Investigation brings FYC process into question

Hunter+Scott%2C+SGA+Vice+President+of+Financial+Affairs%2C+was+the+subject+of+an+ethics+investigation+involving+the+FYC+process.+CW+File
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Investigation brings FYC process into question

Hunter Scott, SGA Vice President of Financial Affairs, was the subject of an ethics investigation involving the FYC process. CW File

Hunter Scott, SGA Vice President of Financial Affairs, was the subject of an ethics investigation involving the FYC process. CW File

Hunter Scott, SGA Vice President of Financial Affairs, was the subject of an ethics investigation involving the FYC process. CW File

Hunter Scott, SGA Vice President of Financial Affairs, was the subject of an ethics investigation involving the FYC process. CW File

Gerardo Aguilera | @jerry21aguilera and Rebecca Griesbach | @rebach97

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A full house of first-year councilors gathered for their first Student Government Association (SGA) Senate meeting on Thursday, where resolutions on parking and blue lights and diversity liaisons were passed unanimously. That night, however, there were no mentions of a recent judicial decision involving one of the group’s potential applicants. 

Earlier that week, the SGA released two documents, one legal opinion and one ethics investigation, regarding details about an application for First Year Council (FYC). 

Often regarded as a “first step” for student leaders, FYC is an application-based group of 65 students who represent the entire freshman class in SGA. All FYC members get an opportunity to work together with other SGA members, along with administrative leaders, to craft and pass legislation for their constituents.

A willingness to serve and to solve problems is what has always distinguished FYC and is cited as the reason why these students often move on to more involved roles in SGA. 

On Friday, Sept. 20, however, an anonymous complainant alleged that one such applicant was given an unfair advantage. Colin Marcum, a freshman at the University, was in hopes of joining FYC. But, when a complaint alleged that Hunter Scott, who is Marcum’s fraternity brother and the vice president of financial affairs (VPFA) for SGA, had promised Marcum a position, the SGA Judicial Board conducted a hearing. 

“It has come to my attention recently that vice president of financial affairs, Hunter Scott, has been providing confidential information regarding the FYC selection process to members of his fraternity,” the complainant wrote in an email to the Student Judicial Board. “He has been promising them positions on the council and has been giving them confidential information regarding their essay and interview scores.”

Marcum missed the cutoff by two points, so he was not given an interview. However, the complainant argued that revealing confidential information, regardless of the outcome, was grounds for impeachment.

“This is incredibly troubling because if proven to be true, Mr. Scott has egregiously disregarded the confidentiality agreement that he signed in regards to FYC interviews,” the complainant said in the email, ending with a request for anonymity.

The complaint is both an ethical and constitutional grievance because it alleges that Scott broke the nondisclosure agreement SGA members have in play. This meant that a legal decision, authored by SGA Chief Justice Clayton Lawing, and an ethics investigation, authored by the newly-confirmed Attorney General Justin Cenname, were in order. But, while they covered the same complaint, the two documents were not entirely in agreement with each other.  

A MATTER OF ETHICS

SGA’s code of laws chapter 202.5.2, states, “The Attorney General shall be responsible for looking into matters of ethical malfeasance by any SGA member, elected or otherwise, regarding ethics, efficiency and competence.” 

Cenname released findings of his ethics investigation last Saturday, Oct. 5, creating a timeline of the case and claiming to have interviewed multiple high-ranking officials who looked over the FYC selection process.

The first order of business was determining if, in fact, Scott had helped Marcum draft and complete his application. Cenname’s timeline showed that Macrum opened his FYC application on July 11 at 8:01 a.m. and submitted the application the same day at 10:20 a.m., which was graded by FYC director Kimri Goerke. 

“That leads me to believe that if [Marcum] was trying to get help from an outside source, that seems like a very small window of time to do it,” Cenname told the Crimson White, refuting an alleged breach in the blindness of the application grading and any bias toward Marcum’s application. “ … Colin’s report was graded several hours before Hunter Scott even received the rubric for what they were looking for in applicants. The first application [Scott] graded was the next day.”

Cenname told the Crimson White that when Marcum didn’t make the cut after hearing from Scott that he had done well, Marcum had asked a high-ranking official in Scott’s cabinet why he had not been accepted for the interview process, who then told him that he missed the cut off by “a few points.” Cenname said that SGA should be more transparent with matters concerning FYC.

“What is inherently wrong with letting people know?” Cenname said. 

Cenname ultimately dropped charges against Scott. 

