Four BSG officers removed in violation of attendance policy

With 10 days left in the semester, four Bucknell Student Government (BSG) officers were removed from office for violating BSG’s attendance policy. Class of 2017 President Tom Ciccotta ’17, Academic Committee member Joe Arcangelo ’19, and Class of 2019 Senators Adam Rueda ’19 and Doug Lachenauer ’19 were asked to step down on April 22, as confirmed by BSG President Mark Merino ’17.

The Executive Board initially met on March 4 with the four individuals with “egregious attendance violations,” according to Merino. He said that all four individuals acknowledged their absences and agreed to improve their attendance.

However, via email and direct communication with Merino, the same four individuals were asked to step down from their respective roles in BSG on April 22. According to BSG’s bylaws, Article IV, Section I states that “any congress member who accumulates more than three (3) unexcused absences in one (1) semester will be considered in violation of the BSG bylaws … Congress members in violation of this policy will be called into the Executive Board where special circumstances will be taken into account.” 

While a further definition of “special circumstances” is not included in the bylaws, Merino said that “these special circumstances are pretty limited to serious medical emergencies that we were made aware of or things of that nature that are completely outside the control of the student.”

As of April 26, according to attendance records, 26 BSG members, out of a total of 60 members, violated the attendance policy for the semester by missing more than three meetings. Merino confirmed this number and said that these absences were not deemed egregious.

“Those were people that communicated with us very clearly about their absences and we were comfortable with applying special circumstances to these cases,” Merino said.

Regarding the four individuals who were asked to step down, Merino said, “We wanted to frame our asking them to step down as a way of recognizing their other commitments and personal issues, which included sports, health, and academic concerns in certain cases.”

“I stepped down from Bucknell Student Government because I had football practice the past three Sundays at the same time as BSG. BSG is great for the University and I believe the Executive Committee this semester has been fantastic,” Arcangelo said.

Rueda and Lachenauer could not be reached for comment.

“The removal of congress members for attendance reasons is not unique to this year. In my tenure as BSG Advisor, it has been necessary to remove members on several occasions. The BSG executive board and executive committee must follow constitutional and by-law policies to remove any member for any reason,” Associate Dean of Students Kari Conrad said.

Ciccotta was the only individual who appealed the Executive Board’s decision, despite admitting to missing at least four meetings throughout the semester. However, he believed that “absences to prepare for and host guest speakers on our campus would fall under the ‘special circumstances’ clause.”

In a series of recent articles from Breitbart News Network, a conservative news and opinions website, Allum Bokhari wrote that Ciccotta’s dismissal from BSG was due to him bringing conservative speakers to campus and taking a job at Breitbart as a contributing writer.

When asked to comment on Breitbart’s claims, Ciccotta did not say whether his political activity was the primary reason for his removal. He explained that he was at odds with BSG over what constitutes “special circumstances.”

Ciccotta appealed the decision following an April 23 meeting with Merino, in which he claims Merino “acknowledged that the timing didn’t allow for a proper appeals process and agreed to reinstate me.” Ciccotta said that after Merino spoke with Dean Conrad, this agreement was quickly cancelled.

Merino said that while he recognized that the timing of the decision is late in the semester, he made it very clear that an appeal doesn’t require a significant amount of time.

However, Merino dismisses Ciccotta’s claims that he temporarily agreed to reinstate Ciccotta on a probationary basis.

“That reference from Tom is actually quite false,” Merino said. “As a matter of fact, we were able to process and decide on his appeal within 24 hours of him placing it.

The appeal process began on April 24, and Ciccotta was informed of the decision to reject his appeal on April 25.

When asked about his stance on the attendance policy, Ciccotta said, “The clause doesn’t define ‘special circumstances,’ meaning that it is entirely left up to interpretation. Perhaps further defining this clause is something that BSG should consider to avoid member conflict moving forward.”

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