Airing the sheets on Main Campus

Part 1 of 2 on the growing pains of a 15-year old student government in residence: MCRC

MCRS President Alexis Meyerman thought she might be impeached at the MCRC General Assembly meeting on Monday night. No such vote was put forward, but a motion to censure her and her executive board was proposed. The vote failed with more than two-thirds against.
MCRS President Alexis Meyerman thought she might be impeached at the MCRC General Assembly meeting on Monday night. No such vote was put forward, but a motion to censure her and her executive board was proposed. The vote failed with more than two-thirds against.
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Ian Kuehl, an MCRC discipline facilitator, attempted to censure the executive Monday night.
Ian Kuehl, an MCRC discipline facilitator, attempted to censure the executive Monday night.
Photo: 

Theft. Impeachment. Election irregularities. Silk flowers.

Over the past four years, it’s words like these that have brought the Main Campus Residents’ Council (MCRC) up on the campus radar. For a student government whose mandate is to make the first-year experience a highlight of a student’s university career, the organization has had its share of lowlights.

Controversy has dogged the MCRC in recent years, prompting a series of its presidents to pledge to clean up scandal and restore the faith of the organization’s constituents—and of the University community as a whole—in it.

Despite the MCRC’s annual appearances in the Journal—usually announcing more scandal than achievement—past and present executive members say the headlines don’t paint the whole picture.

Currently in its fifteenth year of existence, the MCRC employs a total of 56 paid staff members, including a five-member executive board consisting of three elected and two hired members. Anyone who lives in a main campus residence is a member of the Main Campus Residents’ Society (MCRS), which totals 3,100 students—about 2,850 of which are in their first year. Members of the MCRS constitute about one-quarter of all AMS constituents.

The MCRC has worked hard to turn over a new leaf this year, said current MCRS President Alexis Meyerman. And unlike past presidents’ pledges to do so, several other student leaders and University administration have told the Journal that this year, there’s evidence of positive change.

“In the last year, [Meyerman] has made tremendous progress,” said Grant Bishop, outgoing rector (2004-06) and former don of Morris Hall (2004). “We came out of a situation that was divisive and quite demoralizing for all concerned.

“[This year, Meyerman] has made a real point of exposing issues and bringing those to the fore with other students and government leaders.”

But optimism has been cautious at best.

As recently as Monday night, several members of the MCRC General Assembly were calling for a condemnation of the organization’s executive board over alleged unethical conduct.

“[Meyerman has been] found guilty of breaking bylaws, she’s [been] found guilty of breaking the MCRC executive board code of ethics, she’s [been] found guilty of sharing my own personal information [and therefore] breaking confidentiality,” Ian Kuehl, a discipline facilitator for Leonard Hall, told the council, referring to a hearing Meyerman faced in November based on complaints he had made. “She’s [been] found guilty, guilty, guilty, guilty!”

Debate lasted for nearly an hour and a half before voting took place, with the motion to condemn the executive board eventually defeated by more than two-thirds against. Debate was only drawn to that close, however, when invited guest EngSoc President Chris Zabaneh told council he wanted to make some candid remarks prior to assembly deciding to vote.

“Right now, the University is able to peck away at the MCRC’s right to govern themselves and deal with your own non-academic discipline because they know you’re fractured and they know that right now, this is the most unprofessional body I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.

He then stormed out of the room, vowing to tell his applied science constituents about the “ridiculous,” “high school council”-style meeting he had witnessed.

Nearly the entire 25 people assembled applauded him out the door, several nodding their agreement.

Zabaneh later told the Journal he had attended the meeting out of “good will” towards his fellow student government, something both he and Bishop believed the MCRC had fostered this year more than ever before.

The Journal, on the other hand, attended the meeting after being told by Meyerman earlier that day of her minor suspicions of possible impeachment—or at least a potential motion to do so.

“I’m confident I won’t get impeached tonight,” she said, but not without a frown.

Four years ago, then-MCRS President Farouq Manji resigned for his role in a theft of $1,000 by McNeill House facilitator Imran Kassam from the McNeill House fund.

The following year, Dave Homuth, the current chair of the AMS Board of Directors and then a second-year MCRC VP (society activities), approached the Journal alleging that then-MCRS President James McIntosh had mismanaged funds generated by a then-$72.45 mandatory student fee. Homuth charged that it was unacceptable for McIntosh to spend more than $5,000 on a summer administrative assistant, cellphones for the executive, new and re-upholstered office furniture and silk flowers and a pot for his office.

McIntosh and Sally Harris, then-MCRS VP (residence affairs)—-who had different charges laid against her—were put through impeachment proceedings, though General Assembly voted to keep them in office. McIntosh currently holds the hired position of MCRC VP (finance and operations).

In January 2005, following an election period marred by voting irregularities, flaws in procedure and misinterpretation of policy, MCRS VP (discipline) Tanya Rossi resigned. In order to redo the election, MCRC asked the AMS election team to run the proceedings, at which point Meyerman was elected president.

Near the end of the 2004-05 school year, however, then-MCRS President Arun Parkash resigned his post after MCRC began their own impeachment hearings for what General Assembly believed to be his failure to properly represent his constituents on an issue that gave University administration broader powers over the MCRC.

Last month, Kuehl himself attempted, tentatively, to put forward a motion for Meyerman’s impeachment. Without a seconder for the motion, however, it became stale.

Kuehl ran for an MCRC executive position in a team against Meyerman in the previous year’s elections. He later told the Journal that although he had put that motion forward, it wasn’t meant seriously.

Stretching back 10 years in MCRC’s history, the organization was not always notorious, said two-time MCRS President Mohammed Heraiba (1998-99 and 2000-01) and ArtSci and Sci ’01.

“For many, many years, the MCRC—even though they were part of the AMS—they weren’t quite counted as part of the AMS,” he told the Journal during a telephone call from Cairo, Egypt. “Very few people on the AMS even knew what the MCRC was.”

He added the organization was seen more as part of the University-run Residence Life (ResLife) at that time, though he spent part of his presidency working to raise MCRC’s profile on campus.

“Between 1996 and 2000 … [MCRC] wasn’t known for the scandals that may have happened between 2002 and 2005,” he said. “There’s a lot of good initiatives that happened.”

MCRC executive from recent years say they also achieved solid gains for the organization, but much of it has been overshadowed.

During Monday night’s meeting, Kuehl told the General Assembly that his motion to “censure” the executive board was not personal.

“None of this looks at the system itself, none of this looks at the fact that the MCRC is top-heavy, none of this looks at the fact that the executive board itself is too powerful an organization,” he said. “Here we have checks and we have balances—[but] it’s all on one side. It’s all on the executive side.”

While the vote suggested Kuehl’s complaint resonated with only a few council members, it points to a number of concerns some have expressed with the broader operations of the MCRC and what they say is its inward-looking focus. The intrusion of personal politics on council itself, several others have said, has been detrimental to its smooth operation.

According to Meyerman, however, there are greater problems still.

“In some ways, I think MCRC brings about its own poor reputation.”

Next issue: ResLife, past and present student leaders and MCRC executive weigh in on the challenges faced by the MCRC, including personal politics and how the University administration fits into the bigger picture. They also pose solutions, including strengthening the MCRC’s ties with the AMS and merging the Jean Royce Hall Council on West Campus with MCRC.

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