University judicial services is reviewing the USF student body president for misleading statements he made to university administrators in connection to his knowledge of an alcohol-related incident that occurred in his office during a freshman orientation event over the summer.
Rumors about what happened in student body president Barclay Harless’ office have swirled among members of student government since the incident occurred on June 14 at Bulls Night Out, a meet and greet for incoming freshman with leaders from student government and other campus groups.
University administrators privy to private conversations with Harless and other senior student government members said they could not provide any specific information about the case because of privacy laws protecting student’s records.
Dean of Students Kevin Banks did say individuals were being investigated.
“There was a possible violation of the student code of conduct involving several students this summer,” he said.
Harless – who senior SG members said they expect will be put on probation by judicial services – apologized to members of SG’s legislative branch for any embarrassment the incident may have caused during a speech Tuesday night at student government Senate’s first meeting of the semester.
“Sometimes when you get caught in a very stressful time, you resort to things you wouldn’t normally do,” Harless said in his address to senators.
In an interview with the Oracle, Harless said he considered resigning a couple of months ago but now plans to remain student body president.
“Right after it happened, the response from people that had counted on me that I knew I had let down, made me consider whether I’d continue,” Harless said. “There were times I wanted to go and hide, but when you begin to accept blame, you begin to change.”
“The important thing here is that SG came to me. We held ourselves accountable,” he said.
Rumor and hearsay within SG have spawned slightly different versions of what happened.
Here are the events that occurred that night and in its immediate aftermath related by Senate President Nathan Davison, student body vice president Garin Flowers, Director of Student Life and Development Megan Latchford and several SG sources who wished to remain anonymous. These facts were confirmed in the interview with Harless:
As Bulls Night Out wound to a close around 10:30 p.m., University administrators went up to Harless’s office in the student government lounge on the second floor of the Marshall Center.
They had heard reports from orientation team leaders that Harless’ breath smelled of alcohol.
Earlier in the night Harless had asked Flowers and SG athletic coordinator Greg Morgan to come back to his office. He asked Morgan if he wanted a drink.
Harless was asked to come out of the office. He was then questioned by Director of New Student Connections Keri Riegler.
The next day, Regina Young-Hyatt, associate dean for the Office of Student Engagement and Involvement, sent out an e-mail about the importance of professionalism among SG members.
The following week, Harless had the first of two meetings with Dean of Students Kevin Banks.
In those meetings, which were also attended by Student Body Vice President Garin Flowers and Senate President Nathan Davison, Harless left out information about what happened in his office, specifically the actions of other students in the office unaffiliated with student government. He revealed more to Dr. Banks in a subsequent meeting.
Harless was then referred to university judicial services. Associate Dean of Judicial Services Jason Spratt could not be reached for comment.
Due to an incident Hyatt declined to describe, the SG suite was closed for subsequent Bulls Night Out events. All SG events were moved to a table on the second floor of the Marshall Center, Hyatt said.
“We eventually ended up having to move all activities to the table … in response to an issue that happened in the office June 14,” Hyatt said.
In Harless’ Words
In an interview with the Oracle, Harless gave his version.
Harless said he and two friends, who he declined to name, had planned to have a few drinks in his office after the event ended.
His friends, who sources within SG said were Harless’s brothers from the Beta Theta Phi fraternity, brought alcohol to his office.
“It was planned,” he said. “I intended to drink, but I never did.”
Possession of alcohol within SG offices or other public campus buildings is a violation of the university’s substance abuse policy.
Harless said less than a minute after he stepped into the office, he was asked to come outside and speak with Riegler.
“I never took a drink in that office,” Harless said.
Harless declined to comment on further on the actions of the other students in his office that night.
“I accept all the blame for what happened,” Harless said. “I tried to protect friends and that’s what got me in a lot of this trouble.”
Earlier in the day, Harless, who is of legal drinking age, said he had two beers at a Tampa Bay Devil Rays game with a friend.
During the first meeting with Banks, Harless said he was less than forthcoming.
“Sometimes you have sort of a knee-jerk reaction to do the wrong thing,” Harless said. “During several recent meetings, Banks and I have rebuilt the trust.”
Student Government Response
Student government procedure dictates that members punished or put on probation by judicial services are afforded a hearing before the student government Supreme Court to decide whether they can continue in their office.
If put on probation, Harless said he would plead his case before the court.
Senators within SG can also bring up a motion to impeach Harless, in which case the legislative branch of SG would decide Harless’s fate.
After the incident, members of SG’s Executive Branch met with Barclay and Garin to discuss what they felt was a lack of honesty from executive branch leadership.
“One thing that has definitely come of this is that it’s kind of been a gateway for a lot of other conversations that needed to happen,” said Latchford, who took part in the meetings.
When Barclay came into office this summer, he let some of the power of being president go to his head, Davison said, It turned a lot of people off in SG.
“To know that you represent 37,000 students, whether or not they voted for you, is something that can go to your head,” Davison said. “He’s burned some bridges, and I think that’s going to hurt him in the long run.”
Davison and other members of SG who met with Harless said that since the meetings, Harless and Flowers had been more open and honest with SG and that relations were improving.
“I think people get in these positions and feel like they’re a celebrity and that they’re invincible. It takes something like this to bring them back down to earth,” Davison said.
Davison said he and Keenan Arodak, chair of the student government Rules Committee, had told Harless that if he didn’t address the Senate about the issue tonight they would have considered pursuing impeachment charges.
“We told him if he didn’t take care of it, we’d take care of it for him,” Davison said.
Arodak said he bought into Harless’ Senate apology to an extent.
“But everything, of course, has its politics,” he said. “The real test of whether he is genuine will be time.”
Arodak said the ultimate decision of how to handle the situation should rest in the hands of the students.
“If the students call for action then the Senate will have no choice,” he said.
Marinella Mozzicato and Joshua Neiderer contributed to this report.
David Guidi can be reached at (813) 974-1888 or email@example.com