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November 27. 2012 8:58PM

UNH concerts on hold after school disbands entertainment committee over theft


 
DURHAM - The University of New Hampshire's Student Committee on Popular Entertainment (SCOPE) has been effectively disbanded after all 17 members had their memberships revoked by an advisory committee.

The dismissals stem from an April incident in Portsmouth in which a new SCOPE member allegedly stole signs and a painting from a restaurant as two senior members and two new members were collecting menus from local restaurants for visiting performing acts.

An advisory committee determined earlier this month that all of the students in the organization - including one studying abroad - knew or "should have known" about the theft and revoked their memberships.

SCOPE has been bringing high-level entertainment to UNH students for more than 40 years.

So far this year, no SCOPE activities have been held, and no events are scheduled for spring.

SCOPE usually put on at least two concerts each year featuring national performing acts and comedians and also assisted with the annual Homecoming fireworks. In recent memory, acts including Lupe Fiasco, Passion Pit, Jimmy Fallon and Guster were featured.

SCOPE receives a subsidy through the student activity fee of about $162,400 each year, and makes an additional $200,000 or so each year in revenue, primarily through ticket sales.

The SCOPE budget is being handled by the Student Activities Fee Committee.

"The goal currently, for me anyway, is to try to continue to provide the quality concert experience students have come to expect," said Student Activities Fee Committee Chairman and SCOPE advisory board member Bryan Merrill.

Once SCOPE reorganizes, it faces a deferred suspension through August 2014 under certain conditions, including the revision of organizational manuals and leadership job descriptions, mandatory accountability training for members and a mandatory hazing workshop for all members.

The organization is also prohibited from any internal activities, group meetings and training unless authorized and supervised by the advisory board. The final sanction puts the organization on probation for two years upon its return to campus as a student organization.

Senior Jackie McCarrick, 22, took over the role of executive director in May, and said she thinks the punishment is too severe. She said SCOPE was willing to accept responsibility for the lack of action, but does not feel every member deserved to be removed.

Former SCOPE member Carter Bascom, 21, said he thinks all students on campus are effectively being punished.

"SCOPE, the organization, should have some kind of probation, but getting rid of every single member of the organization is irrational," Bascom said.

The university's official investigation into violations of the student code of conduct by SCOPE began in May. The sanctions came after multiple hearings through the Office of Conduct and Mediation. SCOPE appealed, but the sanctions were upheld.

SCOPE was not found responsible for hazing in the case, as it was determined the student who committed the theft acted of his own free will. But a previous violation of hazing in 2009 for which the organization served a one-year probation was brought up during the hearings.

"It is concerning that this organization continues to violate the responsibilities of a recognized student organization and that the behavior has escalated to theft," the appellate officer, identified only as "D.B." in documents, said. "It is clear that this organization needs restructuring and support and guidance from a permanent advisory board to prevent further violations."

Dr. Kevin Charles, assistant vice president for student and academic services, said the judiciary committees simply followed the process outlined in the student code of conduct.

"Everyone was talked to, everyone was given a chance to respond to the questions. So the conclusion I would make is that they determined that each of those people, and by default, I would have to say, that person, even abroad, knew or should have known," Charles said.

He said on a personal level, he feels very badly for the students involved.

To be re-recognized by the SAFC, a student organization must have seven undergraduate members, leaving students wondering if the organization will be able to rally in time to be approved for the 2013-2014 school year.

gmacalaster@newstote.com

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