SCOPE members forced out of org
Without staff, control of budget, future unknown
The well-known student organization, the Student Committee on Popular Entertainment (SCOPE), is undergoing a dramatic transformation due to the fact that all of SCOPE's members were recently dismissed. While SCOPE is still technically considered a student organization at the moment, there are no members. The Student Activities Fee Committee (SAFC) will now control the organization's funds. It is unclear as to when SCOPE can once again act independently.
An incident that occurred in April of 2012 where two students stole public property in Portsmouth served as the catalyst for the final outcome. According to an Appeal Decision report from the UNH Office of Conduct and Mediation (OCM) from Sept. 20, the two new members stole signs while the group was out collecting menus from area restaurants to provide to visiting concert acts. The Portsmouth Police Department received an anonymous tip regarding the theft, and then alerted the UNH Police Department. The MUB was also informed of the incident, and SCOPE was taken through the disciplinary process by the OCM.
The incident was revisited in June and a hearing took place in early August; the judicial board's sanction recommendations for SCOPE included probation until April 10, 2015, monthly meetings with an adviser until May 2015, and modifications to the organization's constitution and hiring manual.
However, judicial officer Linda Johnson's imposed sanctions included suspension until the Fall Semester of 2014, the revision and updating of manuals, the creation of an advisory board to oversee the organization, and probation for two years upon reinstatement as a campus organization. SCOPE filed an appeal, which was denied, but it was "granted sanction modification, in part," as the suspension was deferred, provided that SCOPE follow all of the other rules outlined in Johnson's imposed sanctions.
The advisory board consisted of Coordinator of Leadership and Student Organization Services Nate Hastings, Student SAFC Chairman Bryan Merrill, Student Senate Speaker Lauren Scarlett, Health Services' Director of Education and Promotion Kathleen Grace Bishop and Director of Campus Recreation Stacy Hall.
Merrill commented during the student senate meeting on Sunday that the advisory board was essentially an "executioner." On Monday, Merrill clarified the comment, admitting that he phrased it in a harsh way.
"We were given a very clear task, and there wasn't really any other interpretation," Merrill said.
That task, according to Merrill, was to review the organization's membership, see who knew or should have known about the theft that occurred in April, and revoke the membership of those students who were aware.
"We (the advisory board) did not derive any pleasure from cutting positions or revoking memberships, and it wasn't any form of judicial activism," Merrill said. "We were given a task and we accomplished it exactly as it was given to us."
Assistant Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs Dr. Kevin Charles said, "There was no predetermination. The process that was followed was governed by the Student Code of Conduct and overseen by Office of Conduct and Mediation (OCM). It is the same code and process that other student organizations and students are bound by."
Currently, Merrill and Student Activity Fee Chief Financial Officer Justin Ykema are entrusted with SCOPE's budget.
Merrill said that he has been in contact with the Whittemore Center, and is "working on making sure that students get the concert experience that they have come to expect."
"Obviously, with the dissolution of SCOPE, there is a large void to be filled," Merrill said.
He added that he and Ykema, as well as the other members of SAFC, will put the money toward what it was originally intended to be used for.
Although nothing is yet set in stone, Merrill plans to pursue a concert contingency fund to continue concert service. In addition, the advisory board will strive to rebuild membership, which will operate on a more open basis next semester.
According to Merrill, SCOPE's budget will most likely be cut after SAFC reviews the organization's concept and budget, meaning that SCOPE's student organization status might be lessened to that of an Organization Resource Officer (ORO) Organization. SCOPE's budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year is $162,400.
"The probability of SCOPE's budget continuing to be what it is miniscule. It would be unfair and unwise to give the same budget to novice members," Merrill said.
In addition, Merrill stated that, because the concerts are not going to be run by students until the new members are able to operate independently, Student Activity Fee money will be used to pay the Whittemore Center.
Merrill said that, unfortunately, this is the only way to bring concerts to campus in light of recent circumstances. Because SAFC would be going through professionals to hold concerts, the potential for costs to increase is high. In addition, concert quality might decrease due to new members running the show.
"It is in SAFC's best interest to rebuild quickly," Merrill said.
