YIRA email sparks controversy

In a Tuesday night email to several hundred active members of the Yale International Relations Association (YIRA), the organization’s executive board alleged its former president misallocated YIRA funds. But several YIRA members interviewed have questioned the claims made in the email and an attached document.

According to the letter, the former president of the organization during the 2012-’13 year Larissa Liburd ’14 requested $3,500 from YIRA for her group, Citoyen Haiti. The YIRA board voted to allocate the funds with the understanding that the preceding board had approved the decision, the letter said. The YIRA letter said that Citoyen Haiti was not a constituent organization of YIRA. As of press time, Citoyen Haiti’s website continued to state constituent status, and that donations to Citoyen Haiti are tax deductible because of its relationship to YIRA, a 501(c)(3) organization.

The letter added that Liburd’s case has been referred to the University administration, though it did not provide details about the extent of the University’s involvement.

“To rectify the misappropriation of funds and the unapproved use of the YIRA name and 501(c)(3) status by a Yale student, the Executive Board members involved have referred this case to the Yale University administration,” the letter said.

Liburd declined to comment Thursday night. Jade Ford ’16 and other members of the current YIRA board could not be reached for comment.

Still, several active YIRA members interviewed said the allegations against Liburd have not been substantiated.

“I think that the letter suggested that this issue has been much more thoroughly investigated and proven than is actually the case,” said Lizzie Hylton ’15, who served as head delegate of the YIRA Model UN team on the 2012-’13 board.

Members of the 2012-’13 board interviewed offered conflicting accounts of the events surrounding Citoyen Haiti.

Suyash Bhagwat ’15 — who was treasurer for the 2012-’13 board, and said he was responsible for detailing YIRA’s financial commitments to the current board during the leadership turnover last May — said an institutional connection between YIRA and Citoyen Haiti was proposed during his board year.

Bhagwat said that at the time, he told the YIRA board and Liburd that YIRA could not make a decision on the proposed partnership without “more substantial facts” about the commitment it would entail.

Bhagwat said the board did not vote on the issue, an account questioned by other board members including Hylton, who acknowledged she had not present at the meeting in question.

“There’s an open investigation pending. People from my board remember the events surrounding Citoyen Haiti differently,” Hylton said. “I personally believe in Larissa’s innocence, but the real problem in my mind lies with how this issue was handled by the current YIRA presidency.”

Sophia Clementi ’14, who served as executive director on the 2012-’13 board, said that she received one phone call in fall 2013 from Ford, the current YIRA President, asking about what she remembered about the 2012-’13 board’s discussions of Citoyen Haiti from the year before. Since then, she said, there has been no formal communication to her from the current board.

Hylton said she was not consulted by the current YIRA board about the allegations.

Several YIRA members said that they felt the current board had acted irresponsibly in sending Tuesday’s email to the entire YIRA email list.

“I think it’s regrettable that an email disclosing the details of an [ongoing] case was sent out to the entire membership of YIRA,” said Aaron Berman ’16, who has been involved with YIRA’s constituent programs, conferences and publications.

Hylton expressed a similar sentiment, saying that she felt the current board did not consider what the most appropriate action would be in dealing with the ongoing case before sending out the email.

Frankie Costa ’14, who served as YIRA president on the 2011-’12 board, said although the accusations would be troubling if found to be true, he has faith that YIRA and the Yale administration will handle the matter appropriately.

YIRA’s current board is composed of 10 members.

This is the version of the article that ran on page A1 of the Feb. 12 issue of the News. A prior news brief was originally posted here, and its comments remain on that page. 

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