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Residents disappointed after RHA controversy

By Hillary Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 31, 2000
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When Stephanie Brandt decided to study politics, it was because she wanted to have a role in improving the system.

However, the complications of government hit close to home for the UA political science freshman last week when the executive board members of the Residence Hall Association were charged with corruption and misconduct.

Although a constituent of the residential governing body, Brandt, who lives in Coconino Residence Hall, said she had not been active in RHA this year - until she heard about the allegations being leveled against the organizations' president, vice president and finance director.

"When I find things important, I want to take a position on them," Brandt said. "The whole reason I'm going into politics is to change it."

Earlier this week, a committee of other University of Arizona RHA members accused three members of the executive board of misappropriation of funds and various forms of misconduct, including tampering with other members' e-mail accounts, underage drinking in the dorms and sex in the RHA office.

Though they claimed innocence, president Rebecca Zilm and vice president of services Audra Shattuck resigned from their positions Thursday.

Brandt said she attended the meeting in hopes of a question and answer session, where the general body members could grill the accused, which would inform the residents as well as give the executive board members a chance to defend themselves against the allegations.

When this did not occur, Brandt said she was disappointed and further unimpressed with the officers' resignations, which she said she perceived to be emotionless lies.

"When they gave their (resignation) speeches, it confirmed it - it was deja vu Clinton," she said. "Being that this is supposedly their life, why would they give up so easily if these accusations aren't true?"

Ecology senior Penny DuVall, also a Coconino resident, said she was not sure if the executive board members were guilty, but could not be sure since they did not present physical evidence in their defense.

"They should have stood their ground, but they didn't," DuVall said. "We don't have both sides of the story because they won't give it."

Opinions on the RHA scandal were not exclusively held by UA students, however.

Jacob Hoffman, president of the RHA at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo., said the way the UA controversy was handled was "horrific."

Hoffman was most questioning of how the grievances were compiled and investigated. An unbiased committee called to investigate the corruption charges objectively would have been the best reaction, he said.

However, this course of action was not taken by the accusing committee of University of Arizona RHA members.

"It makes sense, it absolutely makes sense - what happened at UA does not," he said.

"Those who resigned probably wouldn't have without an unbiased committee," he added.

Hoffman said when people make mistakes, they need to be confronted about them with enough time to effectively correct their errors.

"Coming from another strong RHA, if the issue is not presented beforehand, there is no time for improvement," said Hoffman, who said he would feel "betrayed and hurt" if the same thing had happened to him.

"Within one week's time, is this enough time to re-elect someone who is going to run the organization? It seemed like a secret committee was formed, and all in all, they brought it within one week's time," Hoffman said.

Hoffman went on to say how this scandal might affect RHA groups nationwide.

"This news has hit regionally and is a major issue to deal with," said Hoffman. "United we stand, divided we fall. Looks like it's all falling right now."

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