On Dec. 21, 2011, five members of our UVU Review staff received the email they were waiting for, informing them that their Media Spring Scholarship had been awarded. This is the scholarship that staff members get for their various duties and contributions to the paper.
On Jan. 3, 2012, these same students received emails alerting them that funds would be deposited within three business days. Those who didn’t have direct deposit were sent checks in the mail.
Later that day, they received emails from the Scholarships office informing them that their scholarships were revoked but that they were welcome to appeal.
On Jan. 6, they were sent an email from the Student Life office with a link to where they could appeal their scholarship. Students were told to send their appeal approval letters when they arrived to Robbin Anthony and Brent Sumner. Anthony is the Assistant Coordinator at the UVU Review. Sumner is the Coordinator of Student Media.
On Jan. 24, these students received yet another email from the scholarship office. Their appeals had been approved. Their scholarships were reinstated. All of the members of staff sent their approval letters to Anthony, as per instructions, with the exception of one staff member who wasn’t aware that he should have. At this point, the students already had the money in their accounts or checks that had been delivered to their homes.
On Jan. 30, UVU Review’s Life editor, Kelly Cannon had a meeting with Student Body President, Chris Loumeau. She asked him questions about the millions in student fees allocated for different departments. She asked him if she could have a copy of the budget, for an article about where this money goes. He refused to print her out a copy. This was suspicious, as past Student Body Presidents have printed out budgets for our research with no hesitation. Jan. 30 is also the same day that an article was printed in the opinions section encouraging students to participate in the upcoming elections.
The next day on Jan. 31, four of the five students who had gone through the aforementioned appeals process were notified by the Student Life department, which works closely with UVUSA, and the Scholarships office that their award money was again revoked. By this point, students were no longer allowed to withdraw from classes. Without money to pay for school, or the opportunity to formally leave for the semester, many of these students would see an entire report card of “W”s.
The student who didn’t send the appeal approval to Anthony got the scholarship without any problems but the rest were refused their funding.
On Feb. 1, Andrea Whatcott, Editor-in-Chief of the UVU Review, contacted a few members of the school’s publication board. None of them were aware that these students were being refused their scholarships. After Whatcott spoke with Scott Carrier, one member of the publication board, he approached Rebecca Grulich, the Assistant Vice President of Student Life and other members of the publication board, because “it seemed the paper was being punished for an editorial.”
On Feb. 3, a meeting was scheduled between Grulich and the students, ostensibly to explain why their scholarships were taken away. Fifteen minutes before the meeting was to start, Grulich cancelled the meeting. She later reprimanded Whatcott for talking to other members on the publication board and going above her head to the Dean of Students. She insisted that there was no reason to get other people involved. At this point late fees were beginning to accrue for the students in question.
On Feb. 6, this group of students went to Bob Rassmussen, Dean of Students, as per his request after speaking with Whatcott. He assured the group that he would get to the bottom of things and make sure they were taken care of so they could continue their education.
On Feb. 9, these students were told that a concession was made between Rasmussen, Grulich and Phil Clegg, Assistant Dean of Students (all members of the publication board). The students would receive their scholarships but they would be stripped of their titles. This was intended to limit the contributions they could make to the paper. They were paid for jobs they cannot take credit for. One of the students who eventually received her funding still has over a hundred dollars in fees for not having her tuition paid in full when it was due because of the institutional hassle she experienced.
Section 5 of the UVU Review Constitution states, “A suspension, termination or disciplined staff member must be confirmed in writing and acknowledged by the signature of the staff member.” This protocol was not adhered to and no documentation was presented for the signatures of these students. It also states that if a staff member is to be terminated, members of the publication board should evaluate their situation. Board members include Grulich, Rasmussen, Clegg and Loumeau along with eight other individuals. There is no specification as to whether a consensus must be reached between all members, but not all members of the publication were involved in the decision-making. In any case this constitution advocates a conflict of interest, specifically Loumeau’s membership on the publication board. It should be amended.
Grulich said that these scholarships should never have been up for appeal in the first place. The employee from Student Life who sent these students the link to the appeals paperwork had been doing her job for twenty years. If these scholarships were not supposed to have been appealed, it seemed like she would have been aware of this.
On Feb. 24, I spoke with Carla Morgan in the scholarship office. She said that as of this semester, students will not be allowed to appeal any scholarship that comes from Student Life and there are no exceptions. When I asked her where this was documented, she said that it should be in the bylaws of the UVUSA Constitution, which is the constitution that governs the Student Life department. There are no bylaws with the exception of ones that outline the election process. None of which make any mention of scholarships that can’t be appealed. When I asked Phil Clegg where the documentation was for the rule concerning scholarships not being able to be appealed, he said that they were implied in the constitution itself. We can probably anticipate a specific amendment after this article is published, but at the time of publication no such amendment was available.
Under heading “H” in the Media Scholarship contract it states that “policies and procedures are subject to change without notice.” Unless the restriction for appeals falls into this category, there is nothing to account for this rule.
If no exceptions are to be made, why is it an exception was made for the student who didn’t send his approval letter to anyone associated with Student Life? He got his funding with no abnormal troubles.
It is also relevant to note, that three of the four students who got stripped of their titles are ethnic minorities.
On Feb. 22, I interviewed Grulich and asked why there were so many problems getting scholarships for members of the UVU Review staff. She expressed sympathy and noted that it was a major communication breakdown but these students should work more on their academic endeavors and not on their extracurricular activities.
As I was leaving her office, Grulich thought it important to emphasize one thing. “Everything that happened with the scholarships was purely procedural. I didn’t find out about that opinions article until after the appeals were revoked and none of these money problems had anything to do with the content of the paper itself.” She made this statement without any cues or related questions from me. However, this particular course of events is perhaps cause for suspicion.
It is a fact that these students were given their checks until a representative of the paper asked UVUSA, which is associated with Student Life, for the budget and the paper ran an opinions piece encouraging students to run against the incumbent party or at least participate in the upcoming elections. It is also fact that the one student who didn’t send his approval letter to anyone associated with UVUSA, somehow got through unscathed. Faculty members, who made these decisions, say that there is no connection to draw from this timeline. Though, these are dots that seem to align almost too perfectly.
This was written for the purpose of awareness. We hope this never happens to any other UVU student involved in organizations on campus in the future.
By Felicia Joy
Assistant Opinions Editor