BSC Scandal: Officer resignation sparks larger controversy and questions
*This student wished not to be named*
On the evening of Saturday, March 19, former Beloit Student Congress (BSC) Parliamentarian Matthew Estes’18 went to check his email in order to prepare himself for the BSC Executive Board meeting the next morning. What he found shocked him. “I see all this sh*t that’s gone down,” he said. “I couldn’t help but think, ‘What the f*ck is going on?’”
What Estes found were two emails. One was sent to the members of BSC Executive Board from BSC President Izak Harvey-Wolff’17. The other was sent shortly after to 66 different people — some of whom were within BSC, and many of whom were not (including the author of this piece) — from BSC Vice President Tallulah Shepherd’19.
The latter email from Shepherd announced “the investigation of a member of BSC exec given multiple reports of misuse of power and negligence, as well as possible personal discrimination.” The email invited all 66 of its recipients to attend the next morning’s BSC Executive Board meeting in the Presidents’ Lounge of Chapin. The former email outlined a series of charges being levied against Estes.
“On Thursday March 17, 2016 I learned that Matt had said something that was very troubling to me,” wrote Harvey-Wolff. “He had bragged about his ability to stall the processes of BSC in regards to the Organization Bylaws that are supposed to be on Judiciary Committee’s (JC) docket because of his role as Parliamentarian. I later learned that this was one comment among many: even more alarmingly, he also stated that he felt confident in his ability to affect how much time it takes for proposals for bylaws to be passed through JC. As was paraphrased to me: ‘If I don’t like a person, their bylaws will not pass through JC,’ ‘that how much I like someone could affect how quickly it passed through,’ and again paraphrased as saying ‘I am trying to stall out the organization bylaws until the end of this semester.’
“I believe these statements represent the gross misuse and abuse of power referenced earlier,” he continued. “They are also in concurrence with actions that demonstrate a belief in individual exceptionalism from the rules and regulations. In COO, Matt holds that he may represent Interfaith Club as their COO Rep, although Article II of the BSC Constitution reads ‘Officers shall not represent constituencies.’ Matt additionally takes it upon himself to dominate conversations when we break out into small groups in BSC, even when I make it clear that the representatives are responsible for being the group leaders. I don’t believe that this particular anti-cooperative behavior is impeachable, but it serves to demonstrate the sort of ‘I can do what I want’ style that Matt has apparently been operating under.”
The charges that were specifically outlined against Estes — per the minutes of March 20’s BSC Executive Board meeting — were “lack of cooperation, need to dominate conversation, personal biases hinder BSC” and a “conflict of interest” with a student interested in forming an organization. The minutes highlight that Estes had a “negative interaction with a student” and then volunteered to write the bylaws for forming an organization for that student.
When Estes discovered the emails and saw that so many people were responding, he was shocked. He claimed to have “no clue [that] any of this was even on the radar.”
“I started going through all the emails trying to figure out why all these people are replying,” he said. “I got to the first email that was sent out to Executive Board. There was one that was sent out to everybody — we are talking everybody that has ever been in BSC, which is sketchy to me. I don’t want to be a drama queen or anything like that, but it felt to me like there was a certain desire for an audience to this. This wasn’t straight business. Once I started reading the stuff, this felt like setting up an audience.”
To Estes, the situation felt like a miscommunication coupled with a form of personal bias taken up against him rather than the other way around. “I start reading [the emails] and the crux of it astonished me because the comments that Izak was using in the email directed to Exec Board about why he was pushing forward with this were jokes to my best friend over dinner. We were literally sitting, eating dinner and talking about BSC gossip, which we always do. ‘Oh man, how great would this be?’ and stuff like that. The usual venting and joking.”
