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Editorial: Right to a fair trial

SCOPE ruling filled with contradictions

The New Hampshire

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02

The saga of the Student Committee on Popular Entertainment came to a baffling conclusion last week, when all 19 members of SCOPE had their memberships revoked by an advisory board, leaving the 40-year-old organization gutted and useless for the foreseeable future. 

For those who need their memories jogged, SCOPE had gone through a series of hearings and appeals processes over the past semester surrounding an incident that occurred in Portsmouth in April in which two new members of SCOPE stole signs and a painting from restaurants during an official organization trip and returned to the UNH campus with them. A judiciary panel found that SCOPE leadership knew about the incident and failed to report it to appropriate university authorities. The advisory board was formed to lead a restructuring of the organization, as well as to review the status of its current members. 

There are a number of troubling issues surrounding SCOPE’s initial hearings, sanctions and the actions of the advisory board. 

On Nov. 16, all members of SCOPE received an email from Coordinator of Student Organization and Leadership Nate Hastings on behalf of the advisory board. The message read, “All members of SCOPE knew or should have known about the thefts that occurred during the week of April 9–13, 2012.” 

As a result, all members had their memberships revoked. 

The advisory board’s criteria for kicking students out of an organization in this case were shaky at best. How did they determine how a member “should have known” about the theft? How are the members at fault if they did not know about the incident? One SCOPE member was abroad last semester when the incident occurred; how do you justify revoking her membership? Two members are abroad this semester; how do you ascertain that they should have known about the incident if you cannot interview them? The advisory board appears to have taken a “guilt-by-association” tactic in removing many members of SCOPE from the organization. 

Of course, there is also a possibility that SCOPE’s members did not have a chance in the first place. When informing the student senate of SCOPE’s status on Sunday night, Student Activity Fee Chair and advisory board member Bryan Merrill said that the board was formed to be an “executioner” rather than a judicial body. Merrill backtracked on that statement Monday, but the comments are telling. They indicate that the advisory board was not made to review the status of SCOPE’s members; it was only there to carry out an inevitable sentence.  

The judicial board at SCOPE’s disciplinary hearing decision on Aug. 9 of this year recommended that the organization not be suspended and instead go on probation for two years, as the students who stole the items were not “acting on the encouragement of SCOPE.” But in the subsequent decision on sanctions, judicial officer Linda Johnson imposed a two-year suspension on SCOPE. The rationale for the suspension was largely based on Assistant Director for Student Leadership Dave Zamansky informing Johnson that SCOPE had a history of violations in the past five years, “most often concerning hazing of prospective members.” These violations were not mentioned in the initial disciplinary hearing decision, when the sanction recommendations were made, yet another misstep in the incident’s judicial process.  

In September, SCOPE appealed the sanctions. An appellate officer upheld the ruling, but scaled back some of the sanctions, putting SCOPE on deferred suspension. The organization had to meet a number of requirements to ensure that the suspension would be deferred. But the appellate officer also ruled that the permanent advisory board would be formed to carry out a number of tasks, including “an immediate review of and subsequent revocation of membership of those members who knew or should have known about the theft.” The members never had a chance to meet the requirements, as the advisory board was able to use that broad mandate to condemn all of SCOPE’s members and remove them from the organization. With the organization wiped clean, the advisory board will control SCOPE’s future, while SAFC will control its $162,400 budget for the remainder of the year.  

It’s evident that SCOPE was never given the opportunity to redeem itself for its violations. The organization deserved to be punished for its missteps in handling April’s theft. But it also deserved a fair ruling and realistic sanctions. Instead, its members were strung along all summer and for most of the fall semester. The decisions made by the Office of Conduct and Mediation and the advisory board were suspect at best, inconsistent and dishonest at worst. The appellate officer ruled that SCOPE needed an organizational reconstruction, but the administration needs to seriously reconsider how student orgs are judged in the first place. 

 

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9 comments

elsusef cartoons
Wed Nov 21 2012 14:03
There's no constitutional right to belong to a student org, or to get a fair hearing from the department of student affairs. The whole reason the student judicial system exists is so the university doesn't have to deal with the actual judicial system.

Also, keep in mind that some SCOPE members were getting paid stipends by the university. It's not a lot, but I think that comes with some added measure of responsibility.

Finally, you people that thinks SCOPE leaving means Barstool is going to be able to hold an event up here are sorely mistaken. Barstool hosts - mostly - private events near college campuses. There's no venue close in Durham that's both big enough for a Barstool party and not under UNH control.

Matthew MacVane
Wed Nov 21 2012 10:53
Dear Anonymous,
My suggestion to you if you are tired of the people who are paying a hundred thousand dollars to get a degree from UNH acting entitled to being treated with respect and dignity and not having their rights violated, because after you get admitted to the university and they cash your check the students do indeed have rights that the university needs to observer, then you should stop taking their money and go find another place to work.
Spider Jerusalem
Wed Nov 21 2012 03:38
So who were the two kids that stole the signs? What do they have to say about all this? And where are the on-the-records denials by SCOPE leaders saying they didn't know anything about what happened that night and didn't try to cover it up?

And has anyone actually tried to talk to Dave Zamansky about any of this? Even to get a "no comment"? This is an issue, and he obviously needs to be confronted about it. As does, apparently, Nate Hastings. They are paid though our tuition money, and are not above questioning. Don't let anyone involved here off the hook.

