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When Harvard starts receiving national attention for scandals involving student organizations, it's time to crack down. To do so, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III must change his attitude towards student crime 100 percent. We need clear rules and regulations for the finances of student groups, including rules that provide for annual financial reports to the University.
In the last year, three major groups--the Krokodiloes, the Harvard-Radcliffe Yearbook staff and the Evening With Champions benefit--have suffered under the stigma of embezzling.
The first of the scandals involved Charles K. Lee '93, who was sent to prison two weeks ago for stealing $120,000 of the Jimmy Fund's proceeds from An Evening With Champions. Unfortunately, Epps did not take sufficient steps to deter students from committing such a despicable crime in the future.
Had his office watched groups' finances with a strict eye thenceforth, Epps might have been able to stop the embezzling by members of the Yearbook staff and the Krokodiloes. But the University chose instead to rely on administrative changes made specifically to oversee An Evening With Champions. Epps decided to count on the unlikeliness of lightning striking twice, and offered only a few stern words of warning to the rest of the College's student organizations.
Then lightning struck again--twice. Last fall, Krokodiloes members accused their former business manager of using approximately $3,000 of the group's money for personal purchases. Epps again missed the opportunity to take a firm stand; he preferred to shield the group and its former head, who had graduated from the College already, from the law. Clearly, Epps had no business whatsoever defending a former student.
The Krokodiloes said that Epps's office even forbade their members, including those not under investigation, from speaking with the press. Epps's office enforced this dire obstruction of free speech with the threat of Administrative Board hearings. Such action could be grounds for a civil rights suit.
When the Yearbook's president and business manager were forced to resign for spending abuses, Epps again treated the matter internally and with the greatest secrecy.
Epps should have invited outside authorities to investigate the alleged crimes. When indications point to a crime as serious as embezzling, Harvard cannot place itself above the law. Moreover, the justifiable threat of a police investigation presents a formidable deterrent.
Had the nationally-known Jimmy Fund of Dana-Farber Cancer Center not been involved with the Evening With Champions case, Harvard might even have tried to treat Lee's crime as an internal matter. The University's attempts to cover up the Yearbook and Krokodiloes investigations could not be more inappropriate.
Epps has shown himself unable to cope with the necessity of watching student organizations' accounts. The University ought to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law instead of protecting them from what they deserve. With a watchful eye and a credible threat of punishment under the law, embezzling should disappear into the annals of College history.
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