Discussions about a controversial set of bylaws regarding the formation of on-campus organizations (which featured a great deal of debate and arguing that will be detailed later in this article) were what motivated Estes to make his comments. “We were talking about how recently there had been these bylaws and a different group of people came in and were like, ‘Well, we have our own update to these bylaws!’” Estes continued. “And I was very confused by that. They showed up to Judiciary Committee with this on Wednesday, [March 16] looking to run the show. We already had pre-scheduled meeting time to talk about totally different issues, so I said we would see if we had time to get to their stuff but we had to address the things I already had planned. In my timetable, I hadn’t factored in that these people would come up with their own stuff they would want to get done. This week was meant to be talking about election stuff. So what we were joking about was like, ‘Oh man, did you see their faces? I think they were pretty mad that they didn’t get to talk about their stuff.’ And I made some kind of joke about trying to stall it out until the end of the year by finding new stuff to do each week that pushes it back and annoy them. I also made some other comments about me being frustrated with other people. I was like, ‘I don’t know why everyone is so rude to me. If it’s nice, I could get anything they want done in a week, but if it’s frustrating and a sh*t show, it could take months.’ I was just venting about this stuff to my friends. I would never actually slow something down for three months just to spite someone because that’s ridiculous. That’s awful. But I like to vent, like anybody. I’ve said this stuff a million different times a million different ways and it has never been a problem before. This was nothing more than a little bit of fantasy and trying to make my best friend laugh.”
In Estes’s eyes, the situation is the direct result of poor communication within BSC, specifically within the Executive Board. “At no point did anyone, before all the drama went down, ask me if I was serious,” explained Estes. “All this could have been avoided with one question and one answer. I don’t know why no one contacted me. Part of me thinks that was done on purpose because of some personal drama. I will fully admit that I’m not well liked by certain members of BSC Exec because I don’t put up with certain bullsh*t. There is a certain way that I act that grinds their gears and there is a way they act that grinds my gears. So there has been a lot of tension and these same people who I believe had a lot to do with this, we’ve been fighting the past couple weeks. So I don’t think there is much beyond this other than personal politics. I think that is the case because everything that I can recall in the email that was sent to me about why this was all going forward had an explanation. And there was some content in there that I found very offensive. At one point, my personal life was brought up.”
But for Harvey-Wolff, the situation was no joking matter. In fact, in his email to BSC’s Executive Board regarding the matter, he wrote the following: “For full disclosure: Matt, I have also been informed that after you said the things I was told you said you said something akin to ‘I was joking.’ To me, that’s similar to telling someone to do something unsavory in unsavory language and then saying ‘I was joking’ when you realize you’ve done something very, very wrong. Given the current political climate and the extenuating circumstances, it is in my mind clear that you meant what you said. I don’t feel that ‘I was joking’ is a reason to not move forward with the investigation.”
Although he did admit “he didn’t send [Estes] any emails individually about this,” he found the situation worthy of everyone’s immediate attention, which is why he chose to “alert everyone at once.”
In his email to Estes and the rest of Executive Board, Harvey-Wolff formatted a significant portion as a personal letter to Estes that detailed his evolution on Estes’s behavior and why he had decided to push forward with an investigation.
“To refuse to give someone and their bylaws due process is blatant discrimination based on your personal biases,” Harvey-Wolff wrote. “It need not be racism, nor sexism, nor homophobia, nor any other process of group marginalization to still be discrimination. In this case, you as an evaluator of a document (the bylaws in question) are discriminating against their passage because they belong to the category of being made by a particular person — one whom you don’t like. Or, if you accelerate someone past due process, you are discriminating against others and towards them…it is not just that you have said that you can make certain things happen or not happen, it is that you have also done so.”
According to Harvey-Wolff, this alleged discrimination links directly back to Estes’s involvement with the creation of the organization bylaws, which can also explain why he did not want to speak with Estes personally before the group was notified of Estes’s supposed indiscretions.
“The reason that I didn’t feel like talking to Matt in person about my concerns was very much along the lines of what was written to me regarding his comments,” said Harvey-Wolff. “Basically, Matt and I have continually had little difficulties. One of those places of difficulty was in regards to the organization bylaws.”
