Programs Board Faces Difficult Controversy Over Firing Chair

The recent termination of junior Reid Levin from the position of Programs Board Coffeehouse Chair, ostensibly related to lackluster attendance at meetings, is leaving some students crying foul play.

According to Levin, the incident occurred Sunday, Feb. 20, when he was called into a meeting with Director of Campus Programming Jessica Harvey.

Levin said that Harvey confronted him at the meeting about missing two Programs Board meetings and not attending other Programs Board events (the latter not mandatory, but encouraged), which she said was grounds for his dismissal. Levin said, “essentially [Harvey told] me that I’d been kicked off of Programs Board.”

Levin said that, although he did miss two Programs Board meetings this semester, he notified Harvey both times of his absence and claimed that she said at the time that it was okay. Levin also said that he was not aware of the two meeting policy before his termination, and that although he had missed other Programs Board events, he rarely if ever saw other members of the Board at Coffeehouse.

Levin believes that there are no solid reasons for his termination and that the reasons for it are likely related to a personal issue with another member of the Board.

Junior Dave Gittes, who Levin said had “been involved with everything from the beginning”, added that Levin had attended peer mediation for the issue and that both he and Levin believed the issue was settled at its conclusion. However, Levin said that even after the mediation, he felt ostracized by the Board.

Harvey, however, gave a much different timeline of events. According to her, Reid was provided with the Programs Board Mission Statement, Goals and Expectations during the first week of last semester.

She added that she and Programs Board coordinator Clint Neill became concerned about the fact that Levin neglected to fill out a number of evaluation forms for Coffeehouse events and missed two meetings, a Coffeehouse, and a Programs Board mini-retreat on Jan. 29; she added that although he warned Harvey of his absences, he did so either immediately before or during events.

That following day, Harvey said she and Clint met with Levin to discuss his lack of attendance, but the situation did not improve and Levin missed a third meeting.

Additionally, though Levin said that many of these absences were the result of illness, Harvey claims that other members of Programs Board informed her that they saw Levin out at parties on days he claimed to be ill. She said, “I felt like he’d been lying to [Neill] and I the whole time.”

According to Harvey, this, combined with what she termed “consistently poor communication” regarding event planning and Levin’s inability to help at welcome-back events at the beginning of this semester, led to his termination.

She also said that his termination had nothing to do with any personal issues with the Board or its members.  “Although Reid held several excellent Coffeehouse programs,” she said, “there is a lot of behind the scenes work that Programs Board members must do in order to maintain their position on Programs Board.”

Complicating the matter further, a swarm of rumors began to surround the incident almost immediately after Levin’s termination. One of these, according to Levin, was that he quit Programs Board on his own volition.

Levin said that this is completely untrue, and that he has repeatedly tried to tell people that he was terminated, and did not quit. Levin said, “I essentially want people…to know that I still want to do Coffeehouse.” Harvey said she was unaware of the origins of these rumors, and said she had immediately informed all members of Programs Board of her decision (and her reasoning for it) shortly after making it.

More troubling, perhaps, are the rumors that Levin drained the Coffeehouse budget, causing the program to have to go on semi-hiatus during April. According to a Programs Board balance sheet provided by Levin, the Coffeehouse was allocated $5,500 for fiscal year 2010-2011.

Of that $5,500, Levin claims that $1,000 was spent prior to his knowledge by Harvey for the band Pearl and the Beard at the beginning of the school year. Levin used that money to book six bands, including Holy F**k, his most expensive band at $1,500. However, Levin said that the Holy F**k’s performance brought out some of the highest attendance in Coffeehouse history, and he believed the booking was justified as a result.

About $1,890 of the budget was left over at the end of last semester, and after the booking of three separate bands this year the budget still contained $490, with which Levin said he was “completely comfortable” completing the rest of the year’s Coffeehouse events. Harvey, however, pointed out that the stated budget was actually $100 less as a result of an unreported receipt for the reward gift card for AirBands.

Gittes is also upset about the Student Government Association’s (SGA) handling of the issue and the fact that Levin’s termination was not mentioned by Harvey at the SGA meeting the following Tuesday.

He said, “[Harvey] is required to discuss Programs Board activities; she did not. [It was] business as usual, which was the most perturbing part.” Gittes also said that he considered discussion he had witnessed on Facebook about Levin’s termination obscene and uncouth.

Harvey said that she did in fact report that the Board was looking for a new Publicity chair at the meeting, but did not mention Levin specifically because she felt uncomfortable doing so with him and his friends in attendance. She added that she believes in retrospect she should have done so.

Despite these issues, some students have stated that Levin’s actual work on Coffeehouse was exemplary. Gittes for example, pointed out that the Coffeehouse chair is only required to have one Coffeehouse a month; Levin had one every week, except in cases of inclement weather.

Dom Morris, in an unpublished editorial for The Point News, said, “I can honestly say that this year has held some of the best, and most well-put together Coffeehouse events that I have seen during my time at SMCM…I have watched Reid plan these events with great care and effort, I’ve watched him work hard to run the events, and most importantly, I’ve observed how much it meant to him.”

Harvey also said that Levin’s work, up to the current semester, was “phenomenal”, and added, “I’m really upset this had to happen.”

Harvey said that Coffeehouse will continue to run until the end of March with the Battle of the Bands and a concert for Invisible Children, but will be put on hiatus during April because of the large amount of other programs being offered around campus.

 

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