BY: LAUREN LUMPKIN
Center for Advocacy & Student Equity (CASE) Director Will Mascaro was fired on Tuesday after allegedly placing an order, that was to be paid for with student funds, before receiving approval from Student Activities. This is not the first time Mascaro has been criticized for alleged misconduct. He was accusedâ€”and later found innocentâ€”of coercion when he ran for American University Student Government (AUSG) president in 2016.
Since his termination, a petition for Mascaro has been shared more than 50 times on Facebook. The petition currently has 209 signatures, but only the Undergraduate Senate can officially confirmâ€”or denyâ€”Mascaro's termination. The Senate will convene for a special meeting to reconsider AUSG President Taylor Dumpson's decision to fire Mascaro. Undergraduate Senate Speaker Maddie Wheeler has not yet shared the date for the meeting.
Many of the students who are leading the charge to have Mascaro reinstated are members of CASE. CASE Deputy Director for Student Affairs and Senator for Campus at Large Haley Lickstein helped start Mascaro's petition.
"We started for a petition so that we can have a means of tangibly showing the amount of students impacted by Will's time as director," said Lickstein. The plan is to present the petition during the special Undergraduate Senate meeting. Lickstein ran against Dumpson for AUSG president last year.
CASE, formally known as the Student Advocacy Center (SAC), "provides free and confidential student consultation for students who have allegedly violated university policy," according to the organization's website. CASE began operations under Dumpson.
Mascaro said he requested $3,800 on Aug. 5 for student rights cards, placards designed to outline fundamental rights that each student has, like the right to file a Title IX complaint or see an academic advisor. The cards would be hung in bathrooms and on residence hall doors.
Mascaro said he asked AUSG Comptroller Christine Machovec for the money. She approved the request before sending it to University Center & Student Activities for final authorization, said Mascaro.
President Dumpson said Student Activities never authorized the request that is almost four times larger than CASE's $1,000 budget.
Mascaro's firing was a direct result of his failure to receive approval for the funding request, said Dumpson. In order to complete the transaction, the request needed to be signed off by Director of Student Activities Ayana Wilson.
Mascaro told the manufacturer to send him an invoice for the cards and in return, he would send the payment, according to emails exchanged between him and Dumpson. Mascaro allegedly said this despite the fact Student Activities had yet to approve the request.
Mascaro, however, said he told the card manufacturer the financial paperwork had been turned in, but did not promise any payment.
The manufacturer Mascaro was working with already had a relationship with the university. Although the funding request was still pending and no money had been paid, the manufacturer sent the cards anyway, Mascaro alleges.
However, someone has to pay the manufacturer. "To be clear, the cards were produced and delivered and student money will have to be spent to cover this charge," said the AUSG Executive Board in a statement issued on Friday morning. Dumpson added that although Mascaro did not pay the manufacturer himself, AUSG has received an invoice for the cards that must be paid.
Mascaro said he received an email from Dumpson on Oct. 31 at around 6:00 p.m. with his notice of termination. Before he was fired, he was placed on suspension by Student Activities for making the unauthorized order. He said he had multiple meetings with Student Activities prior to being fired, but had no indication his job was in jeopardy.
According to Mascaro, the request still has not been finalized. "I never received a dime from Student Activities for this project," said Mascaro. "There was never an unauthorized purchase because I never had any funds in the first place."
But now AUSG must foot the bill for the student rights cards. "Will unfortunately did not have final approval before the cards were produced and AUSG was invoiced," said the Executive Board.
Mascaro, who has been involved in AUSG for more than three years, served as the Senate Financial Committee Chair during his time in the Undergraduate Senate. "That final step in the financial approval process has been in place for years, and should come as no surprise to current members," said the Executive Board.
Despite Mascaro's termination, AUSG said they plan to continue implementing the student rights cards. The project began when The Blackprint Opinion Editor Devontae Torriente was AUSG president during the 2016-2017 school year.
Mascaro also worked on a report that led to major changes in the Student Conduct Code this year. The report outlined specific policies for bias-related incidents and hate crimes, and how the university should handle them.
AUSG has appointed an interim director from within CASE to take Mascaro's place until the application process for a permanent director begins, according to the Executive Board.