At Beloit, making a club is a relatively straightforward process that can be achieved through the Club and Organization Oversight (COO) committee. However, organizations, the last of which were formed more than a decade ago according to Harvey-Wolff, have no specific rules for their formation. And because organizations require more time of its members and more money for their services, stricter rules for their formation seem necessary.
“Currently, there are no ways to create an organization on this campus,” he continued. “Things like the Round Table and WBCR are organizations, but there is no way to make a new one if you want to. BSC was asked to figure out how someone would do that, so the answer was that they are going to make bylaws. Matt took responsibility for doing so as Parliamentarian. Then, over a long time, we were like, ‘Okay, Matt’s got this.’ Then, at one point, Judiciary Committee approved the bylaws as constitutional and said they were now going to go in front of General Assembly.”
In an email chain spanning from Wednesday, Feb. 24 to Sunday, Feb. 28, Harvey-Wolff and Estes exchanged a series of messages that became increasingly heated. The first message, sent by Estes, informed the BSC Executive Board that the organization bylaws had been completed. Harvey-Wolff had issues with them.
“Judiciary Committee was proposing an amendment by consensus,” he said. “And then he stated pretty clearly that they had an intention of waiving the time requirements and enacting [the bylaws] immediately. I believe that the reading of this is, ‘I’m warning you there is a possibility, but I know it is going to happen.’
“The initial version of it had many, many question marks throughout it,” Izak elaborated. “It was not fully ready and I responded that way…it was my personal opinion. The fact that it was his intent to push it forward was concerning to me because that would have meant that we wouldn’t have had as much time for deliberation.”
In addition to its actual content, issues regarding the typographical nature of the draft were the primary reason for Harvey-Wolff’s concern. In his response to the bylaws, dated Thursday, Feb. 25, he wrote the following: “I don’t feel like the text of the bylaws as it currently stands is ready to be voted into the general BSC bylaws. I don’t think that question marks are appropriate, nor are explanations of why a bylaw is a bylaw in the main text…the organizations we have seen so far all have budgets substantially larger than any club that receives a trial status club budget. I do not think that $500/semester is suitable to support what any of the organizations we have now do — nor will it be suitable to support future organizations. One of the core differences between organizations and clubs is that the former is able to pay its workers for their time. If the purpose of a three semester trial period is to demonstrate that the organization can survive, it makes sense to me to allow for it to survive in the same manner that it would thrive after full status, not in a majorly handicapped way. If a trial status organization has passed through the serious rigamarole of getting to trial status, I think that it should be able to apply for funding to pay its workers.”
A member of BSC familiar with the situation, Layla Williams*, disagreed with Harvey-Wolff’s complaints. “It was a first draft of the bylaws,” they said. “Are things that you write the first time not supposed to be a little flawed? That’s why you go through a revision process.
“There are things in there that other organizations don’t have to do already, but they were written specifically to handle how we create a new organization,” they continued. “We haven’t done it in years. And according to previous discussions on the topic, the $500 allotment was set because they didn’t want clubs to easily become organizations and pay people within their club. They wanted to create a buffer to rule out tons of people who would try to make organizations and flood campus with organizations that can pay workers and have all these other benefits.”
Both Harvey-Wolff and Tyler Kee’18, the Communications Director for BSC, have stated that they believe the minutes for Judiciary Committee’s deliberations regarding the bylaws show that the $500 allotment, as well as several other components, were not thoroughly discussed.
After Harvey-Wolff sent his concerns, Estes returned and, as he said, “reacted poorly” with a fiery response in which he scolded Harvey-Wolff for having not made his concerns known earlier. According to Kee, however, this could not have been possible.
“Him encouraging a person to give their opinion and help formulate the bylaws, that can’t be because the bylaws were written over a matter of three days during meetings,” Kee explained. “I don’t want to speak ill, but during meetings he would be writing them. We allotted him the time to write elaborate, well thought out bylaws. But saying, ‘Oh, you should have come to our meetings because we sat down and thoroughly pushed ideas out,’ that did not happen. The minutes do not show that at all.”
