Two Student Government officials facing alcohol charges resigned Tuesday, days after one was involved in a taser incident with five fellow fraternity members.
Both on probation for separate alcohol charges last month, Ryan Kearns and Bradley Whittier announced their resignation at the SG general assembly Tuesday.
VP of Finance Kearns and public relations director Whittier both decided to step down on their own before possible administrative decisions forced their resignation, according to SG President Ali Mathe.
Mathe said that both men agreed that “It’s difficult to give up something that you love.” She said that the entire executive board will cover the duties of Kearns and Whittier until the spring semester, at which point it is possible that new elections will take place, if such is permitted by the SG constitution.
Around midnight Saturday, security responded to an anonymous tip concerning students playing with a taser in the Ferman Music Center.
Security found Kearns, along with three other members of Sigma Phi Epsilon and two 2007 graduates of the fraternity in a studio with a hand held stun gun.
It is still unclear exactly what was occurring in the music center, said security’s assistant director, Kevin Howell. Sigma Phi Epsilon’s president, Mark Kieslor, said one of the two alumni claimed responsibility for the taser. He said unfortunately four current brothers were present.
Josh Murphy, the fraternity’s chaplain, said that while the incident should be taken seriously, it was really an issue of the four brothers, including Kearns, being “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Howell, who became acquainted with tasers while a Tampa Police officer, attested that tasers can bring “God awful pain,” especially when unexpected. Cartridges can be set off by static electricity even without the gun, said Howell, and could prove dangerous if it shocked someone with an already elevated heart rate due to a slight heart problem or narcotics use.
While Howell acknowledged that the taser in question is probably not as powerful as the 500,000 volt ones that he carried with TPD, he said that the lowest voltage taser he had ever read about possessed 10,000 volts. This is around 100 times that of your average power plug.
CHARGES FOR SIGMA PHI EPSILON?
Judicial Coordinator Mike Gilmer considered it reasonable to assume that all four individuals will be charged by the Office of Student Conduct. If it is deemed that they may have been responsible for the taser, they will likely be charged with a weapons violation. But if it is deemed that the taser was the sole possession of one of the alumni, the four current brothers will likely be charged with a visitors violation, as university policy holds that individuals are responsible for the violations of their visitors.
It is not yet clear whether the fraternity will be charged as an organization for the actions of its four members and two alumni.
Casey Stevens, director of civic engagement, said that in trying to be safe, the university may decide to charge the organization, as it considers a fraternity responsible for the actions of its members.
However, Stevens said that the decision will rest with Office of Student Conduct officials Mike Gilmer and Gina Firth. As of press time, Firth and Gilmer did not know if they would charge the organization.
Even so, Murphy said that they will put the individuals through the Sigma Phi Epsilon conduct system. Kearns, who is vice president of programming for the fraternity, will also face the organization’s conduct system.
“We hold each other accountable for our actions,” Kieslor said.
AN “EXEMPLARY” FRATERNITY
Though Firth said she might decide to charge the organization, she also made it clear that she considered Sigma Phi Epsilon to be “a truly exemplary fraternity.”
The organization has won “Fraternity of the Year” two out of the last three years, and it has a completely clean conduct record.
Kieslor and Murphy explained that the fraternity has chosen to opt out of the popular pledging system because it “helps reduce hazing.” Instead, Sigma Phi Epsilon uses a “Balance Man” induction method where individuals join at their own pace after they pass a series of interviews that show their personal development to be up to fraternity standards.
Kieslor considers Sigma Phi Epsilon’s approach to brotherhood “completely different from your usual fraternity model.”
Whittier, who is not believed to be affiliated with any social fraternity, decided to resign from Student Government in the aftermath of being charged by Tampa police Oct. 18 with driving under the influence.
To obviate the possibility of the university relieving him of his SG position, Whittier decided to resign.
He told the Student Government general assembly on Tuesday that he would continue to attend SG meetings and participate in Student Government.