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Student Senate to decide director's fate in emergency meeting

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Director of Residency Dozmen Lee addresses the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 20 about a contentious Snapchat video he posted Tuesday about his distaste for Speaker Cody Woodruff and Student Government as a whole.

UPDATE: Saturday's emergency Student Government meeting has been canceled "partially due to the weather," according to an email from Speaker Cody Woodruff. 

Instead, the six chief officers — Woodruff, President Julian Neely, Vice President Juan Bibiloni, Chief of Staff Liera Bender, Vice Speaker Kelsey Culbertson and Finance Director Seth Carter — will meet with a Student Government adviser to "identify a path forward," Woodruff said in the email.

ORIGINAL: At the end of a week featuring a Snapchat story heavily criticizing Student Government culture and Speaker Cody Woodruff from Director of Residency Dozmen Lee, a refusal to relieve Lee of his position from President Julian Neely and a bill calling for Senate to remove Lee from Sen. Jacob Schrader, Student Government will meet to decide Lee's future as the director of residency.

Woodruff has called for an emergency Student Government meeting to take place 7 p.m. Saturday in the Sun Room at the Memorial Union. During the meeting, Schrader will introduce a bill to rescind Neely's executive order, which "created the ad-hoc Cabinet position of Director of Student Residency, commissioned Dozmen Lee to fill this position, and further created the Student Residency Task Force."

Schrader will be introducing the bill for himself, Sen. Sandeep Stanley and Sen. Michael Tupper.

The bill describes Lee’s approach to leadership as “abrasive” and details numerous incidents of misconduct by Lee, such as mistreating landlords and representatives from property management companies during the Residency Fair and telling members of his task force Vice-Chair Ashton Ayers had resigned, when in reality Lee removed him from his position.

“Every word in this document has been verified,” Schrader wrote in an email with the bill attached Thursday night.

Schrader did not respond to an interview request from the Daily.

As director of residency, Lee hosted the Residency Fair in November, which Lee, Neely and members of the executive cabinet have described as a success.

Director of Sustainability Toni Sleugh said Lee’s work not only helped students who attended the fair, but laid groundwork for future directors of residency to host residency fairs of their own.

Neely said landlords and property management companies were “extremely excited” when he spoke to them at the fair.

However, the bill names two apartment complexes — Union on Lincoln Way and South Duff — whose management said they felt mistreated.

Stanley said management from the Union on Lincoln Way reached out to Student Government Thursday when they heard of Lee’s potential removal to further express their dissatisfaction with the Residency Fair.

Alongside Schrader’s email to Student Government members, however, have been emails from Lee’s supporters.

One senator, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation from senate leadership, described the bill as “the most recent example of individuals voting based off of personal biases and wasting energy on personal vendettas when that energy would be spent more wisely towards something that helps students,” in a statement to the Daily.

Students Madison Davies, a senior in technical communication, and Jake Nelson, a senior in chemical engineering, emailed senators Friday expressing their support for Lee and concern that Woodruff called the emergency meeting in response to a social media post he made earlier in the week.

Lee posted an 11-minute Snapchat story Tuesday, in which he extensively criticized Woodruff and Student Government as a whole, but Stanley said Lee’s conduct as director, not the Snapchat, is the reason for the meeting.

“The Snapchat video made other members of Student Government come forward with some concerns that they had about Director Lee, unprompted to Senator Schrader, who, of his own volition, decided to look into and compile some of these concerns and found that we have a sufficient case to bring to Senate for [Lee’s] removal” Stanley said.

However, Neely and Vice President Juan Bibiloni said the timeline of events is important to acknowledge.

“I think to separate the timeline of events with the Snapchat story with the calling of this meeting is irresponsible because it is definitely tied hand-in-hand, and it should be a point of discussion — how this timeline of events came to fruition,” Bibiloni said.

Lee posted the video to his Snapchat Tuesday. Wednesday morning, Woodruff emailed Neely demanding Neely remove Lee from his position within 48 hours, otherwise Senate would vote to remove him.

Sen. Analese Hauber, Woodruff’s running mate, and Sen. Sydney Dondlinger, a member of Woodruff’s campaign, resigned from Lee’s Student Residency Task Force Wednesday morning. Neely and Bibiloni said they received Hauber and Dondlinger’s resignations shortly after they received Woodruff’s ultimatum.

Dondlinger expressed to Woodruff that she was considering resigning from the task force in an email on Dec. 7.

“I’m thinking of resigning from the residency committee because I have been so fed up with the way [Lee] runs it,” Dondlinger wrote. “[Lee] makes executive decisions on behalf of the “committee” when it truly is just him choosing what happens. The only thing we have done this year is the residency fair, which was all his idea and that is all we have talked about. He has lied about various things within the committee and displays false information to the committee in the way that he wants it to be put out there and does not tell the whole story. He only has his best interests in mind.”

Dondlinger did not respond to an interview request from the Daily.

Hauber expressed similar concerns about Lee’s leadership style in an email to Neely on Feb. 2, but she did not mention a possibility of resigning.

Neely said he met with Hauber and Woodruff about Lee’s conduct during the fall semester, which is when Woodruff first requested Lee’s removal from his position. During the meeting, Neely asked Woodruff and Hauber if they had reached out to Lee about their concerns and neither said they had. Neely encouraged them to have a conversation with Lee.

Woodruff said he didn’t believe Neely’s encouragement was a sufficient response to the senators’ concerns but was concerned about overstepping his boundaries.

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Speaker Cody Woodruff asks questions of Director of Residency Dozmen Lee during the Senate meeting Wednesday, Feb. 20. In an 11-minute Snapchat on his personal account, Lee expressed his issues with Student Government, as well as Woodruff.

“I pushed heavily for President Neely to take action because [Lee] is part of cabinet, and this entire year I’ve stressed that we are one government but formed of co-equal branches, and it is not my place as speaker of the senate to step on President Neely’s toes,” Woodruff said. “I was trying to be respectful of his branch of government and give him the opportunity to address the issues that others saw.”

Regardless of what specific incident inspired the bill, Student Government members on both sides of the issue agree Saturday’s meeting will be tense, and it may be difficult for people to separate the professional from the personal.

Woodruff said personal feelings will “obviously influence” the vote, but he doesn’t believe everyone’s mind is made up. Woodruff also said he has not decided how he will vote but will most likely abstain.

For the session to meet quorum, two-thirds of the 29 seated senators must attend. Two-thirds of senators must also vote in favor of the bill for it to pass, according to the Student Government Constitution. 

During this session, Student Government "is waiving the bylaws on who can speak during the meeting to ensure every voice - Senate, Cabinet, and all students - are heard," according to an email from Woodruff.

Lee said he believes Senate will "most certainly" remove him.

Senior Director of Student Services Zahra Barkley said she believes Woodruff is abusing his power as speaker to call an emergency meeting because he wouldn’t do so if another senator had been publicly criticized by another member of Student Government.

“It’s the campaign,” Barkley said. “That’s exactly what it is. What [Lee] said is truthful, and that scares Cody.”

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