Congress shuts down national government, OSI ‘shuts down student voice’

By Jackie Glosniak

October 16, 2013

Just when the U.S. government was beginning of its shutdown dilemma, Dominican experienced its own share of problems when the Office of Student Involvement enacted its own shutdown against the Student Government Association.

In an email sent to the SGA executive board in the early afternoon on Monday, Sept. 30, Ian Van Anden, coordinator for the Office of Student Involvement, alerted SGA that all of their activities would be suspended until a meeting could be scheduled with him, the president and adviser of SGA along with another SGA executive board member.

“It has come to my attention that on the evening of Wednesday, Sept. 25, your organization hosted the opening games of your intramural soccer league,” Van Anden’s letter opens, “Because you have failed to go through the proper processes outlined in the Student Involvement handbook, this action has violated university policy, subjecting your organization to disciplinary action.”

In the weeks leading up to the kick-off of the soccer league, Van Anden scheduled a meeting with SGA Adviser Norah Collins to discuss the policies that SGA must adhere to before hosting the league’s inaugural game.

One week before the shutdown, on Monday, Sept. 23, Collins held a meeting with SGA President Berto Aguayo, where it was discussed that the location of the event needed to be scheduled and proper university waivers needed to be turned in to OSI. However, Aguayo moved forward on Wednesday, Sept. 25, hosting the soccer game on Dominican’s practice field without reserving the space and turning in the appropriate safety waivers.

After the shutdown announcement, Aguayo explained his motives to SGA and apologized for the predicament that resulted in him hosting the event without formalized approval.

“This rests on me,” Aguayo said, “I’m taking responsibility for my actions. Let’s try to get this resolved as soon as possible.”

While Aguayo acknowledges that he did not follow university procedures, he remains puzzled as to how OSI can shut down what he considers to be the student voice of the campus.

“Instead of letting us make a mistake, they shut us down,” he said, “We’re the voice; we unify and lead. The fact that you remove that from us, that’s just detrimental. That’s something [Vladimir] Putin would do.”

“That is part of our normal process and procedure when there’s a major policy violation from any student organization,” Van Anden said, “What we do is we halt activities until we’re able to have a follow-up meeting based on what happened.”

After calling a quorum to vote to create the intramural soccer league, Aguayo created an executive cabinet of students to lead recruitment. Students in the cabinet helped distribute flyers with information regarding the league at the Student Involvement Fair on Sept. 17.

While the league did have completed student waivers, they failed to turn them in to OSI. Because Aguayo did not want to hold out on the program, he held on to the waivers and gave the league the green light to hold their first games.

“We wanted to get this thing up and moving,” he said.

Another issue with the event regarded the liability revolving around SGA not reserving the practice field to hold the event.

“On myDU, there was no outside space to be requested,” Aguayo said.

Van Anden argues that SGA should have been aware of OSI procedures and should not have had difficulties reserving a space.

“The practice field is reserved the same way any of our other space is reserved on campus,” Van Anden said, “Our online form allows you to put in whatever room, whatever space, whatever location.”

While Aguayo had waivers signed, the fact that they were not turned in to OSI posed a problem regarding the safety of students and liability of the university.

“There’s always the risk of injury [with intramural sports] and that was one of our main concerns,” Van Anden said,  “The event had not been approved by our office to go forward and SGA had been made aware of that and been explicitly told not to move forward with it and that when you move forward and don’t have the coverage and approval of the university, the students who put on the event become liable. Any university-sponsored event, from our fitness classes to ultimate Frisbee tournaments, requires waivers to be signed.”

Van Anden also believes there was a lack of communication between Aguayo and OSI. He believes that had communication occurred, there would not have been an issue.