However, the minutes for Judiciary Committee’s meetings between Feb. 10 and Feb. 22, which according to Estes were compiled by John Dilorio’18, confirm that extensive discussion about the bylaws did take place. The meeting of Feb. 17 specifically dealt with reasoning the $500 allotment suggested for new trial-status organizations.
Still, Harvey-Wolff was concerned with both what he perceived to be the rushed nature of the bylaws and Estes’s increasingly aggressive tone. Estes himself acknowledges that he can be a “potty mouthed hothead.” Alexander Henning’18, the Funding Board director, also stated that Estes “is a very strong personality” who is prone to interpreting “people’s intentionality poorly.”
As a result of this, Estes’s fiery response to Harvey-Wolff’s complaints about the bylaws triggered a lengthy conflict between the two. Estes wrote that he “would have loved an email full of questions, offerings of help, and showing support, and following that discussion, an email with other ideas. What I received instead was an email full of condescension, you speaking over me, you talking about yourself, and no constructive questions whatsoever.”
The emails continued back and forth, with Estes taking issue with Harvey-Wolff’s language, which the latter self-described as “clear” and “emotionless” when performing official duties. Harvey-Wolff found problem in Estes’ emotionally-charged rhetoric and lines such as Estes’s insistence that their dispute was “two men resolving their issues.” Harvey-Wolff referred to this particular phrase as “toxic masculine pride.”
Harvey-Wolff also took issue with Estes criticizing his unwillingness to use more colloquial terms in their email discussions. “Language which is vague, generalizing or biased forces me to do extra work to interpret it,” he wrote. “I am impressed with whatever ability you possess that allows you to suss out the meaning of ‘stuff,’ ‘things,’ ‘cool’ and ‘dude,’ all of which have far too many Urban Dictionary definitions for me to understand well, often even in context.”
However, after the last email was sent on the early hours of Sunday, Feb. 28, Estes and Harvey-Wolff both say they resolved their differences and, in Harvey-Wolff’s words, “buried the hatchet” with a conversation at that morning’s Executive Board meeting. “I got his handshake and word that things were resolved,” said Estes. Harvey-Wolff said that he did not receive an apology. “[Estes] said, ‘All I want from you is an apology,’ and I gave that,” according to Harvey-Wolff. “Then he said something along the lines of, ‘It is fine. It is all done. We’re good now.’”
However, problems concerning the bylaws persisted. In their email exchange, Harvey-Wolff revealed that he had lost faith in Estes. “Frankly, I don’t trust you, Matt,” he wrote. “I don’t trust you because of what I interpret to be your repeated choice to place your own interests above those of BSC. An example of this is your statement [taken from a previous email] ‘the only reason I feel any Resistance to the [idea about intent in the bylaws] is how poorly you suggested it to me.’ I feel that this statement is symptomatic of issues similar to your general disregard towards one of the major conflicts of policy in COO — who COO reps should be. The vibe I get from you is that you think it is alright to change your behavior as Parliamentarian and the entire workings or bylaws of BSC to suit your immediate needs. Please let me know how this is alright, and please correct me if my interpretation of the vibes I’ve been feeling are wrong. Right now, the trust I had in you is broken.”
The latter issue, regarding Estes’ involvement in COO Assembly, is one that others knew Harvey-Wolff and COO Director Lucca Castrucci’17 had problems with. “Izak and Lucca have been pretty tight together,” explained Henning. “They have very similar visions of what BSC should be and how meetings should run and how things should interact. And Lucca has had a really challenging time with Matt because Matt, in COO, likes to play both the role of Parliamentarian and be the rep for Interfaith House. Lucca has kind of been, what Matt would call, ‘out to get him’ for a long time. That kind of started this whole thing. Lucca then built a different, parallel set of bylaws to Matt’s version, which were a little bit more aggressive in terms of what should determine a student organization.”
This “parallel set of bylaws” proposed by Castrucci, Dilorio and Colin Davis’17 were, as Estes mentioned, the catalyst for his “joke about trying to stall it out until the end of the year by finding new stuff to do each week that pushes it back and annoy them.”
