Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Students Join CR Revolt

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 3:29 PM

Faculty and staff aren't the only ones feeling disgruntled about the direction College of the Redwoods has taken under President Jeff Marsee; students are pissed, too.

At Friday's Board of Trustees meeting, which will be held up Del Norte way, former leaders of student government will address why the entire cabinet resigned in protest earlier this year.

Actually, they'll be asking Board President Bruce Emad, right, to read their angry letter aloud, according to former student trustee Karen Rio. In a nutshell, the students allege that their governing body, the Associated Students of College of the Redwoods (ASCR), was infiltrated by a woman hired by Marsee for the ill-defined and previously nonexistent job of Campus Life Director. This woman [redacted] proceeded to hijack ASCR's finances, misappropriate funds and verbally berate the student officers, the letter claims. 

The five elected members of student government quit in protest, and now they're demanding a full review of [the woman's] actions. "All five of us want her fired, but we don't know if that will happen," former ASCR Vice President Polly Johns told the Journal this morning.

Click "more" to read the students' letter in full.

Dear Board of Trustees:

We are writing about concerns we have about ASCR [Associated Students of College of the Redwoods] finances and the treatment of ASCR elected representatives.

First, about ASCR finances: After Campus Life Director [redacted] was hired in fall 2009, it wasn't long before there were problems. Nikiya wouldn't give reports to us about what was in the accounts. She would never explain the differences between Student Life accounts and ASCR funds, and she wouldn't explain where the money for events was coming from. When we voted to approve a $2,500 gift to Central Asia Institute (in support of Greg Mortenson's Book of the Year event), she claimed that we didn't have enough money for this, even though we had been told by Sean Hofer, our advisor from the previous year, that we had over $100,000 in the ASCR account.

Then, when Jennifer Swaggert, the ASCR Treasurer, in early fall 2009, decided she didn't want to do that job anymore, Nikiya took over all ASCR finances, and a number of events were paid for, but without ASCR voting on these activities. In fact, Jennifer told us that "Nikiya made all the financial decisions anyway." Finally, when we wanted to find out what monies were in the ASCR accounts (since Nikiya wouldn't do this for us), Polly Johns, Vice President of ASCR, went to the Business Office to get a Datatel printout. In response, Nikiya threatened Polly with a disciplinary write-up for supposedly missing meetings (from two months previous). During a meeting with Nikiya following this threat, Nikiya told Polly "not to worry about the monies." From our perspective, there's a pretty clear conflict of interest in having half of Nikiya's salary come from student funds while at the same time she is pushing her Campus Life agenda on ASCR.

Next, there has been a lot of mistreatment of ASCR elected representatives. From the start, Nikiya didn't want to answer any of our questions during ASCR meetings. For instance, at one of the first meetings, in fall 2009, when we asked her exactly what the Campus Life Director did, she told us that we could "look at her job description." She talked down to us, brushed off our suggestions, and resorted to yelling and bullying us in order to get her way. When we approved the $2,500 gift to Central Asia Institute, Nikiya yelled at us about the gift and then told us that because of the gift we couldn't attend a General Assembly Leadership Conference in the Bay Area. Also, she yelled at us for deciding to attend the Mortenson event and would not attend the event itself. She singled out Vice President of ASCR Polly Johns by referring to her as a "brat" and "an idiot."

We tried to fix the situation, but it didn't seem like anyone would listen to us. Ashley Chapman and Cody Anderson spoke with Vice President of Student Services Keith Snow-Flamer about these problems. Nothing happened. A faculty member on our behalf spoke with both Joe Hash and Keith Snow-Flamer about Nikiya's behavior. Nothing happened. Polly Johns spoke with Joe Hash. Nothing happened. Karen Rio even wrote a letter to President [Jeff] Marsee. And still nothing happened. Nothing came of any of these meetings or the letter. What was obvious to us from what Nikiya told us is that she would do whatever President Marsee asked her, but completely ignored us, even though we were paying half her salary. The end result of such treatment is that all five elected ASCR representatives (excluding student-trustee) resigned this year because they could no longer put up with such outrageous treatment.

In order to fix this situation, we would like you to:

1) Do a complete and public review of the ASCR finances. If Nikiya authorized any money without ASCR approval, we want this money refunded to the ASCR accounts.
2) We want ASCR to have its own advisor for 20 hours a week. That is what our monies should be paying for--not Campus Life events.
3) We want the immediate removal of Nikiya McWilliams as Campus Life Director for her completely unacceptable behavior toward us.
4) Before there is another Campus Life Director hired, the ASCR representatives must be involved in what Campus Life will be and how it will be paid for.


Karen Rio, former Student Trustee
Polly Johns, former ASCR Vice President


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Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns worked for the Journal from 2008 to 2013, covering a diverse mix of North Coast subjects, from education, politics and marijuana to human suspension, sex parties and amateur fight contests. He won awards for investigative reporting, feature stories and news coverage.

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