized voice of the average student at concord.

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  4. I agree with Robert Elsaid's opinion as far as SGA not representing the average student. The only reason stduents attend SGA meetings is for the money that their clubs may recieve. Fundamentally, things do need to be fixed. I cannot provide an adequate solution to this problem.

    There are cliques present in SGA. Next year's E-board will be mostly Sigmas. That being said, try to follow this train of logic.
    If the E-board all works together towards a common goal, the easily influenced organization representatives will follow what E-board says. If the E-board has a plan to help students, then the ultimate goal of helping the student body could be reached.

    I spent 2 semesters in the senate. I watched how org reps voted the way those with the loadest voice voted. Conformity in humans will tell you that humans dont want to vote against the majority despite their values. Time after time, I watched amendments crushed and rejected simply because the loadest person was against them.

    Fundamentally, there needs to be a change. Unfortunately, I do not know how to make this change.

    Justice Babich

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  5. Joshua Lawson (Board Rep 2010-2011) (Public Defender Emeritus)March 29, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    I will not respond to anyone who has left comments. I will only comment on the anonymous complaint. I am currently the student representative to the Board of Governors (unpaid by the way) and was the Public Defender for over two years. Although I am not technically a member of the Executive Board, I am normally invited to participate in Executive Board meetings where as my position often needs to be represented. I was in attendance at the Executive Board meeting at which the anonymous complaint was brought forth by the Ombudsman. The issue was discussed at length by the Executive Board and President Belcher planned to have Ombudsman Hall present the complaint to the Senate as she normally would any other complaint in her weekly report; she was even to read the complaint with the executive’s name aloud. It was I in fact who informed President Belcher that this release of such a complaint was not proper. During my time as Public Defender these complaints were not uncommon; I served during half of the Cook, the Prince, and Yeager administrations. During this time it was set precedent that anonymous complaints were not to be investigated formally by the Attorney General who is the only one who can move forward with such an investigation, unless the person making the complaint came forward in some fashion (usually by signing the complaint letter). I do want to make it clear though that this name does not have to be announced to the Senate initially and can normally be left anonymous in regard to the Senate (unless eventually brought to the Senate for discussion) but must be known to the Attorney General and eventually the court (if brought to the court). This form of complaint cannot automatically come to the senate for discussion, seeing as an investigation has not yet been conducted. Although I will neither support nor denounce President Belcher's language during the meeting in question I do want to make it clear that the Executive Board did not simply ignore the complaint. It was given a great deal of discussion and consideration.

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  6. Thanks for the elaboration, Josh. I've never doubted that the complaint was taken seriously. The only real issue that I have is that while nothing about the complaint was acknowledged publicly, I got the strong impression that it had been talked about in an informal manner.

    It seemed to me like a lot of people in the room knew what the complaint was about. If nothing is being publicly stated, but is instead informally discussed, I don't feel like that's the best way for the SGA to be conducting business.

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  7. Joshua Lawson (Board Rep 2010-2011) (Public Defender Emeritus)March 30, 2011 at 8:16 AM

    I can not speak to those outside the Executive Board meeting knowing who the complaint was against or the content. If an executive leaked this information, such action is highly inappropriate. I can say though that if someone wants to file a complaint against an executive they can be confident that if filed correctly it will be handled appropriately. The complaint must be filed with the Attorney General and must be signed. If anyone has questions regarding this process they can contact myself at lawsonj03@concord.edu or they can contact Attorney General Matheny.

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  8. I will only agree with Josh in part. He is correct in saying that in the past complaints that have not had a name attached to them were not followed up with. However; it has always been the precedent not to release any information on the individual(s) who filed the complaint.

    It is important to note that it hasn't always been the case that complaints had to be written, signed and filed with the Attorney General. The process became far more formal under Noland.

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  9. Personally, I find it a bit ridiculous that a complaint that could lead to an investigation needs to be signed by someone. That practically spits in the face of anonymous tip giving. Given that there really is no such thing as a secret in the SGA, anonymous complaints and tip giving should be embraced as much as it is by the press and law enforcement. Even if the information on who filed it is never given to the public, there's no reason to not investigate serious claims brought to the SGA.

    Being afraid of the repercussions of giving out the information or complaining about something/someone is natural and that person should not be shunned, ignored, or demeaned in any way simply by their choice of anonymity to protect themselves. To state otherwise is naive and ignorant.

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  10. I can see a case for not allowing anonymous complaints, to cut down on people just trying to be dumb and complain about outragous things.

    But, I can also see a case for looking into anything with validity, no matter if it's anonymous or not.

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  11. I was in the Senate meeting where this was mentioned and I most certainly did get the idea that several people were aware of what the complaint was even though it was never publicly released. Obviously if several people beyond the executive board were aware of the situation, then it leads e to believe that most likely a member or members leaked the information to their friends. All in all I regarded the situation as very poorly handled.

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