By: Alyson Peabody, Editor-In-Chief
Last Monday, my letter introduced issues affecting the Free Press and my life outside of the paper. Shortly after the letter went live, I received a phone call from a USM alum who experienced the same issues during their time as a student. Hearing that this is nothing new, that it is almost ‘business as usual’ was concerning.
How could this be tolerated for so long?
I understand the confusion surrounding anonymity in both letters (this one and the last). It is difficult to write a letter about accountability without naming specific people. Anonymity for the USM employees violating proper procedure is important at this point in time as I, with the help of other student leaders, follow steps to file a formal complaint.
I have asked for guidance on how to approach this situation from both the student and the administrative side. Most of these conversations I had about these concerns were productive.
Prior to writing my initial letter addressing these concerns, I met with the Free Press Faculty Advisor on Sept. 20. I was put in violation by signing an unauthorized check for $900 that was put into a stack of checks I was signing for student employees. Our Business Manager had noticed the check and removed it a few days before, but a USM employee put the check back into the stack. We were charged twice for summer stipends, losing $900 from our account. As far as I know, this money was never replaced.
Additionally, the Free Press received a check on Oct. 23 with only one signature (when there should be two) from a USM employee who is not authorized to sign WMPG/Free Press checks. There is no paper trail along with this check for seventeen thousand dollars. There is a question about whether or not this money was actually deposited into our account or if it was taken out and put back to look like a deposit.
I was told by several students that the Free Press is not the only student organization being treated like a slush fund. Student Senate Treasurer, David Reed, confirmed that there is evidence of a USM employee directly transferring money between accounts without using purchase orders. Reed consented to his name being used in this letter.
Reed went to the Business Office on Oct. 31 to request recent Student Communication Board (SCB) purchase orders. The USM employee threatened to call the police on Reed after he requested the records. Two Student Affairs employees witnessed this incident.
I would be doing student leaders a disservice by not be talking about this issue. It has not been easy navigating this situation knowing that I do not have the answers. I do not want to be in the middle of this just as much as I don’t want to be writing this right now. This situation has negatively impacted my time as EIC, my ability to focus on classes and my mental health.
I am not alone in this feeling.
Several students have come forward thanking me for talking about these issues. Other student organizations are experiencing similar things. I can not speak on behalf of their experiences, but I can sympathize.
It would be too easy to sweep this under the rug and ignore it. It would be too easy to sit back until the next EIC takes over. However, I care too much about what happens to the Free Press, the people I work with and the rest of the student organizations on campus to let that happen.
I will not stop publishing about this issue until I see this university take its students seriously and stop endorsing behavior that is detrimental to our ability to focus on why we are here.
Updated Nov. 4