The former members of SCOPE's Executive Board, Executive Officer Jackie Mccarrick, Publicity Director Bethany Bucciarelli, and Business Manager Dominic DiCicco, were concerned with the fact that such a large budget and amount of responsibility are going to be handed over to students who have no training, or even a fraction of the experience that SCOPE members had. They also pointed out that although they agree that it is a good idea to continue to provide concerts for the students, SAFC also cannot continue to subsidize concerts through the Whittemore Center indefinitely.
"I can't see the money being spent fiscally responsibly," Dicicco said.
They were also concerned with the behavior of the MUB staff and UNH administration, and with how they were treated. According to the SCOPE board members, the MUB's communication with SCOPE was limited and often very negative. The group was in limbo for several months, due to the inaction of the MUB and OCM.
They cited that Dave Zamansky, the assistant director of student leadership, brought previous SCOPE conduct issues to the judiciary board's attention, despite the fact that none of the current members were involved in SCOPE at the time.
Dr. Charles defended Zamansky's actions, and said, "In considering sanctions for an organization that has been found responsible for a violation of the Code of Conduct, it is permissible and not uncommon for past record to be considered."
The officers also reported that Zamansky openly admitted that the past conduct information that he reported to the SCOPE students might have been inaccurate, yet it was never investigated.
Mccarrick said that it was an example of the MUB staff's manipulation of the system, and the lack of checks and balances within said system.
"Whatever they want to see happen is what's going to happen," Mccarrick said.
She also added that she believed that the MUB staff thought that conduct issues were "rooted" within SCOPE members, and that the staff would have found one way or another to dismiss current members and rebuild using new students.
"I think it was more personal than organizational," Bucciarelli commented.
They were upset with the fact that, although they followed the terms of the sanctions, they were still dismissed from their positions. They found it concerning that all memberships were revoked, even though the majority of the members were unaware of the incident. One student, the officers reported, was studying abroad in the Netherlands, yet she was still found responsible and removed from SCOPE.
One of the things that contributed to SCOPE's demise was the fact that the organization failed to comply with Conduct Policies and Administrative Procedures, Charge No. 4, provision F of Article IV of the Student Rights, Rules, and Responsibilities Handbook.
This provision states, "Members of a recognized student organization may be charged as an organization and/or individually with violation(s) of the Student Code of Conduct."
More specifically, provision F states, "Members of an organization fail to report to appropriate University authorities knowledge or information about a violation."
The SCOPE officers maintained that this provision was added to the handbook in August, after SCOPE was charged. They argued that it is illogical to hold the students to a rule that was not in place prior to the incident.
In the end, according to the officers, what they were found responsible for was a failure to report the incident. However, they were in compliance with all provisions of the sanctions until the clause was added to the handbook.
"The sanction was based on if one 'knew or should have known' about the violation," Dr. Charles said. "By deduction, I have to assume that the board felt anyone who was dismissed from membership met that criterion."
In addition, despite the fact that they were not found guilty of hazing, the group was still required to attend a hazing workshop.
Dr. Charles commented, "...Hazing workshops do not necessarily assume that hazing is clearly understood or defined to all. There is much to learn about processes and procedures, such as recruiting and retaining members, for example, in hazing workshops. I do not know specifically why this sanction was included; but it is not at all surprising as an educational sanction for a student organization."
One of the additional things that the officers found concerning, however, was that even though hazing might have been suspected, the administration did not contact those students who might have been hazed.
On Monday, Nov. 5, the advisory board conducted individual interviews with 17 SCOPE members (there were 19, but two were studying abroad) to determine which members knew or should have known about the theft. The interviews, according to the officers, were interrogative, and the interviewees were treated as though they were "criminals."
According to the SCOPE executive officers, it was clear during these interviews that their fate was predetermined. However, the officers said that they were under the false impression that they would be given a fair chance.
Membership revocation was announced to the SCOPE students via email on Nov. 16.
According the email, which was sent to the students by Nate Hastings, "Based on information provided, both verbally and in writing, to the Advisory Board during the SCOPE membership review, the Board has unfortunately determined that all members of SCOPE who went through the review process on Monday, Nov. 5 knew or should have known about the thefts.... the membership of all members who went through the review process is hereby revoked."
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