Education • College dismisses president over drunken incident, despite vote to keep him in.
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More than 100 students broke into applause at Westminster College when the student senate announced a decision last month to not impeach the student body president for misconduct that included showing up drunk at a college-sponsored event at Fat Cats Bowling Alley in Salt Lake City.
But on Thursday, students were surprised to read a statement released from the Associated Students of Westminster College, stating Nick Raoux had been removed from his position as president through a decision made by the college.
Now, some students feel that their decision was overturned and their voice has no impact, leaving Mark Ferne, dean of students, fielding concerns about whether college administrators have overstepped their boundaries in regulating school government.
"Students can have and will continue to make change on this campus on a daily basis," Ferne said Friday, a day after news of Raoux's dismissal became public.
Citing student privacy laws, college officials declined to release details concerning the judicial hearing that resulted in Raoux's removal from office. Officials said evidence presented at the judicial hearing included information not presented to the student senate one reason administrators felt confident in making the decision to remove Raoux.
According to The Forum, the student newspaper at Westminster, Raoux was escorted by a police officer from the bowling alley after he urinated on the walls and floor of a bathroom. He also got into an argument with a Westminster staff member outside the business, calling her demeaning names, the paper reported.
He was also reprimanded after open alcoholic beverages were found locked in the student government's office.
Raoux on Friday said he disagrees with the decision to remove him from office over alcohol, particularly because he is 21 and the school is a "wet campus," which means drinking is allowed on certain areas of campus.
"They wanted to make an example of me," Raoux said. "I do not think I deserved to be removed from office over alcohol."
And apparently, neither did the students at Utah's only "wet campus," based on the student senate's 19 to 6 vote in support of Raoux.
The college's student handbook states that students of legal drinking age can only consume alcohol in their private dorm rooms. It prohibits students from drinking in their dorm rooms if anyone under 21 is present. Drinking alcohol anywhere else on campus, unless an alcohol permit has been provided for a college event, is prohibited.
After his punishment, the reality, Raoux said, is "We're more of a damp campus."
Raoux admits he misbehaved at Fat Cats and said he would work to make up for his inappropriate behavior.
But according to Raoux, a written and public apology, multiple sanctions and punishments, and a vote from the students in support of keeping Raoux in office was not enough for administrators. They wanted him removed from office, he said. And he said they told him if the student senate voted otherwise they would take matters into their own hands.
Raoux said Ferne asked him to resign from office nine times between the time of the consideration of his impeachment and his judicial hearing.
Raoux was subject to Westminster's Student Code of Conduct and Disciplinary Policy, resulting in a process that led to a review by a five-member board that made a recommendation to Ferne to remove Raoux from office.
The distinction between whether Raoux was punished as a student or punished as an elected official remains blurry, though college officials say he was treated the same as any other student.
"Five people decided, thought, their opinion was more powerful than the senate," Raoux said. "They were putting me on trial as the president. They can do whatever they want."
Despite the loss of their president, the student government has decided to move forward and look to the future, said Michael Toomey, the student spokesman for the group.
But that opinion is not held by the entire student government.
One senator started an event on Facebook called "Rally for Representation," which calls for all students to rally in the courtyard next week in opposition to the college's decision.
"We the students, united, refuse to be treated as powerless. We are Westminster College and the decisions of our elected representatives must be respected and upheld," the page states.
Another student, who serves on the executive cabinet of the student government but spoke to The Salt Lake Tribune on the terms that he was speaking as a student, not as a representative of ASWC, agreed that students should get to decide the fate of their elected officials.
"That's what is concerning to me," said Dexter Thomas, ASWC director of web communications, adding that he thinks Raoux was treated unfairly by the administration. "The ASWC President is held to a standard above all other students. He's being paraded around and scapegoated as a symbol."
If the issue was a code of conduct violation, Thomas said, the administration should have applied that form of discipline in the first place. But instead, they waited to see what the senate would decide and when they decided not to impeach, they went forward with their own investigation, which he said, school officials won't admit to.
"[This] sends the message that the student government is [a] powerless puppet government, not a real student government, not real student representatives," Thomas said. "[That's a] really bad message in my opinion to send."
He said this makes him angry, especially at a time when young people are so disillusioned with democracy that they won't even vote.
For now, Raoux said he plans to keep a low profile and focus on studying. He still has time to appeal the judicial hearing's decision, and he said if enough students show support, he will consider doing that.
"I want the administration to respond [to] why they'll take our money, but won't take our voice," Raoux said. "If anything my incident has exposed that our students don't have any representation. It's a false sense of representation...They want us to graduate and make an impact, [but] don't want us to have an impact on campus."