According to Harvey-Wolff, “Matt presented Judiciary Committee’s version of the bylaws. Over that weekend, a separate group of individuals had found, just as I did, those bylaws that Matt and Judiciary Committee wrote to be insufficient. They took it upon themselves to write a second set of them.”
However, Shepherd indicated that the creation of these alternate bylaws also involved Harvey-Wolff, though she did admit she believed his involvement to be “not as hands-on.” Harvey-Wolff later admitted that he was “on the couch” with the group forming the bylaws and helped type and form some of the ideas, but compared it to being a silent member of a group presentation.
In the meeting in which these alternate bylaws were initially presented, the tensions between Estes and Harvey-Wolff were exacerbated and expanded to involve more participants, including Estes’s colleague in Judiciary Committee, John Dilorio. In an attempt to get Dilorio’s attention as the meeting ended, Estes tired to call him by his first name before shouting his last name loudly across the room. According to Harvey-Wolff, due to the angered tone and volume of Este’s voice, it was that “moment I became physically frightened of Matt and I remain that way.”
This incident, coupled with the emails, caused Harvey-Wolff to pursue the public avenue that he ultimately decided upon for accusing Estes. “I didn’t want to go and have a one-on-one conversation with him,” he said. “And from the email chain, you can see that he has refused mediation.”
Harvey-Wolff also believed, based on the reports of others, that the “burying of the hatchet” that occurred between him and Estes was unsuccessful. “My previous email exchanges with Matt had resulted in apparently no real fix because by that time, people had told me that, paraphrasing, Matt did not think we were done and that he thought my apology was bullsh*t,” he explained. “So mediation to talk about this issue wasn’t going to happen and I didn’t feel comfortable talking with him one-on-one. Those two things combined lead me to message all of BSC Exec.”
For Williams, this type of thinking is where much of the drama of the situation resulted. “There was a lot of, ‘This person said this,’ and things like that, which I think is not something we want in BSC,” they said. “There are always things that are being said about BSC. I think that everyone in BSC complains about BSC or other people in BSC. So for it to have been about this complaining or frustration that came out in a certain way and deciding it is now unacceptable…it just isn’t something new or something others haven’t done. I think it was a jump of the gun to take it to this level.”
“Just because you might be worried how something is going to turn out or that someone isn’t going to take it well does not mean you can skirt around the person that needs to be in the know,” they continued. “There are ways that Matt could have been approached. If Izak didn’t want to approach him out of fear, for whatever reason, he could have approached him with other members of Exec or sent an email to him specifically outlining what he wanted to talk about, which wasn’t done. So do I think that’s a valid reason? No, I don’t. There are ways in which you can insure your own protection and still have a valid conversation or step forward that isn’t just taking someone and throwing them to the dogs.”
Henning also agreed that widespread miscommunication or lack thereof was a major factor in the explosion of this situation. “There was almost no communication between Matt and Izak in this whole ordeal,” he said. “Matt wasn’t aware that Izak was gathering intelligence from behind his back. After those insinuations of Matt being biased against [a student] — who no one ever really talked to Matt about, there was a lot of behind Matt’s back talk like, ‘Oh, Matt is really trying to really rig this to screw them over.’ I found this to be an interesting assertion because I don’t think Matt is that vindictive of a person.”
“I think this was handled very poorly on the part of the people instigating the investigation,” he continued. “There was very little information. Matt was given very little time to formulate any sense of what was happening. I still very much believe that Matt wasn’t being a menace or being vindictive. I think he was trying to look out for BSC, at the end of the day. Maybe he was going about that in the wrong way, but in no way, shape or form should it have come to this.”
So only a matter of days after the alternate bylaws were proposed, Harvey-Wolff says he was told “by people who were either directly present or were told about it by people who were directly present” that Estes made comments about attempting to impede the passage of the organization bylaws. Specifically, Harvey-Wolff referenced an email that he was CC’d on from Castrucci on Thursday, March 17, which he did not read until the next day. The email was sent to Jen Walsh, the Director of Student Engagement and Leadership and the advisor for BSC, with Harvey-Wolff and Shepherd CC’d on it.
