Senators resign after FYC scandal

Tray Smith

Three members of the Student Government Association (SGA) Senate have resigned as an investigation continues into the selections process for the SGA First Year Council, a freshman leadership forum within the student government.

“Mary Sellers Shaw, Davis Vaughn and Taylor Smith are no longer members of the SGA Student Senate,” SGA Communications Director Seth Morrow said. “Attorney General David Simspon received their letters of resignation. Any other questions should be directed to judicial affairs.”

Additionally, Senate staff member Braxton Billings, who served as director of projects, was relieved of his position on Nov. 3 by Senate Speaker Ryan Flamerich, Senate Communications Director Austin Gaddis said.

“We wish Braxton well, and thank him for his service to the Student Government Association,” Gaddis said in an emailed statement.

In total, seven SGA officials have left their positions since the investigation began two months ago. Shaw, Vaughn, Smith, and Billings follow former SGA President Grant Cochran, former SGA First Year Council Director Sara Lavender and former SGA Executive Secretary Kelsey Kurth.

Morrow said the senate seats will not be filled until SGA elections are held next semester.

“In terms of filling these positions, these (as well as any other vacated seats) will remain vacant until the Spring 2012 elections,” he said. “This process is in accordance with the new SGA Constitution.”

Morrow also said it hasn’t been historically uncommon for SGA senators to resign.

“It has not been uncommon in the past for senators to resign for missing too many meetings, not fulfilling office hours or other reasons,” he said. “I believe there is usually at least one senator to resign a year.”

Shaw, Vaughn, Smith and Billings all served on the committee responsible for scoring FYC applications. Those scores were supposed to determine which applicants would be given interviews, which were to be conducted by another SGA committee that would have ultimately decided who became a part of the program.

However, SGA Attorney General David Simpson invalidated the process on Sept. 21, hours after SGA records show Shaw, Vaughn, Smith and Billings swiped out of the SGA office in the Ferguson Center at 4:17 a.m.

In an interview with The Crimson White last month, Flamerich and Senate Ethics Committee Chair Lauren Hardison confirmed that the process was invalidated as a result of irregularities that included changes to applicants’ GPAs and stars and dots marked on some applications.

Flamerich said the irregularities occurred as part of an effort to help applicants from certain greek houses.

“It’s our understanding that they chose three individuals from select fraternities and sororities to be given [interviews],” he said. However, Flamerich did not say whether the individuals who swiped out at 4:17 a.m. were responsible for the markings and GPA changes.

University Judicial Affairs, which has handled the investigation, is continuing to investigate the FYC selections process, Simpson said. Neither the SGA nor the University has provided a timeline for when that investigation may end, though, and no information about Cochran’s role in the process has been provided.

Shaw represented the College of Arts and Sciences, Vaughn represented the College of Communication and Information Sciences and Smith represented the College of Engineering. Shaw, Vaughn, Smith and Billings all declined to comment for this story.