The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday February 8th

RHA president resigns, former community governor-elect files suit

Connor Community, pictured on Oct. 16, 2022, is now facing a lack of representation in UNC’s Residence Hall Association.
Buy Photos Connor Community, pictured on Oct. 16, 2022, is now facing a lack of representation in UNC’s Residence Hall Association.

Nate Worley, former president of the RHA, announced his resignation on Oct. 11.

This change in leadership comes after a community governor-elect’s suspension in September and a constitutional impasse between the Undergraduate Senate and Residence Hall Association. 

Worley's resignation officially took effect yesterday.

RHA suspends Dean Pearce

The Residence Hall Association is run by an executive board and a board of governors that is composed of governors from each residential community. As an independent agency, it operates separately from student government —  insulating the RHA’s daily operations but not its bylaws. 

As of Sept. 13, the RHA executive board suspended Dean Pearce, the Connor community governor-elect, for three weeks without initially holding a formal ethics hearing, which is required by the RHA bylaws. The decision to suspend Pearce was outlined and discussed in an emergency meeting on Sept. 12. 

According to Pearce, he was suspended after trying to introduce legislation into the RHA bylaws that would have created more transparency with the RHA’s budget. 

The RHA said this is not the case.

“We would like to say that Dean Pearce was not put through an ethics hearing because of the language of his bylaw amendment proposal,” the RHA clarified in an email to The Daily Tar Heel. 

The minutes from the RHA’s emergency meeting on Sept. 12 list several grievances against  Pearce, ranging from 

  • “Interrogating” Erin Carter — the RHA’s faculty adviser — about the RHA’s constitution.
  • Confronting Worley “aggressively” about the RHA bylaws and constitution at the RHA’s retreat.
  • Making members of the Executive Board feel “uncomfortable” sharing physical space with him.

Following the meeting, Worley informed Pearce of his three-week suspension via email.

Worley told him that he was allowed to defend himself with a written testimony under 20 pages in length. He told Pearce the charges against him were for harassment and hostile behavior, but Pearce said this occurred without informing him of the specific incidents mentioned in the meeting.

“At the Board of Governors' retreat, I did express my disagreement with a couple of policies, but I did civilly,” Pearce said. “I never made any personal attacks and after the Board of Governors' retreat, I didn't even go to a single board of governors meeting before I was suspended.”

The next day, Worley emailed Pearce again, acknowledging that the suspension was not valid as it violated RHA’s bylaws. He told Dean that he was still prohibited from attending RHA events, as well as barred from doing anything in his capacity as community governor-elect. 

Undergraduate Senate introduces RHA bylaw revisions

After the RHA suspended Pearce, the Undergraduate Senate introduced legislation to the RHA bylaws on Sept. 14 which was intended to create more transparency from the executive board and shift some power to the Board of Governors. 

Pearce is a former member of the Undergraduate Senate. During his suspension, Pearce said he notified the Senate of the situation and helped craft the legislation that changed the RHA bylaws — the same changes he attempted to make internally while a community governor-elect. 

The Senate passed the bill on Sept. 20 and was signed by Taliajah “Teddy” Vann, UNC’s student body president, the next day. 

Before the bill was presented to the Joint Governance Council, Worley preemptively rejected its legitimacy.

As of Oct. 19, the bill has not yet passed the Joint Governance Council. 

“We go into the meeting, and I make the recommendation that we just fully postpone indefinitely. So, the bill is sitting on the docket, we can pull it off at any point in time,” said Matthew Tweden, chairperson of the Joint Governance Council. “But it’s frozen as a de-escalation.”

RHA and the Undergraduate Senate

Tweden invited the RHA to argue their side before the Undergraduate Senate on Sept. 21. 

Tweden said he was told by Worley that nothing the Joint Governance Council does will affect RHA bylaws. 

“The Student Senate is within their rights to publish bylaw amendments for any agency of Student Government,” The RHA later said in an email to The Daily Tar Heel. "It is our hope that we can continue to work with Student Government to amend our bylaws in an equitable manner for future students and administrations within RHA as we have the mutual goal of resident advocacy.”

According to the student constitution, the RHA is an established independent agency. Under Article V section 2, revisions to the established bodies enumerated in this constitution may be introduced in either the Undergraduate or Graduate Senate and subsequently approved by the Joint Governance Council. 

Article V section 10 establishes the existence of the RHA and claims its duty to be to handle all matters concerning student life in University-owned and -approved housing and residence halls. 

Action after the hearing

On Sept. 20, the RHA Executive Board held an ethics hearing for Pearce. Worley and Vice President Mary Miller recused themselves and Pearce was prohibited from attending. 

In the meeting’s minutes, it is expressed that the board intends “to be selective on what to share with governors.”

Immediately after the email from Worley on Sept. 12, Pearce said he reached out to Jasmine Werry, the chief legal officer of the Undergraduate Office for Student Legal Counsel, a student group that deals with internal rules and regulations at UNC. 

The lawsuit

Pearce filed separate suits in the UNC Student Supreme Court against Worley and Miller. These suits were later consolidated into a collective suit against the RHA Executive Board, in which Werry will represent Pearce.  

Pearce cites removing his powers as community governor and preventing him from setting up a community government as clauses of the suit. 

Another lawsuit from Andrew Gary and Dean Pearce requesting the RHA executive board meeting minutes be made available was consolidated with Pearce’s latest suit on Sept. 27.

“There’s a question of due process," Werry said. "Dean was dismissed, wasn't able to be there for his hearings, all he was allowed to do was write a letter, affidavit or testimony and basically say his account, but he wasn't told the precise charges."

The revision the Senate passed proposes multiple bylaws including but not limited to:

  • Allowing the target of an ethics hearing to attend the hearing instead of writing an up to 20-page testimony in their own defense.  
  • Requiring a majority vote from the RHA Board of Governors for sanctions levied against a member of the Board of Governors. 
  • The executive treasurer will provide financial records to the RHA Board of Governors upon request.
  • Require 2/3 vote from the Board of Governors for financial transfers 
  • Remove executive board discretion in the allocation of funds
  • The budget requires the approval of the Board of Governors

Though these bylaws were passed by the Senate, they will not be in effect until they are passed by the Joint Governance Council. 

“The way things were being treated was, in my opinion, and you can quote me on this, extremely shady,” Werry said. “The way that the ethics hearing proceeded, the way that Dean was treated, everything, in my opinion, was not handled transparently whatsoever. And I think there should be more public accountability from RHA because they represent quite literally thousands of students.”

@dailytarheel

university@dailytarheel.com

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