On May 1 and May 2, days after Kevin Hwang ’17 was unilaterally fired from his paid position as Dwight Hall’s Education Network Coordinator by Dwight Hall Co-Coordinators Briana Burroughs ’17 and Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18, Hwang sent two emails to more than 60 active members of the Dwight Hall Education Network, accusing Burroughs and D’Ambrosio of “silencing the opposition” and exercising an “abuse of power.”
In his May 1 email, Hwang highlighted “long-standing ideological disagreements about Dwight Hall and its treatment of member groups” between himself and the co-coordinators, specifically his opposition to hardline punishments of Dwight Hall member groups that have not complied with Dwight Hall’s requirements, such as participating in the once-a-semester phonathon. Hwang wrote in his May 2 email that the co-coordinators pushed through a series of bylaws that greatly expanded their power, as well as the power of the Executive Committee. Though the co-coordinators sent an email to member groups containing the text of the proposed bylaws before the April 13 vote, Hwang said the bylaws were not fully explained during the cabinet meeting of member group representatives where the vote occurred. According to Hwang’s email, the new bylaws now allow the co-coordinators to unilaterally remove any member group with the Executive Committee’s approval, to unilaterally fire any member of the Executive Committee and to extend their terms to two years.
“All of this is entirely true, and [the executive committee] may try to butter it over with claims that groups were ultimately not punished much, or that they have always treated member groups with respect, but as someone who has served for the whole semester with the [co-coordinators], their frank discussions of how certain member groups suck have really displaced my confidence in such claims,” Hwang wrote in his May 2 email. “I honor their dedication to efficiency and accountability, but I cannot honor the attitude with which these goals are pursued, especially for a service organization that ought to demonstrate some measure of humility to and thankfulness for its member groups.”
In response to Hwang’s initial email, Burroughs and D’Ambrosio, who have served as co-coordinators for the past year, sent an email on May 2 to all members of the Education Network denying Hwang’s accusations that they had unfairly dismissed him from his position. Their email said Hwang was removed because he failed to meet deadlines and follow instructions for the submission of several Dwight Hall Member Group requirements, which he was tasked with relaying to Dwight Hall member groups. Even if the tasks were completed, Burroughs and D’Ambrosio added, they were consistently completed late and often lacked appropriate follow-up.
The co-coordinators’ email noted that due to Hwang’s miscommunications, several Education Network groups were unable to meet necessary deadlines. As a result, the co-coordinators met with the leadership of each group to work toward individualized solutions to avoid demoting the groups to probation, the email said.
Still, Hwang claimed in his second email that he had relayed all of the required information to member groups, adding that he did his best to make sure they were responsive — especially after finding out that probation and expulsion were being used as punishments.
“After continued complaints regarding the performance of our Ednet Coordinator, we consulted with staff, held meetings with groups, and thought hard about your Network’s treatment by its Coordinator,” the co-coordinators’ email stated. “Ultimately, in order to better support your Network, we made the decision to relieve Kevin of his duties.”
When asked for comment, Hwang, Burroughs and D’Ambrosio all released the same statement, with Burroughs and D’Ambrosio including one additional sentence. The recent claims from Executive Committee members and Member Groups alike are currently being examined and addressed by the Dwight Hall leadership and administrative staff, the statements said.
“While discussions are ongoing, we feel obligated at this time not to prematurely comment until talks have concluded,” the statements read. “Dwight Hall is committed to providing a safe environment for all students to explore service and social justice.”
Burroughs and D’Ambrosio included in their statement that they do not believe ad hominem attacks against particular Coordinators or Member Groups are appropriate or conducive to conversation.
Two days after Hwang was removed, former Dwight Hall Financial Coordinator Marc Bielas ’18 resigned from his position within the organization, similarly citing multiple instances of alleged “abuse of power.” In an email directly addressing Burroughs and sent to all members of the Dwight Hall Student Executive Committee, Bielas wrote that the abuse included having the Dwight Hall cabinet vote to allow the Executive Committee to unanimously get rid of any member groups, without first properly informing cabinet members about the resolution’s nature.
Bielas’ email added that while he understands these actions stem from frustration with a lack of member group participation, Burroughs’ alleged approach of “mocking” the Dwight Hall cabinet vote sheds light on the level of respect held for Dwight Hall’s groups and the wider service community.
“Using your positions as a means of bullying people to hold your own views (as you have done today and multiple times in the past) is not something I can easily swallow,” Bielas’ email read.
Other Dwight Hall members expressed similar discontent with the institution’s leadership. Yifu Dong ’17, who was Co-Coordinator for Dwight Hall Education Network program Bridges this past academic year, said Bridges was placed on probationary status for the Fall of 2016 for failing to attend Phonathon, Dwight Hall’s year-long fundraising campaign, during the second semester. According to the Dwight Hall website, each member group must complete a two hour Phonathon shift during the Spring. Dong said probation felt like too strong a punishment for a one-time offense.
In an email to the Bridges coordinators on April 21, Burroughs and D’Ambrosio wrote that as per the bylaws, which took effect immediately after the Cabinet vote, Bridges has the option of either accepting expulsion or completing one of two requirements while serving probation. While on probationary status, the organization would be unable to utilize any of Dwight Hall’s resources. Dong said the punishment was not reflective of what was said in the co-coordinators email sent out in response to Hwang’s, in which they wrote probation is used only as a “last resort.”
However, current Bridges Co-Coordinator Alyssa Patterson ’18 said she was told by Burroughs that Bridges will not be put on probation if the group complete the requirement of making 20 hand-written cards to Dwight Hall alumni and donors.
“If the co-coordinators cancel the program, they are not punishing the students, they are hurting the people we serve,” Dong said. “The punishment really just did not make a lot of sense, since there could be other ways, but now if one session is missed all of a sudden the group is on probation and it cripples the whole program.”
Dwight Hall has over 90 Member Groups.