EDITORIAL: Students Outraged at Forced Resignations

by Bachelor Editorial Board

November 20, 2008

Editor's Note: For many weeks the Bachelor staff has worked diligently to cover the stories related to the death of Johnny Smith. We have attempted to ascertain how the student body felt about the culture of alcohol on campus and the Mandatory Chapel Talk; we’ve printed letters to the editor from angry alums, students and faculty; and we’ve closely reported on all of the decisions made in the aftermath of the tragedy at the Delt house. In our news coverage, we have attempted to get to the truth and have endeavored to uphold the journalist’s gold standard of neutrality.

In our editorials, we have also endeavored for balance - outlining the differences in opinion between the administration and the student body. While others quickly chastised the Administration for closing the Delt house, we held our judgment; we wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt as not all the facts were known.

In the case of the forcing out Delt students from leadership positions, the editorial staff felt strongly enough to take the odd journalistic step of placing the staff editorial on the front page. We feel the prominence of the editorial reflects the level of concern the student body has towards the Administration’s most recent actions.

We hope that our message - the message of the student voice of Wabash - is made very clear in this editorial and would call on the Administration to quickly redress the grievances of the students.

With such a diverse population of very different beliefs, backgrounds and political ideologies, it is rare that the Wabash student body speaks as one.

Tuesday night was an exception. At the regular Student Senate meeting in the Goodrich Room of the Lilly Library, Chairman Pro-Tempore Sean Clerget ’09 introduced a resolution to the Student Senate questioning the involvement of the administration in student-run clubs and organizations. The resolution noted that “it has come to light that administrators coerced members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity to resign leadership positions in clubs of the Student Senate” and that “the administrators of Wabash College must explain their actions and cease and desist from interfering with the right of students of Wabash College to select the leaders of their student organizations.”

The resolution was passed by a unanimous voice vote - no objection from any Senator was noted. The Bachelor applauds the efforts of Mr. Clerget and the Student Senate and joins in their call for an explanation.

Rumors have been swirling for a while, and some things need to be set straight at the beginning. It should be made clear that all Delts have not been forced to quit leadership positions carte blanche – many are still in positions of leadership in other campus organizations. That fact, however, should not distract from the fact that forcing those few who were forced to resign to give up their positions necessitates at least a clear explanation.

While it may be understandable the administration take the action it did regarding the closure of the Delt house, we fail to see the connection between that incident and student organizations. Where does student leadership in non-fraternity related organizations connect with their ongoing investigation into the fraternity? If they have been accused of ungentlemanly behavior or charged with anything, how can students accept the administration’s meddling in student organizations?

Furthermore, why is a leadership position in a Student Senate organization consequential in the eyes of the administration? They certainly don’t have the grave level of responsibility of a Fraternity President or a Residential Assistant. They aren’t elected by students at large like the President and Vice President of the Student Body.

They are duly elected by the members of their respective groups. Barring clear ungentlemanly behavior or disapproval of their membership, they should remain in these positions for the duration of their term.

The resolution brings up an interesting point regarding student leadership selection for Senate funded organizations. In 2007, the Senate passed the Student Organization Leadership Act (SOLA) in response to alumni meddling in the leadership of a Senate sponsored group. Student representatives affirmed their resolve for independence when it comes to the selection of our leaders. Even pressure for resignation from an outside force violates the spirit of the act. The Senate is firm in this resolve.

Although many students disagree, one can at least understand the position of the administration regarding the closure of the Delt house, and even understand the reason why the information regarding the closure could not be made public. Forcing student leaders to resign from their positions doesn’t follow any semblance of logic.

Many students continue to have deep feelings of mistrust and anger. Club members have privately expressed their disillusionment, outrage and bewilderment towards a coerced exit of those that they selected as their leaders. The administration should take serious note of the unusual action the Senate has taken, and heed their call.

For the past few weeks, the student body and the College at large have been encouraged to examine their actions and admit mistakes they have made.

The administration should not be above admitting their own.

 


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