June 24, 2019 | 72° F

Newark student faces expulsion from U.

Cabo Granato, president of the Newark College of Arts and Sciences Student Government Association, is at risk of being expelled right before his expected graduation in May.

Granato faces serious disciplinary punishments after Clayton Walton, associate dean of student life on the Newark Campus, filed complaints about him in the Student Conduct Office and Ethical Development after the two had a confrontation in Walton’s office.

The complaints will be reviewed at a hearing at the New Brunswick campus on April 13, Granato said.

“I can be stripped of my presidency of the [Student Government Association],” he said, “I’m facing expulsion. I’m facing very serious charges.”

Walton declined to comment on the incident because it is still under investigation.

The claims came after Granato uncovered some charges in the student government’s budget that were unaccounted for.

“There was a charge from August 1 for $1974.77,” Granato said. “It was labeled as ‘2010-2011 Giveaways’ in the ledger.”

Granato said there was also a deduction of $717.14 appropriated to the “cyber lounge,” located on the third floor of the Paul Robeson Campus Center.

“The cyber lounge is supposed to be free for students,” Granato said.

Granato said he and Parth Parekh, NCAS-SGA treasurer, are the only ones able to control the funds.

When the deductions could not be verified within his organization, Parekh contacted Assistant Dean Genevieve Sumski, who works in the same department, which handles the areas where funds were allocated, Granato said.

Sumski told Parekh, a Rutgers Business School-Newark senior, the $2,000 was appropriated to cover expenses for a party, including a rental popcorn machine, lanyards and other favors.

Granato said his organization did not buy the items for the party, and he still does not know the reason for the cyber lounge deduction.

A week after speaking with Sumski, Granato and John Swift, chair for the Student Life Affairs Committee, went to Walton’s office to get to the bottom of the charges and ask for a contract to account for the expenses.

Swift said the dean was becoming “irate” and said he started loudly yelling at Granato.

Walton told Granato that his office was the last stop and that he should have had all his information and looked through his organization’s old minutes before coming to him, Granato said.

But the NCAS-SGA president also said he went through the proper chain of command and came up with no documentation at all.

“Your office is not the last stop,” Granato had said to Walton, nodding to administrators above Walton.

At this point, Walton asked Granato to step into his inner office from the outer room.

Swift, a Newark College of Arts and Sciences junior, remained in the outer office, but said he could still hear the conversation the two had inside.

Granato and Swift both quote the dean as saying, “Either we are going to have a meeting with the chancellors, or we can step off campus, and we can settle it that way, but this is going to happen.”

Granato said he felt intimidated, claiming that he made an obvious allusion to a fistfight.

“I reached for the door handle and he blocked my exit, grabbed the handle first, and said no,” he said.

Granato said he felt the 6-foot-5-inch dean imposed himself as a bully.

Soon after Sumski came into Walton’s office, Granato said.

“He changed entirely when somebody else was in the room,” he said. “He starts telling me that I’m a new leader on campus — that I’m mean, I’m abrasive, nasty, and misinformed.”

Sumski complained to the Rutgers University Police Department, who filed a report that listed Granato the complainant, and Walton the suspect on harassment charges, with Sumski and Swift as witnesses.

Granato’s next move was to meet with Gerald Massenburg, associate chancellor for Student Life, who hired Walton after he was promoted from the same position, he said.

“Massenburg said that he would investigate it and that he wanted the testimony of me, [Swift] and Shawn Banerjee, [head of the SGA judicial branch],” he said.

After the testimonies were sent to the associate chancellor’s office, Granato said Massenburg emailed him about an expedient investigation on both the altercation and the budgetary dispute was to follow.

“That was six months ago and I’ve heard no word,” Granato said.

Granato said he received an email from Timothy Grimm, dean of Students for the University’s New Brunswick College Avenue campus, three weeks after his discussion with Massenburg.

“There was a complaint lodged with the Student Conduct Office for disorderly conduct and harassment, bullying and intimidation,” he said.

After the charges were issued, Granato said he went to New Brunswick to see Grimm for a preliminary hearing.

Grimm explained to Granato that he did not need to worry about the case, according to Granato’s account.

But when Granato returned to school, he found that the case had not turned out the way Grimm had predicted.

“On Jan. 23, I received an email from Dean Grimm that said I was being charged with both conduct violations,” he said.

Grimm said Granato could either accept responsibility and the sanctions offered in his earlier email to him or present his case at a disciplinary conference.

Granato responded to Grimm, saying he would choose the latter option.

“I am formally sending you my denial of any and all charges levied against me by Clayton Walton. I formally request a University hearing to review these charges,” he said.

Granato said he decided to take action and began to organize a petition, which has about 300 signatures and a “call-in day” to Grimm’s office yesterday.

Granato said he requested the hearings be held in public, but the request was denied because Walton refused, and both parties must agree.

Granato believes the University has not only done nothing, but also never intended to do anything.

“I think most of it is a farce,” he said, in reference to the first meetings with Massenburg and Grimm. “Massenburg only met with me because of pressure from student leaders.”

He described himself as being blindsided by the conduct violations, claiming that he is a victim of University scare tactics.

“This was an October incident, so why is the hearing a week before graduation?” he said.

John Connelly, the Rutgers University Student Assembly vice president, agreed that Granato was being victimized and said he would testify as a character witness for Granato.

“[Granato] has spent the entire time I’ve known him and his entire academic career standing up for students,” said Connelly, a School of Arts and Sciences junior.

Connelly said the University was punishing Granato for doing his job.

“A student who wanted to know what was going on with fees went to an administrator and is being punished for being a student leader,” he said.

Rutgers-Newark’s spokesperson declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

Granato said that he still has not received documentation or information regarding the misappropriated funds.

By Adam Uzialko

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