Henning confirmed that Harvey-Wolff asked him about the incident on the evening of Friday, March 18, the night before the lengthy email to BSC Executive Board was sent out detailing the charges against Estes. According to Harvey-Wolff, he began writing the email calling for an investigation and charging Estes with having made inappropriate comments about misusing his power, the supposed lynchpin of the claim, on Friday afternoon.
“Izak pulled me aside and asked me to corroborate what other individuals had come to Izak with about what Matt had said,” Henning explained. “I did corroborate that because I didn’t think it was a big deal. I did not say I thought it was a big deal because I just assumed that Izak thought as much, as well.”
For Williams, the swift and public nature of the charges against Estes — a process that Harvey-Wolff even described as “rushed” — makes the motivation clear.
“It was a personal crusade,” they said. “I wouldn’t attribute this to BSC as a whole because I’m sure there are differing opinions within the Exec Board or within the people who attend General Assembly. So I think it is hard to say, ‘Did BSC handle this well?’ I think it is, did Izak handle this well? And the answer to that is no.”
“There is some personal take on it that is hidden or being covered up or not being mentioned,” they continued. “They are not presenting the situation as an attempt to go after a person because it is frustrating to work with them. Instead, they took these things that could possibly be a reason, threw them out there to a bunch of people and asked him to resign because he probably would.”
Castrucci, however, believes the assertion that personal motivations were behind this action are silly. “It frustrates me when people say that Izak did this because it was personal,” he said. “To me, if this were personal it would have happened a month ago. We have about five or six weeks left in the semester and about 20 pages of bylaws to look at in BSC. Why would you pick a fight with the person in charge of bylaws? In terms of timing…Izak is many things, a complete idiot is not one of them. If it were personal, you’d have to be an idiot.”
To Williams, the personal friction between Estes and Harvey-Wolff is the sole reason that the incident escalated so quickly and resulted in such a public display. “Had the dynamic between Izak and Matt been different, it would have been handled with a lot more integrity and it would have been handled internally or there would have been a discussion first,” they explained. “These things would have been brought directly to Matt rather than the accusers alleging that they want transparency. Was it really the reason that they gave the information out to a bunch of people? Or was there something else behind that train of thought in which they decided to hand this out to a big group of people and forced him to come defend himself in front of a group of people who have already heard one side laid out in a long email? The outcome became predictable when that email was sent.”
Henning agrees that a lack of discussion about Estes’s alleged wrongdoing contributed heavily to the controversy that now swirls around the situation. “We 100% lacked any semblance of communication,” he said.
Kee, however, believes that the way in which Estes was accused was the right course of action. “I have complete faith that the choices were made without any malicious intent,” they said.
According to Harvey-Wolff, “the impeachment process has never been implemented before in BSC.” So when pressed why BSC — a group that Kee says has been “focusing heavily, this semester, on being transparent with everyone” — decided to alert a sizable number of people outside of BSC but not everyone on campus about possibly implementing a feature of the organization that has never been used before, both individuals stood by the decision.
“Rather than hanging him in town square,” Kee explained, “we were bringing people in for the discussion about a potential investigation. While yes, it is most certainly the right for everyone to know, we were just beginning to potentially begin.”
“The reason we wouldn’t invite everyone is that it is impractical,” added Harvey-Wolff. “[The Presidents’ Lounge] is a small room.”
Further controversy has cropped up surrounding the email charging Estes that was sent to Executive Board on Saturday, March 19 due to specific references to the student with whom Estes was accused of holding a personal bias.
Although Harvey-Wolff hadn’t received specific confirmation from Estes, he said that the earlier heated email exchange between them regarding the bylaws created “a feeling of what was influencing, but it was an internalized feeling that was self-created. After hearing that he had said, ‘I can choose whose stuff can get through,’ I felt that validated my understanding of the situation.”
