The cold light of day

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The cold light of day

Story by Chris Reinoos, News Editor

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Four Singing Statesmen officers resigned last week in the wake of a weekend party where 54 underage drinking citations were issued.

President Tim Mattson, Vice President Phil Reilly, Treasurer Dane Jaskowiak and Secretary Adam Minten all turned in their letters of resignation after Statesmen Director Gary Schwartzhoff requested them during group rehearsals Sept. 10.

College of Arts and Sciences Interim Dean David Baker said he and Music and Theater Arts Department Chair Vanissa Murphy determined the officers’ resignations would be necessary, and Murphy relayed that decision to Schwartzhoff.

“Tim Mattson had to go, Phil Reilly lives at the house, three of the four were there,” Schwartzhoff said. “I just thought they should probably all go.”

Minten said the four officers discussed their options Sept. 9 and decided as a group to resign. All four started their duties as officers this semester after being elected last spring.

The party was held at what is known as the ‘Statesmen’s House,’ 416 W. Grand Ave. Mattson, Reilly and Minten were present at the party, while Jaskowiak was not.

According to the incident report from the Eau Claire Police Department, police were called to the house early Sunday morning after receiving a noise complaint. They arrived to find several people outside the house and eventually found more than 100
people inside.

They cleared the house and issued the 54 citations, as well as a citation to the house residents for furnishing to underagers. The latter was issued under the name of Joseph Kastner, a member of the Statesmen.

The party was held just hours after the group returned from an all-day retreat to Beaver Creek. As part of the trip, Schwartzhoff said the group created a code of conduct, which included such rules as “choose your attitude” and “lead by example.”

“The beer was probably already on ice and I’m saying, ‘guys, can’t do this, can’t do this,’” Schwartzhoff said. “They went and did it anyway.”

The four men who resigned are still members of the Statesmen. The group is not just a student organization but also an academic course, which Schwartzhoff said makes potential punishment trickier.

“If we were a student org, I could shut this thing down. But this is four credits of my teaching load and students need these credits to graduate,” Schwartzhoff said.

Murphy announced Sept. 11 that the Statesmen’s fall tour to the Green Bay area had been cancelled. The trip, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 14-16, has been a crucial recruiting tool for the group in the past, according to both Murphy and Schwartzhoff. But Murphy said she was met with no resistance regarding the trip’s cancellation.

“It was my responsibility and my decision, but it was with the consultation of Dr. Schwartzhoff,” said Murphy, who added it was Schwartzhoff who first brought up the idea of cancelling the trip.

Dean of Students Brian Carlisle said that while this type of behavior will not be tolerated, not all members of the group participated and that many will be punished for the behaviors of a few. He also said support for the group will be important
moving forward.

“We are truly all members of this Blugold family,” Carlisle said. “If we say we are members of the family, then we have to take care of each other through good and bad.”

Murphy, who said she is not considering further sanctions at this time, also said some good can come out of the situation if group members become more thoughtful and aware of consequences of action.

“This can have a positive outcome and I think will have a positive outcome,” Murphy said.

Mattson said he is disappointed in the actions of the group and in himself as the former president. But he also said the group has stuck together since the incident and people may be making the group out to be worse than they are.

“This is kind of being victimized as a Singing Statesmen’s event. I think it should be seen as students living out their lives outside of the university,” he said.

Student Organization’s Coordinator Joseph Haferman said a formal complaint was filed with his office on Sept. 13 from the Dean of Students’ office. Haferman then contacted the Statesmen and told them they will need to set up a process meeting within 14 business days, per the procedures laid out in the student organization’s handbook.

Chapter 7, Article 2 of the handbook features potential conduct violations, the first of which is, “Violations of state statutes pertaining to the legal drinking age and the provision of alcoholic beverages to minors.”

Haferman will serve as advisor to the Student Organization’s Conduct Committee, which was created last semester to hear cases involving student organizations and potentially issue sanctions. Organizations Commission director Frank Heaton was named SOCC director and will work closely with Haferman throughout the process.

Heaton said the case is still in its infancy and much still has to be sorted out.

“We’re doing our best to make it a smooth path,” Heaton said. “Whenever you start a new system, there’s going to be bumps in the road.”

Schwartzhoff said there are plans to appoint other Statesmen to replace the officers, but no one had been appointed yet. He said they may wait until the SOCC process is complete before putting new leadership in place.

Schwartzhoff said that the culture of the group needs to be addressed in the aftermath of the incident. He said that he has been battling with the party culture for the 22 years he has been at the university.

“A few people led the majority down the same path they’ve been doing for years,” Schwartzhoff said. “It’s not right. It’s not right with the code of conduct, it’s not right with the laws of this state. They can’t be doing this.”

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