Mets, Lancers suspended from campus

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Linda Park, News, Poonam Narewatt - By Poonam Narewatt on Sunday, September 26, 2010 - 02:08

At an Intersociety Council (ISC) hearing on Sunday, Sept. 19, a vote was conducted and the Metophonian (Mets) and Lancer Societies were found responsible for sexual harassment, hazing and the presence of alcohol at a New Member Education Event during January 2010 pledging.

The sanctions include three and four year suspensions from being a Whittier College Society, to the Lancers and Mets respectively. Both societies are required to complete a sexual harassment workshop by the end of this school year, as well as host or sponsor a sexual harassment event before their two year probationary standing, after reinstatement is over.

The Lancers will have the option of appealing to ISC after a year and a half. If the appellate is being processed then they will be able to hold recruiting events during Fall 2011. The Mets will be able to appeal after two years.

A formal statement was sent out to society members by ISC. "Because it is impossible to hide that two societies have been suspended, we want to give the student body the correct information, so the decision and sanctions are in the public domain," ISC Chair junior James Lott said.

Each society is permitted two representatives at ISC; the defaults are the president and vice-president. At least one representative has to be an active. Evidence about the charges was presented to eight judges during the hearing, each representing the eight other societies on campus. The Mets and Lancers were not allowed to vote at the judicial hearing.

"All interviews were attended by at least one proxy or co-chair for the societies and me as ISC advisor, because students sometimes feel uncomfortable sharing things in front of other students so I talk to them alone," Associate Dean of Student Andre Coleman said. The eight individuals that voted did not have the opportunity to consult their societies and had to rely on their "best judgment call."

According to Lott, both societies were present at the hearing.The interviews have all been taped, according to Coleman. "[They had] plenty of opportunities to speak on their behalves," Lott said. "Each society is dealt with as an organization and it is outside of the purview of the ISC to prosecute individuals."

When the Franklins were suspended for hazing in 2002, there was disciplinary action taken against specific students. In this case, no students are being referred to the Dean of Students. "I don't have reason to believe that individuals will be referred," Lott said.

The charge of sexual harassment is not sexual harassment in the legal sense of the word, so legal action has not been taken.

According to Coleman, at the moment the administration is not planning to expel anyone and although this decision was solely made by ISC, the administration supports the sanctions and the institution is on the same page. "All action has come through the ISC," Lott said.

"The report was received in Spring 2010, but with a charge of this severity it would only make sense to get written or sworn testimony," Coleman said. "About a week and half ago we received more information. We didn't have enough to charge anyone, but enough to have a conversation."

Because the Mets and Lancers have been suspended, the social events they hold on campus have also been jeopardized. This past Saturday's "Wet n' Wild" is the last Met and Lancer event funded by Whittier College until the organizations are reinstated.

ISC's sanctions can take away a society's right to have a pledge class and they will not receive funding to host events. If they do acquire funding they will not be able to reserve facilities on-campus, and in order to host events an organization must be recognized by Leadership Experience And Programming (LEAP).

"The LEAP Office has authority to adjudicate cases. ISC only has authority to not recognize [the Mets and Lancers] as a student group," Coleman said. "Only the LEAP Office can decide to recognize an organization...What will more than likely happen is that LEAP would probably agree with ISC's decision instead of having another hearing and slamming them harder."

According to Lott, ISC has not received any backlash for its decision, but Coleman says he has personally received backlash. "I don't mind. It's my job," Coleman said. "My number and office is still the same. If someone has an issue then they can come see me. It is my civic responsibility to stand up for any group or individual being oppressed."

Both societies are old enough to include multitudes of alumni, many of which are either trustees or still involved with the college. The Lancers are over 70 years old and the Mets are over 80 years old.

Therefore, it is no surprise that many alumni have already contacted both Coleman and Director of External Relations Dana Rakozcy. Lott says if there is anything alumni would like to discuss with them then they "are prepared to have those conversations."

The effects that the suspension might have on funding, are not yet determinable because fundraising has not begun yet, according to the Office of Advancement. "I have had conversations with alumni and they are reasonable because once they find out what happened, they have the same concerns. There are a number that won't donate and there are a number that will," Coleman said. "The reality is that we have to do what is right."

A Met alumna has offered to set up workshops, according to Rakozcy. There will also be an open forum for society alumni during Whittier Weekend. A Met alumna and Lancer alumnus sit on the Alumni Board of Directors and they have sent out signed letters explaining the situation.

"We have had a few alumni contact us. Mostly, they are curious about the nature of the incident...They are all very concerned about their organization's survival...Those that have contacted the office are offering positive suggestions," said Rakozcy. "There has been good communication and we continue to talk to them."

Members of other societies have refused to comment on the suspension. The Mets, despite their interest, are not being allowed to comment on the incident because of their sponsors.

A Met alumna that had submitted a comment, later retracted it. The Lancers have declined to speak as well. "Well I do not know anything about it," junior Molly Litherland said. "I am a Lancer Little and I am really shocked. I would like to know why. This will not have a positive effect on the student body. Each society already feels unequal to each other, so this is not going to help the attitude at Whittier."

There are some students who believe that the punishment is too severe because they claim this type of thing happens in all societies but Coleman finds it hard to believe that this happens normally.

"Our stance has always been the same," Lott said. "We got a report, investigated it and found that the investigation gave the report merit. Our stance is not getting any harsher or softer."Coleman also says that with each case they need to be "consistently inconsistent" because each case is "unique."

"In general, I look at three things: frequency, attitude and circumstances," Coleman said. "If an organization is being dishonest then the sanctions are harsher, but I am not saying that this is what happened with the Mets."

Both Coleman and Lott agree that this is not something that ISC is happy about. "This is a sad day and sensitive time and not our proudest moment," Lott said. "It is not something we want to broadcast and wear as a badge of honor."

Coleman says that this decision is one that the students came to without administration. The constitution for ISC was redrafted two years ago by students, and societies agreed to abide by it. According to Lott the best way for other societies to avoid such sanctions is by looking at and reassessing their New Member Education agendas.

"It's hard to avoid because societies do a lot in the name of tradition," Lott said. "Actives have to think whether a tradition is appropriate or not. This is an opportunity to assess how much tradition is okay and when it is time to change."

Picture by Linda Park