Student Government revitalization: Overcoming past sins

Derek Danneker
Nearly 10 years now separate LHU from the scandal that led to the dissolution of legitimate student authority, a yawning chasm for students whose short tenures lead to a short sighted embrace of the status quo.
Between 1981 and 2011 the majority of responsibilities currently provided by Student Auxiliary Services, a university contracted non-profit organization, was given to the Student Cooperative Council, a student-run leadership body with paid and elected members whose duties included club budget management and student activity fee requisition.
In 2009, the SCC executive members, including President Christopher Lunden, Vice President Brent Frederick, Treasurer Zack Davis, and a faculty advisor, traveled to Los Angeles for what what they reported to advisors to be a conference.
However, once the SCC members arrived in LA, they used money from their special funds account, comprised of money raised by fundraisers, to upgrade their two pre-registered Honda Civics for a Hummer and a Chevy Tahoe, which they used to travel to Hollywood and UCLA campus. Additionally, they rented a tour van, a tour guide and day passes to Universal Studios for 7 individuals.
In total the trip was estimated to cost $8,000 to $10,000, all paid for through the special funds account.
Upon their return, the SCC executive members were asked to submit a report to the president of the university.
”The trip was wonderful and we learned a lot from the conference and the presenters there,” reported the SCC.
“it started as a little social rumor, like ‘did you hear that they really didn’t go to the conference’,’” said Ruby Graves, aluma of 2009, who wrote an article “Lock Haven Scandal 2009” for CNN iReport to circulate the controversy.
Students started to wonder what exactly took place, and a large group of them attended an open forum organized by the university.
SCC president Lunden said the group “received a stern talking to by Jodi Smith,” director of student activities, upon returning. Lunden admitted, “We did not go the conference and we did not plan on going to the conference.”
“Once they felt that no other students had questions, their advisor said that was their punishment,” said Graves. ”Facing us as the student body to answer for their crime was their only punishment, and it was unfathomable that the university would expect them to pay back such a large amount of money.”
After Lunden, Frederick and Davis refused to step down, the SCC Ways and Means Committee moved to impeach them as well as open an investigation into faculty involvement. However, Graves recalls that it was at the end of the semester and did not believe that the SCC executives were removed.
In the years after the scandal, the SCC was kept in a shutdown period until it was disbanded in favor of the current system during the 2012 to 2013 academic period where Student Auxiliary Services took over the majority of the responsibilities.
“The leadership positions are Chair, Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. The term ‘chair’ is used because the SAS did not want this to seem too powerful,” said Jessica Joseph, who wrote for the Eagle Eye during this time. “The SAS is now split up into five committees. The committees include advocacy, community service and outreach, programming, campus life, and an executive committee. The different committees were created so that there is no bias happening when it comes to club funding.”
Eventually students stopped attending SCC meetings. Then the elections for new representatives stopped as well.
“it fizzled,” said Thomas Bates, current student member of the Council of Trustees.“There wasn’t much going on with it. No one wanted to go to the meetings because it didn’t make much sense because there wasn’t any representation.”
Bates said that this lack of appropriate electoral process “makes actual student input more difficult by not having some sort of platform. Up until recently they just picked whatever student the administrators knew kind of well.“
“The student government at a certain point will need to become a separate entity with a budget separate from the SAS. At the the moment they are tied up budget-wise because of their status as a club over the past years,” added Bates.
But Bates says that he thinks student government can be that representative again, and he credits Trevor Dietz, president of the Student Government Board. “All the legwork has really been done by Trevor. I’ve only really been a soundboard.”
Dietz is overhauling membership by seeking individuals to represent each department and organization within the university. With these new representatives, he hopes that the organization can establish elections for next school year.
“I think that our purpose right now is to create a body in which students are represented and there is a real respectable student body on campus,” said Dietz. ”We need to have a united student government, an organization that students can go to and a venue for students to voice their concerns.”
Dietz explained that he thinks that each PASSHE university has different, and unique student bodies and set of traditions.
“I think it’s our job at Lock Haven to form our own traditions in our own system,” he said.
For Bates, a senior, though his time is quickly coming to a close, he wants to leave his mark.
“I’d love to be able to look back 10 years from now as an alumni and hear that the student government board has been advocating for more education funding for students and to boost the student academic profile, as well as student success. And to know that I was a part of it,” he said.


One thought on “Student Government revitalization: Overcoming past sins

  1. Luke Lorenz says:

    I do not understand why the organization did not present charges on the individuals who for all intents and purposes embezzled assets. When I was SCC president in 1998, we realized we had a great deal of authority, thankfully due to a legacy of trust with the University administration. The SCC made possible many improvements for students that would otherwise be back burner issues. It’s unfortunate for the succeeding generations of students that the organization was disbanded. The appropriate response would have been holding the individuals accountable who stole money not disbanding an organization that empowered students. The University, which had changed due to administrative turnover, and the Foundation found this situation an ideal opportunity to wrest the financial wherewithal of the SCC into their own grip. In the late 90’s the organization has a revenue of several million dollars annually. All student controlled. Now, no money, no authority, no voice. It is a tough but worthy fight to get that back again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s