To the Editor:
I write in response to the recent article detailing charges brought against Mitch McBride ’17 under the Campus Code of Conduct for sharing allegedly confidential materials from the Admissions and Financial Aid Working Group. These charges are both ill-advised and unwarranted.
The function of a student representative to a university committee or task force is often to bring student viewpoints to the attention of university decision-makers regarding important policy and programmatic initiatives and to relay information to and from constituents. While students serve at the pleasure of the administration in an effort to make university decision-making more participatory, transparent and democratic, student representatives are not employed by the university, nor do they tacitly agree, by virtue of their participation, to act at the behest of the university’s administration rather than in the best interest of the constituents they have been elected or appointed to represent. To put a “gag order” on student representatives to not share information or solicit feedback about proposals that are under administrative review — under threat of disciplinary action pursuant to the Campus Code of Conduct — would seriously undermine the role and effectiveness of students serving in these capacities.
These charges also shift responsibility for maintaining sensitive information from administrators to students serving on university committees and task forces. If, in this instance, administrators believed that the information provided to Mr. McBride and others was too sensitive to be disclosed publicly, then they should have considered appropriate safeguards, in light of the role of the stakeholders at those meetings and their responsibilities to constituents, to ensure confidentiality. Should the materials only be shared conceptually or on slides, but not in writing? Or should members be required to return written materials after meetings? Or only receive and retain written materials upon signing a confidentiality agreement? It appears that no such precautions were implemented, and the charges are based on the administration’s expectation of confidentiality, without any bilateral agreement.
I am disappointed by the administration’s actions and expect the University Hearing Board will recognize the folly of pursuing these charges and exonerate Mr. McBride. I agree with the positions articulated by my former professors who have been quoted in your article that the interpretation proffered by the Office of the Judicial Administrator stretches the Campus Code of Conduct beyond its intent and imperils the effectiveness of student participation in university governance.
Emanuel Tsourounis II ’00, Law ‘03
Student Assembly President, 1999-2000
Judicial Codes Counselor, 2001-2003