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CL firing angers students

Nov. 11, 2010

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Makenzie Mason | Lariat Photographer
Seattle junior Sam Pomeroy, Houston junior Grant Shellhouse, Allen sophomore True Price, Los Angeles sophomore Carlo Manzana and San Antonio freshman Collin Huse sing a song in support of Jeremy Goss Wednesday in front of Alexander Residence Hall.

By Nick Dean and Sara Tirrito
Editor in Chief and Staff Writer

More than 40 students protested what they call an unjust firing of a senior community leader in the Honors Residential College on Wednesday night in front of Alexander Residence Hall.

Houston senior Jeremy Goss, a political science and pre-med major and CL for the fourth floor of Alexander Hall will be terminated effective today because of what Campus Living & Learning has called improper use of Baylor ID pictures located on the university's online directory.

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Daniel Cernero | Photo Editor
Students supported Honors Residential College community leader Jeremy Goss by chalking around Memorial Residence Hall.

Goss was the subject of an investigation by CL&L officials on Nov. 2 because of a website run by Goss related to a game played by members of the residential college.

The game, Assassins, is one in which the goal is to be the last surviving player. Each participant is given a target (which in this case was another HRC resident) and is charged with the task of "eliminating" the resident. Once players have eliminated their first target, they assume the target of the residents they just beat.

Goss' version of Assassins used a website to provide the participants with their targets' contact information and photo. An e-mail was sent to all residents within the HRC offering them the opportunity to participate in this year's game of Assassins. Those that wished to play were asked to respond via e-mail with their name, contact information, a nickname to be used for the game and a catch phrase for their character.

A total of 116 residents signed up for this year's game.

Goss paired the information provided by each player with a photo from the university's directory that he converted to black and white. Once a participant was eliminated the photo would turn red on the website.

According to the Official Letter of Terminated Employment from CL&L that was sent to Goss, Lara Conrad and Megan Witherspoon discovered the students' pictures on the website and immediately called for their removal. Conrad is the assistant director for resident learning, living-learning programs for CL&L. Witherspoon is the residence hall director for Alexander and Memorial halls.

"Upon the discovery of the website use of these pictures yesterday [Nov. 2], Megan Witherspoon and Lara Conrad instructed Jeremy to remove the pictures immediately and then later that night, to take the rest of the site down due to additional violations of university policy listed as rules for a game over which Jeremy had responsibility," the letter stated. The additional violations of the website were not detailed in the letter.

In an interview with the Lariat, Conrad said the use of the pictures on Goss' website violated the university's usage policy.

"Unfortunately, the permission to use the photos does not come from students individually; it would come from the university," Conrad said, advising the Lariat to contact Baylor Information Technology Services for further clarification.

The university's Information Use Policy, as found on the ITS website, states that "Baylor and its employees will ... not release confidential information to the public or to non-related third parties unless required by law or other legal proceedings or with permission from the affected party(ies)."

Carl Flynn, director of communications and marketing for university libraries and ITS, said that if a student has given another student permission to use his or her directory information in a certain way, and if that information is being used for school or university-related purposes, then that usage is permissible under the university's Information Use Policy.

"The reason the photos were there was because the point of the game was for HRC members to get to know more people within the HRC," McKinney junior Rachel Moorman said.

"If you didn't know the person who was your target, you had to have a way to see their pictures to know who you were looking for."

Moorman lived in the Honors Residential College for two years and participated in the game with Goss two years ago.

"I think it is crazy that they would all of a sudden fire him for something he has been doing for three years," Moorman said.

According to the letter sent to Goss, he has always reported to Witherspoon and "over the past 2 and a half years he has repeatedly been given feedback both verbally and in written evaluations concerning his desire to take initiative without communicating actions and ideas to the necessary people and his disregard for policies in the context of completing a task. This lack of communication in combination with making decisions without knowing the entire situation have sometimes led to making a situation harder to handle, while other times it resulted in violation of policy or cost to the university."

According to the letter, Conrad and Witherspoon met with Goss on the evening of Nov. 3, not to discuss the Assassins game, but to discuss the posting of the pictures on the website. Conrad's letter stated that Goss "showed little remorse or sorrow" for using the photos.

"He did apologize at the end of the conversation but did not reinforce our hope that he would change his approach to problem solving or the use of any means to reach a goal he had set," the letter stated.

The previous violations committed by Goss have been withheld by CL&L for privacy purposes, Conrad said.

"I am very disappointed that this letter has been shared with the entire campus community," Conrad said.

"We have purposely not shared details about this student's background and their student record because we are attempting to protect that student."

Goss met with Conrad on Nov. 5 to discuss what actions would be taken against him because of the infraction CL&L had discovered.

The letter instructed Goss to choose between resignation and termination.

Goss refused to resign and was e-mailed a letter from Conrad following the meeting that instructed Goss to "cease all official Community Leader related duties and alert other members of the Honors Residential College staff if a Community Leader presence is needed."

Goss was a member of the East Village advisory board. He formerly chaired and is a current member of the CL&L student advisory board. He is an associate justice of the student court, a member of the Honor Council voting committee, the academic integrity advisory board, the judicial affairs advisory board and the Student Union Building planning committee.

Goss was advised that he would be able to maintain his capacities on these boards despite his termination today.

Immediately following the announcement of Goss' termination, student trustees and chairs of the Honors College Council met and determined that trustee Preston Yancey, a Conroe junior, would e-mail all 116 participants of the Assassins game asking for a signed statement of affirmation that each participant "verbally and electronically" gave Goss permission to use their information for the necessary measures of the Assassins game.

Yancey said all 116 students responded, agreeing that they consented to the use of their information and photo within 25 hours of the e-mail being sent on Nov. 6.

"On Monday morning we (turned) this in to the dean because we recognize that normal judicial procedure hasn't happened," Yancey said. "For us this is just a peaceful way of asking quite simply look we brought evidence, we are the people whose privacy was allegedly violated, we're asking that you would reconsider that for us and that you would actually present justice to this community."

Another form of protest from students was a gathering Wednesday night in front of the hall in which Goss worked.

At the protest, students discussed the events that have taken place surrounding Goss' termination and sang modified lyrics to The Beatles' "Let it Be" that were meant to show support and respect for Goss.

"I'm upset about it. I, like most of the people here, don't feel that he should have been relieved of his duties as CL. I feel that he was doing an excellent job, far better than he could have expected to have done," Covington, La., junior Preston Morton said at the protest.

"This (protest) just reflects how close of a community we are. He's been such a cornerstone of the HRC; he knows everybody's name, he really steps out and makes the HRC what it is and so when we lost Jeremy we really lost a big part of the HRC."

Yancey spoke to those in attendance and explained what had happened to Goss. He asked that they reach out to various administrators and let their frustration be known.

"He was promoted to senior CL this year. If there was a consistent issue in his character, in his personality, in his nature, that has been showing up for so long because there's all this documentation about how flawed he's been in communication, why was he promoted to senior CL this year?" Yancey asked. "Why was he kept on and why are we in November when something like this happens? Something doesn't ring right there."