By Emma Way
When two Executive Board members of the Student Government Association were relieved of their duties on Oct. 6, the Review Board swiftly filled the openings to ensure continuity of leadership, despite the difficult situation.
Many details surrounding the incident are largely unknown due to the confidential and personal nature of the situation, which led seniors Rachel Kurtz and John Gould, former secretaries of academics and of service and community relations respectively, to step down from their positions. Neither were available for comment.
On Oct. 23 the Review Board announced their decision to instate juniors Alexandra Kurtz as secretary of academics and Audrey Utchen as secretary of service. “I am so excited to work with Audrey and Alex in these positions. We saw a high level of professionalism and experience that will make it so they can hit the ground running,” said junior and SGA President Taylor Frey. Prior to the announcement, Frey took over as interim secretary of academics while senior and SGA Vice President Jaclyn Gibbons served in the interim for secretary of service.
“I can’t speak very much to the background of the situation where Rachel and John had to step down, but what I can say, as SGA president, is I highly value every member of our team, and I care about every single member and every past member,” said Frey.
Frey shared that this decision was the hardest one he’s made in his term thus far, and it was a very difficult time for the Review Board as a whole. He said, “It’s hard to lose a member of your team and your SGA family.”
One of Frey’s priorities after losing two members of the Executive Board was ensuring a smooth transition, which the SGA strived to achieve with an expedited application process. Senators were instructed to share that there were two openings in the Executive Board and that anyone was encouraged to apply.
Although no campus-wide email was sent, Frey and the SGA hoped that the one-on-one interaction between senators and their constituents would encourage students to apply. They received about 10 applications, which is more than they typically receive for these positions, according to Frey.
“An ongoing challenge is making sure senators are relaying information to the community and that goes beyond this particular incident,” said Frey. “Having those important, unhurried conversations has had very good results for us in the past… Large email blasts don’t really go that far.”
Establishing a greater line of communication between senators and their constituents is just one of Frey’s many priorities as president. This incident and others like it incite discussions on the high standard SGA members are held to. “Not speaking directly to this situation, that [anti-bullying] is something we find really important. We hold everyone to the highest standard possible and the values of our institution,” he said.
The decision to relieve Gould and Rachel Kurtz of their duties was made by the Review Board with Faculty Advisor and Assistant Professor of Drama Brendon Fox there to observe and moderate in case of conflict. “I respect the process that they had… The issues involved are very sensitive and ongoing,” he said, which made a confidentiality agreement the most viable option.
According to Fox, someone from the administration recommended that Frey and the Review Board take a confidential approach in the situation to ensure that the students involved could speak openly about the situation. Neither Sarah Feyerherm, associate vice president for Student Affairs, nor Dr. Xavier Cole, vice president for Student Affairs, were available for comment.
Although the facts of the case are confidential, both Fox and Frey agree that providing the best leadership for Washington College’s student body remains the most important aspect of the situation.