Clemson makes senators sign NDA before impeachment trial

Student senators at Clemson University say they were forced to sign nondisclosure agreements in order to participate in the impeachment trial of their vice president.

Some Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) senators who took part in the 11-hour impeachment trial expressed that they feel “betrayed” by Clemson’s handling of the case, saying the university’s requirement that they sign a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) in order to participate in the trial was fundamentally unfair.

“I feel betrayed by my own university,” CUSG Senator Samuel Thompson told Campus Reform.

Allegations of severe misconduct were leveled against CUSG Vice President Jaren Stewart during his time as a Resident Assistant, according to a leaked Clemson University incident report released by FitsNews in October 2017.

According to the report, “there were moments when RA Stewart would enter [the room] while the women were changing their clothes. When they asked him to leave, he would not remove himself from the room.”

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A total of 44 votes were needed for a successful impeachment, and Stewart ultimately retained his position by just two votes, with a final count of 42 CUSG senators in favor of impeachment.

Some CUSG Senators took particular issue with the NDA that they were forced to sign during the proceedings. Obtained by Campus Reform via a public records request, the document’s title reads, “Undergraduate Student Government Confidentiality Pledge.”

“I, ____________________________, am a member of Undergraduate Student Government. In that capacity, I will be participating in an impeachment special meeting on Monday November 6, 2017,” the document reads.

“I agree that I will not share any records or information provided during the special meeting,” the document continues, making an exception for Clemson University employees and students who require the information to perform “employment duties” or “functions within student government.”

“I understand that if I violate this confidentiality pledge, Student Government may refer the matter to the Clemson University Office of Community and Ethical Standards for possible disciplinary action,” the document concludes.

One CUSG senator, who spoke to Campus Reform on the condition of anonymity, remarked that “I knew the trial was an important event, but I had no idea how I'd be treated. As soon as I walked in, I was told to prepare to surrender my personal belongings to the police,” after which the senator was instructed to sign the nondisclosure form.

“I remember being hesitant because it was legally binding and I wasn't given the chance to see it beforehand,” the anonymous senator recalled. “A large part of a contract is consent and I feel like I surrendered that immediately when forced to enter a binding contract to simply do my job as an elected official of the students. Not signing them meant not being able to participate in the trial.”

Thompson echoed those sentiments, wondering aloud why the NDA was even necessary.

“Clemson’s administration is now attempting to cover up the entire ordeal by mandating Senators (who just wished to fulfill their elected duties) to sign a legally binding non-disclosure agreement before being permitted to even participate in the trial,” Thompson complained. “Why does Clemson feel it necessary to take extra precautions against information being leaked? Is there more to the story than we are aware of, and Clemson knows it?”

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According to the unnamed senator, many of the facts revealed during the trial about Stewart’s behavior were indeed shocking.

“You can ask anyone who was in the room: the details that came out were incredibly disappointing for a main leader of CUSG,” the senator noted. “I’m ashamed that we let the brave females down who were strong enough to come out and tell the truth.”

Campus Reform reached out to Robin Denny, Clemson’s Executive Director of Strategic Communications, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @rMitchellGunter