Anonymous
Tue Nov 20 2012 16:28
If there was such terrible hazing to new members, why are they defending SCOPE in letters and appeals? New members are treated like royalty, -upon inception into the organization they are regarded as family and will forever have current and alumni SCOPE to back them up as true brothers and sisters. Clearly this is true seeing the outpouring of support from SCOPE alumni calling the administration to justify themselves.

It is not entitlement when you work tirelessly to put on fantastic events for the largest cross-section of the student body for your entire college career- never attending a show and having fun but learning and working with Policy, Fire, business executives, UNH staff, oh yeah nationally-recognized artists and managers to boot.

The budget is not the issue -did the students who were involved in the theft issue use SCOPE budget to steal this item? No. So saying the SCOPE membership cannot handle the budget is irrelevant. Maybe YOU should learn your facts and find out exactly how dedicated and hard working these students are and get off your high 'entitlement' horse.

SCOPE members have ALSO year after year lived up to and exceeded standards by winning MULTIPLE S.O.S. awards. Even just this past Spring, winning "UNH's best", "Unsung Hero", and "Collaboration of the Year". Yeah, SCOPE really doesn't live up to standards... and believe me. SCOPE understands what it means to be a part of this community. Go waste your breath on students who don't do anything for this campus or other students -the real ones not living up to standards.

Anonymous
Tue Nov 20 2012 14:53
If anyone knew the kids in SCOPE they would see what an incredibly tight knit group of friends it is. Over the past 15-20 years, even further back I am sure, SCOPE members have been best friends, roommates, romantic partners, and much much more. This so called "hazing" is nothing more then a passage right that every member ( much like in most student orgs, sports teams, greek life) goes through. No new member of SCOPE ever felt that joining the org was a bad decision- in fact every member would state how it was the best decision they ever made in college. Staff look upon SCOPE as something outside of their reach-they can't control it, and that scares them. They see students being amazing leaders and better workers then the staff themselves- and "staff" feels the need to reign them in. College is about letting students go out on their own, take charge and make those big responsibility decisions on their own. I can't believe this is happening.
Allen Hawk, UNH Senior
Tue Nov 20 2012 14:40
Dear Anonymous,

You know what's unacceptable? The hazing that HAS occurred at UNH sororities and fraternities for years. Its amazing how entire fraternities and sororities can be convicted of hazing or discriminatory actions and yet face minimal punishment. Many of these 'incidents' go unnoticed with members having to take workshops or be on a probation. Fine. But the punishment on SCOPE did not parallel those of other sororities and fraternities. It appears as if SCOPE did not pressure the culprits to steal anything, only to collect menus for their professional use. Please tell me where the 'hazing' lies. The punishment does surely not fit the crime.

In an American judicial system, a suspect is innocent to proven guilty, showing SCOPE had been never convicted in the past year of breaking any rules. Quite caddy of Mr. Zamanski to mention a past to sway the board. And you want to know why student organizations aren't required to have advisors? Answer: We're adults in college, that's why. Perhaps MUB staff should have advisors to advise them to not make such brazen judgements on a group of hardworking students who spend just as much time and effort in a student organization as they do trying to do well in school, balancing both.

As far as a budget, I think after 40 years SCOPE knew what they were doing with their budget, and could manage their own responsibilities just fine.

Unfortunately, corruption knows no bounds. Perhaps the MUB should start living up to some standards, and there wouldn't be an issue.

Anonymous
Tue Nov 20 2012 14:07
FYI - SCOPE was found INNOCENT this summer for hazing. Also, there is nothing wrong with having an advisory board as a result of the incident in April. But when have you ever seen an advisory board singlehandedly remove every single member from the organization? That doesn't sound like advising and guiding... that sounds like a power trip. Not quite sure how any of this means SCOPE couldn't handle such a large budget, either. Their budget was just increased for the 2012-2013 year, actually, because of their recent accomplishments and professionalism.

The biggest argument is that this all could have been settled nearly nine months ago (when the administration was informed) and UNH could have brought the student body a few concerts this fall, regardless of whether it was produced by old or brand new SCOPE members. I don't see why it was necessary to drag 19 students through the conduct system for nine months - requiring them to attend multiple trials and write many appeals - when now it is pretty clear that the MUB was going to have their way regardless of the outcome. I am shocked at how little the administration cared for the emotional well-being of these students.

Becky Robinson, '04
Tue Nov 20 2012 11:37
Thank you TNH. SCOPE Alum's are pretty horrified of the school's decision and I'm glad to see that a fellow student group is considering the tenuous process that was used. This could be detrimental to any and all student organizations. A favorite term from my senate years " a slippery slope". I am also pretty embarrased as a former SAF Exec to see a chair and CFO have any part in this.

Becky Robinson, '04 - SCOPE 2000-2004, SCOPE Business Manager 2001-2003, SAF CFO 2003-2004

Anonymous
Tue Nov 20 2012 09:28
I fully disagree with this piece by the editorial staff at TNH. Perhaps in the future you should do more research before publishing something with such strong opinions about UNH administration. As a staff member myself, I've heard many rumblings over the years about SCOPE (as well as other organizations on campus) hazing and treating new members poorly. This is unacceptable. What the administration should do is look at the system that is allowing these behaviors to happen and make big changes from the top down. Why are student organizations not required to have advisors? Over the past couple of years alone we have seen this happen in multiple organizations. I don't believe students are prepared to manage all of the responsibilities (as well as a budget that size) on their own. I'm tired of the entitlement. It is not your right to be a part of this community, it is a privilege. Instead of complaining about the "injustice," start living up to the standards that are set and it won't be an issue.




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