“While I am sure the anonymous complainant in this case had good intentions, any insinuation that VPFA Scott conspired to help this applicant is pure applesauce,” Cenname said in the report, employing a phrase made popular by the late Justice Antonin Scalia. “I do concede, however, that I remain unsure of VPFA Scott’s access to time travel technology, but I stand confident in my initial conclusion for if he did use this technology to get around the rules of space and time he must be a terrible time traveler, as Mr. Marcum did not make it to the first stage of First Year Council interviews.”

A MATTER OF LAW

Lawing investigated the constitutional grievances in the case, publishing an opinion on Oct. 3 at 11:04 a.m. Lawing, who focused on the constitutionality of the FYC process, was concerned with whether Hunter’s actions affected the FYC process in any way. 

“What was alarming to the court was the FYC process is mandated in the Constitution to be blind, and that is what we were always looking at,” Lawing told The Crimson White. 

Opinion statements in SGA act as official reports. If it is coming from the Judicial Branch, “that opinion is always going to be the official word of the court,” Lawing said. 

There were four questions asked by the court, each questioning if the integrity of the SGA members in the FYC process was pure and no constitutional laws were broken. 

Lawing and the court concluded that three of the four constitutional laws were broken:

“We hold that the blinding of First Year Council application by Chief of Staff to the Executive Vice President Caitlyn Johnson was unconstitutional, as the SGA Constitution specifically empowers the Executive Secretary to blind these applications.

We hold that constitutional blindness of the applications was not maintained throughout the process, as there was at least one instance in which the blindness of information that had been previously blinded was not maintained.

We hold that the attendance of the Pre-Interview Selection Panel was not constitutional, as all members involved in the review of blinded applications were not in attendance at this panel.

In the final allegation, we hold that the committee’s involvement in the interview process was constitutional, as there is not enough clarity in the SGA Constitution to provide an explicit constitutional procedure,” Lawing said in his statement.   

However, Lawing ruled that this was not enough to regard the FYC selection process as unconstitutional, which would require all FYC applicants to redo their applications and interviews. 

TAKEAWAYS

Another key contrast in the two documents was the way in which they were carried out. While Lawing expressed in his decision that the complainant would remain anonymous, Cenname opted to name names. Throughout Cenname’s report, he referred to SGA Arts and Sciences Senator Jack Kappelman by his full name, insinuating that he was the complainant.

“I think it’s incredibly unprofessional that Attorney General Cenname named me in his ridiculous opinion,” Kappelman said. “Not only does he baselessly allege that I supplied an anonymous report, but he fails in his duty as attorney general to conduct an unbiased ethics investigation into a very serious issue.

“Even if I was the anonymous complainant, the fact that Attorney General Cenname would publicly out someone as a whistleblower is a very serious offense and proves how corrupt and backwards this administration is. I was not contacted once by Mr. Cenname during this time, which shows how sloppily this whole investigation was handled if he failed to ask for any sort of comment from the parties he mentions by name.”

Ultimately, Lawing’s decision found that there was a degree of constitutional malfeasance sparked by the FYC complaint, whereas Cenname disputed the complaint and found no ethical issues with the case. 

In statement on behalf of the Student Government Association, which was sent to The Crimson White on Oct. 3, Deputy Communications Director Will Bradley’s comments on the proceedings more closely aligned with Cenname’s findings. This statement was released two days before the public release of Cenname’s report. 

“The Student Government Association is grateful the truth could emerge today: that no deliberate wrongdoing took place in this year’s First Year Council selection process,” the statement read. “The Student Judiciary’s unanimous decision only affirms what UA students already know: FYC is a fair, vital program that encourages active democratic participation by freshmen.”

Scott told The Crimson White that he was grateful for the outcome of both decisions. 

“I would say that I’m grateful that all of these investigations found the truth,” he said. “There seems to be a lot of progress that is about to start.”

Scott is currently on a code of laws revision committee with Lawing, SGA Speaker of the Senate Kathryn Hayes and Demarcus Joiner, the SGA Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. He said the group is planning to look through the code of laws and “clear up things that might be ambiguous about FYC and SGA in general.”

“We are definitely working on trying to make sure FYC can get some special attention after this incident in the code of laws and really make sure the process is straightforward and has integrity, or I guess more integrity than it already does, but just trying to better that process,” Scott said. 

Colin Marcum could not be reached for comment by the time of publication. 

Editor’s Note: This story was updated on Monday, Oct. 28 to clarify that Cenname was confirmed, rather than elected, and that the two different branches covered the same complaint, rather than a specific case.