Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Will Mascaro fired as CASE director; Supporters call for reinstatement

Secretary: "If we didn’t remove him, the University was going to remove him"

Will Mascaro fired as CASE director; Supporters call for reinstatement

Will Mascaro, pictured at a student government presidential debate in 2016, was fired from his position as CASE director on Oct. 31. Supporters are calling for his reinstatement.

Will Mascaro, a senior in the School of Communication, has been fired from his position as director of the Center for Advocacy and Student Equity, a position he’s held since spring 2016.

Student Government President Taylor Dumpson informed Mascaro of his removal on Oct. 31, SG secretary Kris Schneider confirmed in a Friday press release. Elizabeth Pancotti, deputy director of CASE, will serve as interim director until Dumpson nominates someone for the position. The center “provides free and confidential student consultation for students who have allegedly violated university policy,” according to its website.

Mascaro was fired, the release said, because “students are on the hook” for $3,800 that Mascaro spent on a project that would place informational cards -- modeled after Miranda Warning cards -- about student rights in each residence hall room.

Though the executive board is supportive of the project, the release said, Mascaro’s purchase was not authorized by AU’s student activities office before Mascaro ordered the cards. Schneider told The Eagle that the $3,800 invoice is more than the $1,000 budget allocated to CASE this year. 

“While the funds have not yet been spent by AUSG, the invoice is in the hands of [the student activities office] and the payment was awaiting resolution of the matter,” the release said. “To be clear, the cards were produced and delivered and student money will have to be spent to cover this charge.”

Mascaro’s removal has sparked calls for the Undergraduate Senate to overturn the decision and reinstate Mascaro during a special meeting that will likely happen early next week. A petition in support of Mascaro has earned some 200 student signatures as of Friday evening, and students working for the center said they “can not and will not” work for CASE unless Mascaro is reinstated.

Mascaro's funding request for the cards was submitted in August and approved by SG comptroller Christine Machovec, he told The Eagle in an interview. Mascaro told the Blackprint that the card manufacturer sent the order and invoice without Mascaro telling him that the funding was approved. 

Mascaro said he was surprised and upset when he learned via email that the SG executive board had removed him from office. 

“It felt very random,” Mascaro said. “We’ve never made an unauthorized purchase, ever. We never received any money. We did not receive a dollar. We didn’t spend a dollar, let alone what I hear is $4,000 of money that ‘Will took.’ It just never happened.”

A Medium post signed by 15 CASE staff members argued that the executive board “benefited from the popularity” of Mascaro’s student rights plan, but was “not prepared to help CASE fund it.”

“At best the executive board’s decision to fire Will was a mistake caused by miscommunications,” the post reads. “At worst, it was an abject failure to perform their most basic responsibility: doing what is right for students.”

Schneider and Dumpson, who spoke with The Eagle in a joint interview, offered a different version of events. Mascaro’s claim that a purchase was never made is inaccurate, Schneider said.

“Just because we haven’t paid the invoice yet doesn’t mean that an unauthorized order wasn’t made,” Schneider said. “We are in possession of product that now has to be paid for.”

And Dumpson said Mascaro’s firing was “not out of the blue.” She and administrators have been meeting with Mascaro over the past month to discuss the invoice, and Mascaro has known about the issue “since the summer,” Dumpson said.

Mascaro was temporarily suspended by Ayana Wilson, the student activities director, until he met with her about the purchase, Dumpson said. Wilson was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Friday.

After a final meeting and email exchanges between Mascaro, Dumpson and administrators, the executive board made the decision to fire Mascaro.

“If we didn’t remove him, the University was going to remove him,” Schneider said. “It violated university policy. If this was a business, an employee would be fired for this use of funds.”

Dumpson and Schneider stressed Mascaro’s contributions to student government and said they’ve enjoyed working with him. Both said Mascaro’s removal from leadership doesn’t preclude him from working as a CASE advocate or another role.

“It’s nothing malicious,” Dumpson said. “Will has, over the past three and a half years, shown his dedication to the student body time and time again … His removal has everything to do with an inappropriate purchase.”

Schneider said the petition will have little effect on what happens next for Mascaro because it has “no standing” in SG. But a senate vote could lead to Mascaro’s reinstatement as early as next week.

According to Article XIV of the SG bylaws, the removal of any appointed department director “may be reconsidered by the Senate with a majority vote.” Though senators have voted to hold a special meeting, speaker Maddie Wheeler has yet to announce a date and time, senator Haley Lickstein told The Eagle on Friday evening.

Mascaro said the petition and the efforts to overturn his firing, led by Lickstein and CASE staff, “really meant a lot” to him. Though he initially accepted the decision of the executive board to fire him, Mascaro now wants his job back.

“Would I like to continue? Definitely. Is there more work to be done? Definitely. Do we have projects we need to finish? Definitely,” Mascaro said. “It’s hard for me to see that work go unfinished, but now that’s the decision of the senate.”

Maria Carrasco contributed to this story.

lromero@theeagleonline.com and hsamsel@theeagleonline.com


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