Update 11:20 p.m.: Another listserv email was sent to members of CIRA Monday night, and it was titled, "Apology to Denton Ong."
The email said the Board found no evidence of misconduct by Ong and addressed missteps taken in early March when the board sent an email accusing him of sexual harassment and misconduct. Monday's email says none of the allegations against Ong include sexual misconduct.
The email also says Ong was sent a Notice of Action 5.5 hours before the executive board meeting, and was only given 5 minutes to respond to allegations during the meeting.
"More time should have been afforded to him to prepare upon further reflection," the email says. "Additionally, the Board apologizes to Mr. Ong for publicly disclosing inappropirate and misleading characterizations of the allegations and we regret any harm that has or may come to Mr. Ong for these actions."
The email closed by saying the case is closed and advises CIRA representatives to not discuss the matter further.
"CIRA's records reflect that Mr. Ong resigned from his position as Vice President of CIRA and the board accepted his resignation," the email said. "CIRA made no findings of any misconduct by Mr. Ong."
On Sunday, March 3, the Carolina International Relations Association Executive Board impeached senior Denton Ong as editor-in-chief of The Internationalist, a journal partnering with the organization, on allegations of misconduct. Prior to this motion to impeach, Ong resigned as vice president of CIRA.
CIRA held a general body meeting on Tuesday, March 5, to give an official statement regarding the allegations.
“The allegations of misconduct were brought forward by Hannah Olmstead, Taylor Gosk and Patrick Costley,” said Sofie Senecal, chief financial officer of CIRA. “These allegations included attempted division of Hannah and Taylor, consistent derogatory comments, yelling at CIRA members during (Model United Nations at Chapel Hill) preparation meetings and persistent childish behavior poking a CIRA member repeatedly with the corner of a folder after she explicitly asked him to stop. These actions made Hannah and Taylor uncomfortable enough that they decided it was necessary to bring them up to the Board.”
A Formal Notice of Action was sent to the CIRA listserv on March 3 and stated three reasons for the motion to impeach Ong: “Denton’s sexual and workplace harassment of a CIRA member beginning in the summer of 2018 and continuing into UNCMUNC X;" "a complaint being made by said CIRA member to a member of the Board and no appropriate inclusion of the Board to discuss appropriate repercussions;" and "gendered aggression and unprofessional treatment of subordinates during MUNCH XIX."
At the time the letter was sent, Ong had not received notice from the UNC Title IX office.
At the general body meeting, the CIRA Executive Board discussed amendments to the organization’s bylaws, the first of which addressed the ability of the Board to handle similar situations in the future. The amendment falls under Article VI of the bylaws, Responsibilities of the Directors.
“We’ll add a Section 10, and Section 10 would be all Directors should receive HAVEN training within 60 days of assuming their position on the Board of Directors,” said Rosie Tran, secretary general of CIRA’s collegiate conference, UNCMUNC. “Failure to do so will result in a suspension from the board until they are able to complete their training. We would like to add this onto the responsibilities of the Directors because we realized during Sunday’s executive board meeting that we are not adequately trained on how to handle these issues, and by requiring all members of the board to do HAVEN training, we will be able to give our members the proper resources should they need it.”
The HAVEN program is a partnership between the Equal Opportunity & Compliance Office, the Carolina Women’s Center, the Office of the Dean of Students and Student Wellness. HAVEN trainings provide participants with information on how to be an ally for someone who has experienced sexual or interpersonal violence or stalking.
This amendment passed with a unanimous vote.
The Board then discussed incorporating a proper structure and parameters to carry out impeachment proceedings in the bylaws.
“I do think that in the situation that we require 48 hours of notice, that it might be reasonable to maybe remove or give the Board veto power over the president’s decision to cancel an exec board meeting in the event that a motion has been brought forward,” Senecal said. “So that in the event that one day a motion might be brought against a president, this is not relevant to today, but in the future, that there would be the ability of the Board to bring forward that motion without that meeting being cancelled.”
To outline appropriate behavior more clearly, the Executive Board proposed creating two codes of conduct, one for general body members and one for Executive Board members.
“I talked to some of the people at the Carolina Women’s Center and one thing that we can, after we create a code of conduct, is to go to, I believe they said the Office of Ethics and Integrity, and they’ll be able to review if for us,” Tran said. “We can also go to student legal services, but one thing I think that we should definitely include on it is that there’s no tolerance of any form of sexual aggression.”
After the discussion of amendments, the Executive Board took questions from general body members regarding the way Ong’s impeachment was carried out and further changes that would make the procedure more transparent.
The CIRA Executive Board plans to answer these questions in a future meeting.
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