By Molly Igoe and Brooke Schultz
At the start of last semester, concerns were raised regarding how former Student Government Association (SGA) President Taylor Frey handled SGA funds. The case has officially been investigated, and Frey was found innocent of any wrongdoing.
“When these allegations were made…the Business Office, in collaboration with Student Affairs, reviewed everything that they needed to review to determine whether or not anything inappropriate had happened…. What that did was determine that there was nothing that Taylor had done that violated College policy, violated SGA policy, or anything of that sort,” Vice President and Dean of Students Sarah Feyerherm said.
The allegations were first made in the fall semester by the SGA. On Oct. 2, Frey resigned from his position as president.
“I feel I have done everything I can to serve students in this role, and it is time I focus on living a happy, productive, balanced life. I do not think maintaining my position in the SGA will allow me to serve our students further,” he wrote in his resignation letter that was sent to the Executive Board and members of the WC administration. “I hope this will allow folks to focus on the important work needed to move the SGA forward. I have followed all the proper processes and procedures as SGA President and I am proud of the things we’ve accomplished.”
In a later interview with The Elm, Frey stressed that he has pushed for transparency and reform since he served as a senator. He said, “On a small campus like ours, sometimes people engage in imprudent gossip, speculation, and accusations. In my case these allegations were confirmed to be false and unfounded. It was both personally and professionally stressful to be put in this situation. I appreciate the support and concern expressed by so many members of the community on my behalf. I believe WC is a place where people generally support each other. I won’t let this negative experience tarnish that view.”
According to the SGA minutes, the allegations resurfaced on March 7 during a weekly senate meeting when Senator Spencer Warren, junior, motioned to open discussion about the internal investigation about Frey.
Dean Feyerherm responded to the senate’s concerns at that time. As reported in the minutes, she said, “We worked really closely with everyone in the SGA on the Executive Board to find out more. We looked at everything and from all angles. I will tell you if there were issues, if there were issues of wrongdoing, a violation of College policy, something would have happened. Those things would have been addressed.”
Speaking with The Elm in a separate interview, Dean Feyerherm said that, by being present at the senate meeting, she had no intention of shutting down the conversation and had to speak vaguely in order to respect Frey’s privacy.
“I was surprised that [the allegations] were coming up at this point at a place where we felt we had resolved it,” she said. “We had communicated it to the SGA and the Executive Board, but we hadn’t communicated it any further. In part, because I wanted to preserve Taylor’s privacy…. We’re happy to be as transparent as we can be within those confines of the process.”
Dean Feyerherm said that, as someone who worked in student conduct at WC for 12 years before stepping into her current position, she was, “comfortable with the process that was used to look at this and the conclusions that came out of it.”
Through this process, Dean Feyerherm said that the SGA concluded that their written policies for handling money were relatively unclear, and they are addressing those concerns with the new Executive Board.
“I think what happened here was there were some expectations that people had that were never clear with anybody, honestly. Not only were they not clear, [but] they also weren’t written down in any way. That’s what we’re moving towards — let’s [get] some understanding about what those expectations are,” she said.
Every purchase still goes through a channel of approval. A portion of the Student Activity Fee is managed by the SGA to distribute through clubs and organizations. According to Dean Feyerherm, both the president’s and financial controller’s school credit cards are checked by Student Affairs staff before purchases go through the Business Office. If the Business Office sees anything of concern, the purchase is flagged. Both credit cards have a limit.
“It’s not like SGA can go out willy-nilly and spend your money,” she said. “They can’t. They have processes in place. It’s just not always the same as the way they are in other areas. Students should be assured that there are checks-and-balances in place, including our very meticulous Business Office that I trust completely.”
Moving forward, the Executive Board will consider more carefully how the SGA functions.
Candace Wannamaker, associate vice president for Student Affairs, Title IX coordinator, and advisor for the SGA, said that this experience has taught the SGA that handling funds can be refined and made more transparent. As an added measure of security, they have implemented a system where the financial controller must approve the president’s purchases and vice versa.
“We’ve managed that process so that it’s SGA monitoring their own and then we monitor as things come through,” Wannamaker said.
Both emphasized the fact that the SGA purchases are for student clubs and organizations.
“So [clubs and organizations] will actually go through the financial controller and president to use that credit card… So it’s not like the president and financial controller have free-reign on this credit card. They’re doing it for student organization spending,” Wannamaker said.
They also want to involve the senate more in approving discretionary funds.
“The senate, they take that very seriously. You can have very long discussions about $300 of discretionary money going toward an organization or club that shows that they care about those things. Candace is especially working closely with them as we were moving forward, refining those policies for them,” Dean Feyerherm said.
Most importantly, Dean Feyerherm said, this has been a learning experience for the SGA.
“It’s our job to make sure they can learn and there’s going to be some bumps in the road, and, obviously, if there’s anything illegal or against College policy, we step in. But this is about the opportunities for learning, and I think this has been a great opportunity for them to learn.”
By Molly Igoe and Brooke Schultz