News, On Campus

Former UGBC VP Chris Marchese Compelled By Office Of Student Involvement To Resign

After initially stating that he voluntarily resigned from his position as Executive Vice President (EVP) of UGBC, Chris Marchese, A&S ’15, said yesterday that his decision was based on an ultimatum delivered by Director of the Office of Student Involvement (OSI) Gus Burkett to either resign or be forcefully removed from UGBC for conduct-related matters.

Despite originally citing “personal reasons” as prompting his decision to vacate the EVP role, Marchese said that OSI imposed the resignation on him following a sanction issued on Oct. 27 that put Marchese on University probation—a sanction he said he believes was unjustly applied.

Mark Miceli, associate director of OSI and advisor to UGBC, confirmed that Marchese was no longer in good standing and had been given the instruction to step down by OSI.

“I can say he was no longer in good standing at the University,” Miceli said. “I think the implications are pretty obvious there, because you have to be in good standing to be an executive in UGBC, so I think we sort of said, ‘You can either step out gracefully or we’ll enforce the policy about you having to be in good standing.’”

In the section governing the eligibility of a student organization’s president and vice president, the Student Organizations Manual stipulates that he or she must maintain two qualifications: have and maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average, and remain in “good standing” with the University—which is defined as the avoidance of academic or disciplinary probation.

A subsequent clause in the manual states that “Failure of any executive board member to maintain good standing with the University and the failure of any president or vice-president to maintain a minimum 2.5 grade point average may result in the removal from office.”

“So I think [Marchese] mentioned in his resignation [to UGBC] that he was involved in a judicial case, so I can’t talk about that, but you can imagine that, as a result of the judicial case, that he was no longer in good standing,” Miceli said.

The OSI learned about Marchese’s conduct case, Miceli said, directly from the Dean of Students’ Office (DOS), as is the standard practice for student conduct cases that could affect a student’s eligibility to lead an organization. He said that the practice is for someone in DOS to contact either Burkett or the advisor of the organization in which the student is a leader. In this case, he said that the DOS followed standard protocol and reached out to Burkett.

Burkett declined to confirm that he was contacted by DOS regarding Marchese’s case, on the grounds that he is unable to comment on a student’s information.

“Technically, I can’t even confirm from the University’s point whether [Marchese] is in good standing,” Miceli said. “That would be a FERPA violation—that is the law that governs student records.”

“I strongly disagreed with the outcome of my hearing because I thought there was no evidence to support what the conduct officer had found me responsible for, and when I had subsequent meetings about my hearing, I was told, ‘If you were any other student this would just be a conversation,’ and that made me go crazy,” Marchese said.

According to Marchese, the sanction placing him on University probation expires in one month, and was the result of a history of conduct violations accrued over the course of his freshman and sophomore years at Boston College. That history, he said, provided the grounds for the DOS to finalize the sanction.

Marchese said that he believed the decision that DOS arrived at was unjustified, and filed an appeal to reverse the sanction, arguing that there was a lack of proof surrounding the matter.

On Nov. 6, Marchese said that he received notification that DOS denied the appeal.

While Marchese had formally announced his resignation to UGBC members last Sunday night at the organization’s weekly Student Assembly meeting, he had originally declined to publicly comment on the specifics surrounding his resignation. Now, he said that his resignation was less a decision than it was the better end of a forced ultimatum, which he said he made for both the betterment of UGBC and personal relations with the University.

“I just wanted to clarify that UGBC is not a puppet of the administration and my decision to leave was personal, although it was forced,” he said.

According to Marchese, the decision to go public with the alleged ultimatum was largely aimed to dispel concerns he had heard about the deposition being the result of his own personal policy disagreements with OSI—a report he deemed false. Instead, he stated, the decision to step down was compelled by Burkett’s ultimatum—which he said was due to an interpretation of the Student Organizations Manual: an OSI-produced document that governs the rules and regulations of registered student organizations (RSOs).

Marchese said disagreements arose between himself and Burkett over the interpretation of the word “may” in that clause—that failure to maintain a certain GPA and remain in good standing “may result in the [student leader’s] removal from office.” He also stated that Burkett’s interpretation of the manual was unprecedented, and expressed concern over Burkett’s understanding of the manual to other OSI administrators, arguing that it went against years of prior interpretations.

According to Marchese, those concerns were met with no response from OSI—only a reiteration of the policy that would be applied to him.

When contacted for comment on his involvement in the decision, Burkett declined.

“This is a question that you should ask of [Marchese],” Burkett said in an email​. ​“He​ resigned for personal reasons I don’t feel comfortable speaking for him.”

Although UGBC has its own policies on qualifications for executive membership, Marchese said that OSI technically has the ability to override them. Burkett stated that while OSI does reserve that right, it has not done so.

“​The UGBC Constitution was written by students and approved by students,” Burkett said. “While OSI is granted by the UGBC Constitution the ability to override decisions, we have not exercised that ability. Students wrote safeguards that they deemed necessary to ensure the proper operation of their organization. We enforce their rules and regulations to the best of our ability and always keeping the best interest of the organization in mind.”

Marchese faces the opportunity to return to office in January, after his probationary period expires. His re-installment, though, hinges on the appointment of the UGBC Executive Council, the approval of the Student Assembly, and the final approval of OSI—which Marchese and UGBC President Nanci Fiore-Chettiar, A&S ’15, confirmed will likely remain up to the discretion of UGBC members, not OSI administrators.

Marchese said he hopes that, despite no longer holding office, the circumstances surrounding his removal will generate increased campus awareness of OSI’s authority over UGBC, as well as dialogue on alleged administrative restrictions on student affairs.

“I think that, moving forward, UGBC is probably going to be more open with what it tells the student body and take firmer stands with the administration,” he said. “I wanted to clarify that UGBC would not back down from disagreements with the administration, even if I was told to resign or be removed. I also wanted students to know that I would not resign from a job that I love and leave the organization in such a mess if it wasn’t something that I had to do … and that it was about me, not the organization.”

Editor-in-Chief Eleanor Hildebrandt and Heights Editor Andrew Skaras contributed to this article.

Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Editor

November 20, 2014