Former VP’s resignation underscores transparency efforts

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Confusion, advice and academic allegations surround past Vice President of Academics D’Andre Mathews’ recent resignation.

Mathews, a junior integrated studies major from Las Vegas, resigned from his position this semester in an effort to improve grades and prepare to attend University of Utah, as previously reported, but allegations of academic misconduct were also a part of Mathews leaving DSUSA, said Jordon Sharp, the director of student involvement and leadership.

Student Body President Gregory J. Layton, a senior English major from Cottonwood Heights, said when he didn’t see the academic allegations in the initial article published by Dixie Sun News about Mathews’ resignation, he felt it was important to take a copy of Mathews’ resignation letter to the Dixie Sun News’ editor-in-chief and news editor.

“We let him step down,” Layton said. “We weren’t sure exactly what the investigation was, but we were notified that he was being investigated. Our advice to him was, ‘This is your deal. You need to own up to it.’ I told him to go to the Dixie Sun News [and said], ‘You need to give them your letter and you need to be honest about it’… I don’t think D’Andre was completely truthful. So, I wanted to make sure that you guys knew we weren’t trying to hide it.”

Chief Justice Alex Lambson, a senior computer science major from Orem, said the situation arising with Mathews and his failure to disclose his resignation letter is the first time DSUSA has had to intervene with a resignation. The contracts members of the student government sign outline responsibilities and do not contain privacy policies, Lambson said.

“As far as the transparency of the total process, I feel like we could have said more,”  Lambson said. “In the future, I feel like we could post the letter of resignation. That would probably be the best way.”

Since Mathews was the VP of academics, Sharp said Mathews was urged to resign. He agreed that it would be in the best interests of DSUSA and himself if he did, Sharp said.

“There were several reasons,” Sharp said. “D’Andre and I discussed him resigning several weeks earlier due to his lack of time. That definitely is part of it. What really confirmed it is that he had problems with his department, academically.”

Sharp said he was not involved with the proceedings, so he doesn’t know the full outcome, but he knows Mathews is appealing the allegations. 

“From what [Mathews] told us, he has been asked to leave the department,” Sharp said.

Since Mathews resigned on his own accord, Sharp said he felt that Mathews would have been upfront with his allegations.

“My advice to him was he needed to be open, very honest,” Sharp said. “I asked him to write the letter of resignation, including everything, which he did. I also told him he needed to take a copy to me, the student body president, and to the Dixie Sun, which he told me he would, which he did not do. He did ask that we allow him to talk about the details … That would be fine, but he would have to address it … If he did not, then we would.”

Mathews said he is currently in the appeal process for allegations of plagiarism from a paper he wrote spring semester 2014. Mathews said he turned the paper in first, and another paper with some of the content of the first paper was turned in by another student fall semester 2014.

“They are just allegations right now,” Mathews said. “The facts are the facts – I turned it in first.”

Mathews said he felt like he had been given conflicting advice about his resignation.

“People say they had my best interest, but that’s up for debate,” Mathews said.

He said he still loves DSUSA, but he had to take time to work on his grades.

“Either way I was going to resign,” Mathews said. “This just helped the case … I still don’t think it is fair to say D’Andre resigned because of this appeal. That is not keeping it 100 [percent].”  

Mathews said he didn’t know he was supposed to provide the resignation letter. He said he assumed that the staff would have asked for a copy if it was needed. He would have provided the letter if it was requested, he said.

“Someone on campus has the letter, so it wouldn’t be hard to get,” Mathews said. “Those are public files. People have said I have tried to hide it … Hide what? I know it is a public record. What’s to hide about it?”

As of this interview, Mathews said he does not plan on staying at DSU.

Dean of Students Del Beatty said whenever there are cases of academic misconduct, the professors are the ones to take actions in failing the student on the assignment, in the course, or even remove the student from the academic program. Section IV of the student rights and responsibilities code outlines the appeal process. FERPA law protects students from academic information being publicly released.

“When a student is found guilty of academic misconduct, it puts the integrity of the academic program at risk,” Beatty said. “That’s why we take it so seriously in higher ed.”

Previous to Mathews’ appeal, he had met with Sharp to discuss his inability to meet his obligations as vice president and his time constraints. As a result, he was facing impeachment (if he did not resign) for three areas of violation, according to a document provided by Layton: 

  • Article IV, Section A, 1, a, i: Failure to fulfill duties in office
  • Article IV, Section A, 1, a, ii: Malfeasance in office
  • Article IV, Section A, 1, a, v: Violation of the student code of conduct

If members of the student government fail to fulfill roles, they are required to pay back a percentage of their scholarships to the students, Sharp said. Mathews has agreed to pay back a portion of his scholarship, which totals about $900.

“One thing that is really important to me is to let people know that the actions he is being accused of [do] not reflect DSUSA in any way,” Student Body Vice President Samantha Tommer, a senior integrated studies major from La Habra, California said, “We want to have that trusting relationship with students. We don’t want to do anything to ruin their trust because we are here for the students. That is what we are all about. That is what we care about.”

Tommer said in a text message that she is currently conducting interviews for the position of communication senator. She said she hopes to have the position filled by the end of the week.

Sharp said his role is to help create student leaders and part of that is the learning process.

“[DSU] is a place to come and learn but also to mess up,” Sharp said. “[It is] a safer environment to mess up and to challenge processes and to be creative, and to think and to learn. This is one of those experiences, [but] we take this very seriously.”