By Aaron Mackey
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, December 7, 2005
Bernsen: Student gov't officials met to oust me
Student government officials said yesterday they were unaware of any secret meetings conducted to oust President Cade Bernsen, who said students working within ASUA have fabricated sexual harassment charges against him.
Bernsen was accused of violating the UA Student Code of Conduct last week after two women working within the Associated Students of the University of Arizona filed complaints against the president saying he sexually harassed and intimidated them.
The women said Bernsen made comments such as "nice rack" and inappropriately touched them while in the student government offices.
Bernsen called the accusations "completely false" in a statement given to the Arizona Daily Wildcat and countered that the accusations were part of a scheme to remove him from office.
"There have been ongoing secret meetings by certain individuals to manufacture this attack on me and to force me out of office," Bernsen said in the statement.
ASUA student leaders and one woman who complained against Bernsen said they were unaware of any secret meetings or a larger conspiracy to unseat the president.
Cassi Sonn, administrative vice president, said she didn't know of any meetings, but she wouldn't comment further.
Sen. Matthew Boepple also said he wasn't aware of any organized meetings conducted in private.
There has been no confirmation that secret meetings have occurred, though there are rumors of the meetings, said Jim Drnek, an associate dean of students who serves as ASUA's adviser.
Drnek said he would be looking into whether any such meetings took place.
In an e-mail sent to an ASUA and Faculty Senate Listservs, Bernsen elaborated on the allegations, saying that students who have been openly against him since he took office produced the complaints.
"I entered into student government at the University of Arizona as an outsider," wrote Bernsen in the statement, which is similar to the one given to the Wildcat.
"While most greeted me with open arms, some would not," Bernsen wrote. "These few have done everything in their power to make my experience within student government as arduous as possible, and now, it is most painful to be charged in the press and otherwise, by rumor, innuendo, hearsay and slander, without due process of law."
Bernsen said the timing of the complaints was planned and participants were recruited to support his removal.
One woman who filed a complaint with the Dean of Students Office said she wasn't a part of any meetings to plan Bernsen's removal, nor was she aware of any meetings like what Bernsen described.
The woman, who is an elected official, said her motives for filing the report were to report Bernsen's conduct, not to remove him from office.
The Wildcat is not identifying the woman because of the nature of her complaint.
Making up the complaints against Bernsen to force him out of office wouldn't have been worth the stress and public scrutiny that has come about since the accusations were made public, the woman said.
"We wouldn't want to put ourselves through that," she said. "It's not worth it."
- Lisa Rich contributed to this report.