In writing his email to the Executive Board, Harvey-Wolff does admit to have erred in his specific references to the student in question. He said that he had included them “because of what [he] was told the person was comfortable with” by Castrucci. However, he failed to check with the student if they were okay with the divulgence of their name and private information in a public forum.
“I was asked to run the section by them, which I failed to do because it slipped my mind because that just happens to people sometimes,” he explained.
This sentiment echoes one expressed by Estes in one of his emails to Harvey-Wolff during their heated Feb. exchange. “We’re adults, we have flaws,” he wrote. “It’s important to acknowledge them when people try to present them to you.”
Some, including Williams, believe that Harvey-Wolff’s slip in his due diligence regarding this particularly delicate aspect of the situation was far worse than many of the charges put forth against Estes. “That is more careless than anything Matt did,” they asserted.
But as Estes has pointed out repeatedly, the problems people had with his comments — which he maintains were taken out of context and misunderstood — are the result of misdirection and not having problems be confronted head on. “I would have been more than happy to discuss everything outlined here,” he said. “But that was never done.”
As a result, “the outcome” that “became predictable when that email was sent” came true at the Sunday, March 20 Executive Board meeting. Prior the meeting itself, Estes sent out a lengthy email in which he quit BSC and took the accusers to task for their tactics.
“I am sorry to leave her,” he wrote, “but BSC is not the same place I enjoyed a year ago, in some places it is better, in others far, far worse. An example would be how a dinner conversation and a few choice moments of unawareness have caused the president to call for my resignation. Please, read his email if you can. The crux of it is on how he perceives my behavior to be, and areas where questioning would have made it been known that unawareness, and not maliciousness was the cause.”
“I would advise you all to take a good, hard look at what your BSC President is doing,” he continued before signing off by writing, “It is with great pleasure that I quit.”
At the actual meeting, Estes read from five note cards. In this speech, he highlighted the fact that he was not contacted about the accusations before public emails were distributed. He also once again asserted that the accusations were the results of comments or actions that were either “paraphrased” or “out of context.”
“Is an attempted impeachment,” he continued, “based on overheard, out of context dinner jokes between friends and multiple misunderstandings — one of which involves my personal life — and spinning them to make me look like a power hungry officer, which the email called me multiple times, what we want to be doing?…I never had any chance to answer questions or give my side before all of this happened. Is this how we want to do business?”
Estes concluded his speech by saying, “Thanks for the memories and the free t-shirt. Deuces.”
In some ways, this result was precisely what Harvey-Wolff hoped for. In his Saturday, March 19 email to Executive Board outlining the charges against Estes, he made repeated reference to his desire for Estes to peacefully resign. “If you choose to resign, it would demonstrate that you understand that your actions have been inappropriate, and that you don’t wish to harm the institution, but to help it,” he wrote. “Matt — between two men, as you have asked me to communicate with you: please, resign.”
However, because of this result, discussion about any legitimate issues regarding Estes’ tenure as Parliamentarian — as “there were things that needed to be addressed” according to Williams — has been stymied for the time being.
Serious questions existed, primarily concerning Estes’s insistence upon performing duties as both Parliamentarian and as a COO rep. In fact, this is the only issue on which Estes sees legitimate grounds for concern with his actions.
“If anything is true in the accusations sent to me, that would probably be the one,” he admitted. “There was a rule violation that was brought up, but I was never aware that it existed, which I do feel is bad because it is my job in BSC to know these rules. The rule was about me being a COO representative at the same time as being Parliamentarian. I always looked for that rule, after being asked by a couple of people, in a completely different spot than where it actually was. I know it doesn’t matter after the fact, but I would have definitely apologized and found a new COO rep. I genuinely didn’t know. I feel bad about that one, it wasn’t okay. But I would have gladly apologized and fixed that issue. But the allegations felt very much about the way I conduct myself, which believe me, we’ve looked into what can be done when an officer conducts themselves poorly and there is nothing. That’s not saying there is no merit to looking at an officer’s conduct, but again, I would have been more than happy to discuss everything outlined here. But that was never done.”
