Top USF student leader may lose post

The student government president is accused of allowing alcohol in his office.

Published September 6, 2007

TAMPA -- University of South Florida officials are investigating allegations of drinking inside the campus office of student body president Barclay Harless, who could lose his elected post as a result.

Harless, 22, apologized to fellow student government leaders during a student senate meeting Tuesday night, saying he is sorry for any embarrassment the June 14 incident and subsequent fallout might have caused.

"Part of the college experience is learning from the classroom, but it's also learning from making mistakes," he told the Times Wednesday. "In this job, your whole life is totally exposed. And there's some things you do that aren't necessarily nefarious, but the way in which you do them is wrong."

Harless said Wednesday that the inquiry centers around his behavior the night of June 14 and the explanation he initially gave to administrators.

He said two brothers from his fraternity, Beta Theta Phi, came to his office in the Marshall Center that evening as a freshman orientation event wrapped up.

Harless wouldn't identify his friends, but he admitted the three had agreed earlier to drink in Harless' office. He characterized it as a way to relax after a long day of stressful work.

"This job is hard," he said. "I work 40 hours a week, and ... I'm on the clock 14 hours during a day of orientation."

Harless says, though, that he never actually took a drink.

He said soon after he joined his friends in the office, administrators who apparently had heard whispers of the drinking arrived and confronted him.

Wednesday, he admitted he was not completely forthright in his initial statements to administrators.

"I had a knee-jerk reaction to protect my friends," Harless said. "It was friends of mine who brought the alcohol in. But when things happen in my office, I'm at fault."

USF dean of students Kevin Banks would not confirm details of the alleged incident or the identities of those under investigation, citing privacy laws.

But he confirmed that judicial affairs administrators are wrapping up their inquiry into the "alleged violation of the university's alcohol policy," which prohibits the use of alcohol in student government offices or other public campus buildings.

Possible sanctions, to be decided within the next few weeks, range from a warning to a suspension, Banks said.

A probation or suspension against Harless could lead to his ouster, under student government guidelines.

USF's student constitution states that all executive officers "may not be under disciplinary probation, suspension or expulsion."

If the president is placed under disciplinary probation while in office, the student supreme court "must rule the member eligible in order to continue to participate."

Harless, the student representative on USF's board of trustees, hopes his fellow young politicians will give him a second chance.

"I have really learned from this," he said.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at svansickler@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.