Student Government Senators Forced to Sign NDA -Alexander Cullen

On Monday November 2017 Clemson Undergraduate Student Senate assembled for the impeachment hearing of Student Body Vice President Jaren Stewart who was accused of having acted improperly towards freshmen female residents as a Resident Assistant(RA). The trial was to be held in executive session and would be closed to the public for the entirety of the hearing, aside from the final vote. The Senate convened the morning of the next day and ultimately voted not to remove VP Stewart with the final vote being 2 short of the necessary 2/3(44 votes) required for removal. However, before the trial even went underway, an “Undergraduate Student Government Confidentiality Pledge” was circulated to the Senators whom were compelled to sign it or forfeit their ability to participate in the hearing.

Now, Campus Reform’s Mitchell Gunter has published the NDA after filling a Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) to obtain a copy from the University

The “Undergraduate Student Government Confidentiality Pledge” which CUSG Senators were required to sign before participating in an impeachment hearing, obtained through FOIA by Campus Reform

 

The NDA includes an “Undergraduate Student Government Pledge of Confidentiality” for Senators and concludes with an allusion to disciplinary action should a Senator break confidentiality, “I understand that if I violate this confidentiality pledge, Student Government may refer the matter to the Clemson University Office of Community and Ethical Standards for possible disciplinary action.”

The controversy surrounding the NDA lies in that seemingly no existing procedures or bylaws allow for an NDA to be forced on CUSG Senators as a requirement to permit them to participate in an impeachment hearing. Or for that matter, no rules exist which allows CUSG to expropriate a violation of confidentiality to Office of Community and Ethical Standards(OCES). It begs the question, if the CUSG Constitution calls for the removal from office of any Senator who releases information revealed in Executive Session, what was the purpose of the NDA in addition to the existing rule which protects confidentiality? And, is that even legal?

According to Campus Reform CUSG Senator Samuel Thompson was quoted echoing those questions, “Clemson’s administration is now attempting to cover up the entire ordeal by mandating Senators (who just wished to fulfill their elected duties) to sign a legally binding non-disclosure agreement before being permitted to even participate in the trial,” Thompson complained. “Why does Clemson feel it necessary to take extra precautions against information being leaked? Is there more to the story than we are aware of, and Clemson knows it?”

The Seal and Banner for Clemson Undergraduate Student Government who’s motto is, “We see you, we hear you, we’re fighting for you.”

According to Campus Reform, an anonymous CUSG Senator also expressed concerns with the NDA, “I knew the trial was an important event, but I had no idea how I’d be treated. As soon as I walked in, I was told to prepare to surrender my personal belongings to the police,” after which the Senator was instructed to sign the nondisclosure form. “I remember being hesitant because it was legally binding and I wasn’t given the chance to see it beforehand,” the anonymous Senator recalled. “A large part of a contract is consent and I feel like I surrendered that immediately when forced to enter a binding contract to simply do my job as an elected official of the students. Not signing them meant not being able to participate in the trial.”

The Tiger Town Observer reached out to CUSG Senate President Leland Dunwoodie, CUSG Attorney General Janay Crosland, and CUSG faculty advisor Dr. Chris Miller asking for any clarifications on the necessity of the NDA, the yet unjustified imposition of the NDA as a requirement for Senators to participate in the trial, and the transfer of a breach of CUSG rules to potential disciplinary action through OCES. The above individuals all failed to respond in time for publication.

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