According to Castrucci, questions and concerns were almost immediately raised in Fall 2015 about Estes’s abilities to perform duties as both Parliamentarian and COO representative when the Article II of the BSC Constitution reads, “officers shall not represent constituencies.” However, Castrucci does admit that, in the past, “it has been protocol but not necessarily official protocol that officers of BSC are not COO representatives. That’s just how things have been, to my knowledge, since the beginning of COO.”
Despite this, Castrucci said, “at the beginning of the semester, the Parliamentarian notified or assumed that they were the COO representative for a club. At that time, I asked if that was kosher. They assured me it was, as it is the Parliamentarian’s job to interpret the rules. Then the [current] Communications Director asked if they could be a COO rep and I said no. There was a conflict of interest, according to the Parliamentarian. So it was a little bit weird, but a relative non issue.”
However, as time pressed on, Estes’s involvement in COO became more of an issue as Castrucci began to see his domineering presence in meetings as him behaving more like Parliamentarian than like a COO representative. In fact, several members of COO supposedly informed Castrucci that they were uncomfortable speaking when several people, including Estes, were asserting themselves so much in meetings. Estes allegedly went so far as to try and dictate discussion and usurp the authority of those in charge of COO.
Castrucci believes the reading of Article II of the BSC Constitution to be quite clear, as does Harvey-Wolff, though the former admitted that certain individuals have found ways to interpret the meaning of “constituencies” differently. This widely varying means of interpreting the BSC Constitution has become the crux for much of the disagreement between Estes and those who accused him of various wrongdoings.
For Henning, the constant varying interpretations of roles, duties and actions highlight an inherent problem with BSC. “There were fundamental disagreements on what the BSC Constitution said,” he explained. “There are fundamentally different views on what each other’s roles are and where to draw the line in that capacity.”
Shepherd agrees with this sentiment, stating that the wild number of readings and interpretations has exasperated things exponentially. “It is awful,” she said. “The BSC Constitution is ridiculous. It is very frustrating, especially when issues do come up.
“I feel like it is not a great system to work with and when that is combined with people who are not necessarily suited to working with each other and have very different views about what they want to do, it can get really messy really quickly,” she continued. “Like some people want to change it because it is not a good system. Some people want to learn how to work with it because it is not a good system.”
In the end, however, Shepherd believes that personal matters caused the situation to escalate dramatically, well beyond where it should have been. “Everyone let it get very personal and so then everyone was very upset,” she explained. “So people were getting screwed. Friendships were falling apart. There were people who were afraid to talk out in BSC or COO or wherever. People who were trying to make organizations were kind of left in the lurch, and they are still left in the lurch. It definitely affected a lot more people than this little niche BSC Exec group. I feel like a lot of the people in that little niche BSC Exec group didn’t see that.”
Shepherd, who serves as sort of a moderator between the Executive Board of BSC and the General Assembly, expressed a common feeling amongst members of the latter body. “Honestly, a common sentiment that has been brought up to me is that everyone is acting like a child,” she said. “There is definitely a sentiment of why can’t everyone grow up? If people have these positions of power, they should learn how to work with each other.”
For Williams, these questions of personal motivations in Estes’s ouster are worthy of further investigation. “I think that there should be some sort of inquiry into why this happened and what allowed it to happen,” they said. “I think having another semester with someone who so blatantly shows that they are willing to personally attack or do anything to consolidate BSC in a manner that is ‘pro-them’ and ‘pro-their agenda’ is concerning. There has been severe negligence on the part of the current president.”
For Estes, he simply hopes that his questionable situation can serve as fuel for a reexamination of BSC and its structure. “The hand of fate has decided and I’m glad to be out,” he said. “But there is a lot of stuff that is fishy about this. I just want BSC to think about what happened and if me losing my position is what it takes for people to start being more critical about how officers treat each other and how we conduct business, then I’m glad to pay that price.”
He laughed sarcastically as he considered the recent days’ events. “It has been a fun experience.”