The president of Brigham Young University's Black Student Association says he will not resign, even though a university official contends the student violated his trust.
The issue has become clouded, says Rush Sumpter, director of student leadership development at BYU, and he just wants to clear up the matter. So does association president Gary Thompson, but he says the two men don't see eye to eye.Sumpter said he wrote to Thompson, a junior from Ranchos Palos Verdes, Calif., saying that he no longer could trust the student and asked Thompson to resign for two reasons.
First, Sumpter said Thompson agreed to complete at least 12 credit hours during the semester, as required by the work-study program contract under which he was paid. The week before fall semester finals, however, Thompson withdrew from several classes, leaving him credit for only six hours.
Thompson previously said that the work-study contract he signed gave him a semester grace period if he fell below 12 hours.
Sumpter said qualifying students must be full time, with 12 credit hours, and admitted to a degree-seeking program. The grant is specifically for disadvantaged American minorities who demonstrate a financial need.
During a meeting Wednesday with BYU officials, Thompson said Sumpter was unable to produce a record of his contract and Thompson could not remember signing it.
BYU policy allows students to drop a class late in the semester only for non-academic emergencies preventing them from attending class. Thompson said his LDS Church bishop requested that he be permitted to drop some of his classes because of "difficult personal circumstances."
Thompson said he was facing serious family problems and the death of a friend right before finals week. The withdrawal was approved by the university, he said. This semester, he is registered for 14 credit hours.
Sumpter said the second reason he requested the resignation is Thompson was beyond his budget in arranging for speakers during BYU's Black Awareness Week, Jan. 30 to Feb. 3.
Late in December, Sumpter said, Thompson called the American Program Bureau asking when he would get contracts back for people scheduled to come for Black Awareness Week.
The speakers were Rev. Arthur Langford Jr., The Comedy Shoppe and Patricia Russel McCleod. The contracts amounted to $11,000 for honorariums plus transportation, housing and set-up expenses, Sumpter said.
"He didn't have that kind of money, nor did the university," Sumpter said. "He had contracts that he shouldn't have had."
In Thompson's statement refusing to resign, he said that his job requires him to act as a middle man between the speakers and their agencies and the BYU administration. "Never did I ever pass myself as being an official representative of BYU."
The contracts were sent to Thompson, but he did not sign them or return them to the agency.
"I never made any contractual agreements," he said. "I'm not authorized to, and he (Sumpter) has no proof that it ever happened. The only thing I did was within my job description."
Sumpter did admit to making a mistake in the resignation process. He meant to send the letter to Thompson during the holiday break, but instead he typed a draft and left it in a pile of papers on his desk.
Sumpter said he didn't realize that he forgot to send the letter until Thompson came into his office Jan. 17. Sumpter asked if he read the letter, but Thompson didn't know what Sumpter was talking about. Sumpter immediately gave Thompson the draft copy to read and after a short discussion, Sumpter said, Thompson said he would resign.
But Thompson said he never committed to resigning. "I said I didn't want to hurt the school name, but after talking with family, friends and other officers of the club, I felt like I had been given an unfair deal.
"Mr. Sumpter made public that personal conversation. That is when I felt I should go to the press to make my side public."
Speculation that the matter has racial overtones are unfounded, Sumpter said. "I have been in multicultural education all my life. There is no way anybody can charge me with any racial problem."
But Thompson said: "This is just ridiculous. There is no justification for what he did. If you put it in a court of law anyone with brains would see there is some deeper motivations for him doing this. If I am losing my ability to provide for my family and go to school I want to know why.
"I love BYU. I love the church and have never had any racial problems with either. I just want my job back."