story | Pham Le Vi, Managing Editor
photo | Dave Chappell, Executive Editor
Eight months after Yale-NUS International Relations and Political Association (YIRPA) was suspended, its policy violations and sanctions have been revealed. They were announced by Anandita Sabherwal ’19, Director of Student Organizations of the Yale-NUS College Student Government and student representative on the Student Organization Conduct Panel, at a Student Government meeting on Aug. 15.
YIRPA was put on an indefinite suspension on Jan. 16 following a student complaint submitted to the Office of the Dean of Students (DoS). According to Dean of Students Christopher Bridges, the complaint was serious enough that the club was on suspension without any verification. “At that point, we were suspending the club until investigations could be completed,” he said.
An Inquiry Panel was put together to investigate. It completed its review in March and requested further review of YIRPA as an organization, said Mr. Bridges.
YIRPA Organisation Review
YIRPA was reviewed by the Student Organization Conduct Panel from June to July and found responsible for seven policy violations, only five of which were announced publicly. Petrina Loh, Manager of Student Organisations and Leadership at DoS and head of the Panel, said that the remaining two violations were not released as they were specific to YIRPA. Sabherwal said the five policy violations were released to serve as an example for other student organizations.
First, according to the Panel’s inquiry, YIRPA entered into an agreement with a private company, violating the student organization funding protocol. The protocol states that students are not legally allowed to sign contracts on behalf of Yale-NUS or their organization.
YIRPA signed a three-year contract with a company called A Little Learning: The School, a former member of YIRPA said. The company recruited international students for YIRPA’s Model United Nation (MUN) conferences, Asia-Pacific MUN and Yale-NUS Model ASEAN. In exchange, YIRPA was supposed to pay the company around $15,000 a year, a former member said.
According to its website, A Little Learning: The School provides global education experiences, specializing in “designing and implementing projects that integrate education, lifestyle and tourism for all age groups.” Its website also states that the companies’ working partners include Yale-NUS College and that it “helped initiate and put together Yale-NUS Asia Pacific Model United Nations Conference.”
Second, according to the Panel’s review, YIRPA misled the College about the nature of its events, especially regarding payments, the booking of Yale-NUS spaces and the engagement of a faculty speaker. The organization also submitted an organization budget that falsified its spending and needs in order to receive additional funding.
Third, the Panel found that YIRPA delayed its reimbursement of deposits to student members, which violated the Disciplinary Policies & Procedures Examples of Community Misconduct.
Students who went on Pan-Asian MUN (PAMUN) in December 2015 in Taiwan and Harvard WorldMUN in March 2016 in Rome did not receive reimbursements for the trip until over nine months later. In one case, a student who attended PAMUN only received their reimbursement, which totaled over $400, in January 2017—after the financial year of 2015–2016 had ended.
Fourth, in five cases, YIRPA did not seek DoS approval three weeks in advance of large transactions or properly submit their requests.
Fifth, the Panel found that YIRPA did not deposit petty cash holdings, together with accurate statement of incoming and outgoing funds to DoS.
The Student Organization Conduct Panel also assigned six mandatory sanctions for YIRPA; three were announced at the meeting. First, the Panel asked the officers who lied, misled, or provided false information to resign their post. Second, YIRPA had to deposit its petty cash holdings, together with an accurate statement of incoming and outgoing funds to DoS. According to the Panel, student organizations are not allowed to withhold funds, and must deposit any cash collections to their work breakdown structure within 10 days. Third, YIRPA must clear out their possessions in the student organization storeroom.
After completing all sanctions, YIRPA will need to undergo the process of organization recognition anew before it can be reinstated. If reinstated, YIRPA would be placed on probationary status for at least one academic year. In line with this, the organization no longer features in the Yale-NUS Student Organization Directory and its website (http://www.yirpa.org) now links to a mining machinery company.
Student leaders in YIRPA who were found responsible for student code violations and asked to step down from YIRPA will also have to seek approval from DoS before taking on a leadership position in another student organization. The Panel communicated these terms to YIRPA leadership on Aug. 1.
More details can be found in the Student Government minutes.
Student Code Violations
The Inquiry Panel also identified possible student code violations by individual students. These possible violations were heard through the Student Code of Conduct process from March to May. Upon reviewing the information from the Inquiry Panel, the case was flagged by Andrew McGeehan, Senior Manager at DoS and Student Conduct Board Chair, as “being of a nature that it needs to go to the Dean’s Committee which is a higher level conduct board [than the Student Conduct Board],” Mr. Bridges said.
According to Mr. Bridges, the Student Conduct Board or Student Conduct Chair can direct a case to the Dean’s Committee when they have identified that the alleged violations could result in dismissal or suspension.
Mr. Bridges convened the Dean’s Committee which consists of the Dean of Students, the Student Conduct Board Chair, a staff member on campus, and two faculty members. Based on the information in the Inquiry Panel review, the committee notified some students that they may have violated the Student Code of Conduct.
Hearings were held in April where students had the chance to present their side of the story. The final findings from the Dean’s Committee were communicated to students in the first week of May, Mr. Bridges said.
After that, students had the chance to appeal, said Mr. Bridges. In this case, the appeal went to then President Pericles Lewis, instead of then Executive Vice-President, Academic Affairs Tan Tai Yong, due to Mr. Tan’s transition to President during that period, he said. According to Yale-NUS Disciplinary Policies and Procedures, Mr. Lewis “can decide to uphold, add, or dismiss the recommended sanctions. There is no further appeal after this.”
Once the appeal was completed, DoS initiated the review of YIRPA as a student club through the Community Standards process.
DoS does not intend to release the results of Student Code of Conduct Process, to protect the identities of those involved. According to Mr. Bridges, the sanctioning process is not meant to be purely punitive; it is also meant to be educational. “[Yale-NUS] is a place where you should be able to learn from your mistakes,” he said.
The Octant will be publishing a more in-depth article on the investigation in the coming weeks. If you have information that you wish to share, please contact us at: email@example.com.