Breaking News

CMC to withdraw from Keck Science Department, create own department 

Note: I received an anonymous tip about Claremont McKenna College leaving its joint science department with Scripps College and Pitzer College about a week before it was scheduled to be officially announced to the Claremont community. We weren’t able to get it confirmed on-the-record before the faculty meetings where the news was announced to professors. But with on-the-record confirmation from several professors and a Pitzer administrator, we were able to run the story a full day before it was officially announced to the community.

Claremont McKenna College has decided to withdraw from the W.M. Keck Science Department to create its own science department, according to a Pitzer College administrator and multiple professors present at faculty meetings where the decision was announced Wednesday.

Scripps College and Pitzer will continue to have a joint science program, but it’s unclear whether it will still be called “Keck,” said Mike Segawa, Pitzer’s vice president for student affairs.

CMC’s separation won’t happen until at least 2022, said Mary Hatcher-Skeers, a professor of chemistry who was at Keck’s faculty meeting. But, Segawa said the school has plans to start developing its new science department in the near future.

The individual colleges have yet to release an official announcement to the 7C community about the reasoning for the decision.

“What I heard [from the administrators at the meeting], was that the visions of each college became too separate and there were just points that they couldn’t agree on, and so the solution was for CMC to become independent,” said Melissa Coleman, an associate biology professor at Keck.

Professors speculated that the reason for withdrawal was because CMC wishes to fund the sciences at a level that Scripps and Pitzer cannot afford.

CMC’s endowment exceeds $780 million, whereas Scripps and Pitzer have significantly smaller endowments of around $340 million and $140 million, respectively, according to the colleges’ financial statements.

The decision outraged many Keck professors, who have complained for years that the department has been under-resourced.

“Keck is sort of always the ‘other,’ and we’ve always been promised more and not gotten it,” Coleman said. “My initial reaction is not pleasant words for CMC.”

CMC plans to construct a new building to house its science department. According to Segawa, there are plans for a lead gift to begin the fundraising campaign in order to fund the new building. But, faculty have yet to be informed of further details.

“They haven’t found their location [for the new building], or they haven’t decided, or they haven’t told us,” Hatcher-Skeers said.

For many Keck professors, the announcement also came as a shock, since faculty members said they were not fully involved in the decision.

“I think all of us would have liked to have been more a part of these conversations and these decisions instead of having them dropped on us,” Hatcher-Skeers, the chemistry professor, said.

Coleman expressed disappointment that CMC did not step up to provide more funding to Keck.

“We’ve been under-resourced for a long time and needed new faculty and were trying to figure out how to do that, and the solution is for CMC to not give us money but to form their own science department,” Coleman said.

According to CMC spokesperson Peter Hong, the college “will not comment until all of the faculty meetings have taken place.” CMC President Hiram E. Chodosh also declined to comment.

TSL reached out to members of both Scripps’ and Pitzer’s Board of Trustees, but they either declined to comment or did not respond. Keck Dean Ulysses J. Sofia, Pitzer Dean of Faculty Nigel Boyle, and Scripps Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall wrote in emails to TSL that they would not comment until Thursday evening.

About 3,200 students take classes at Keck annually — up from 2,100 students 15 years ago, according to Keck’s website

“Science enrollments have grown faster than overall enrollments at the three sponsor colleges, indicating a sharp increase in interest among Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps students in studying science,” Keck’s website states.

Over the past two years, Keck’s enrollment has consisted of about 40 percent Scripps students, 32 percent CMC students, and 26 percent Pitzer students, with the remaining enrollment coming from Harvey Mudd College and Pomona College, according to the website.

Regardless of the final outcome, many professors predicted the transition is likely to involve some turmoil. Hatcher-Skeers said she hoped it would be a seamless transition for students but acknowledged there might be some obstacles.

“One of the most poignant comments in the meeting was, ‘How are we going to ensure we continue to give the best to our students and that nobody falls through the cracks here?,’” she said.

Currently, all three colleges contribute funding to Keck, but Coleman said Keck faculty receive the same benefits as CMC faculty. After CMC leaves Keck, they will receive the same benefits as Scripps faculty.

“There are some tradeoffs,” Coleman said. For example, she said their housing assistance will decrease, but they will receive more retirement benefits.

Hatcher-Skeers said many professors were frustrated because they’ve been trying to expand and develop Keck for years.

“So faculty are exhausted of building plans that never turn into anything,” she said. “But maybe this, because it’s such a dramatic change, will promote forward progress.”

Corrections: An earlier version of this article incorrectly spelled Pitzer College’s vice president for student affairs’ name and presented outdated enrollment data as current. The article has been updated to reflect the correct name spelling and current enrollment statistics. TSL regrets these errors.

(Published on tsl.news on Oct. 17, 2018 and in print)


7-year-old girl killed in apparent murder-suicide in Manayunk, police said

Note: I had never covered a murder before this story, let alone a murder suicide. But, I was sent to the crime scene as soon as we found out about the deaths. There, I discovered the first and last name of the father and interviewed several neighbors who knew him. With the father’s name, reporters back in the office were able to look up his criminal record and discovered that he had a history of violence.

A 7-year-old girl was found dead Monday in a Manayunk house in an apparent murder-suicide that may have resulted from a custody dispute, police said.

The girl, Kayden Mancuso, was found by her stepfather about 10:55 a.m. with a bag over her head in the living room of a home on the 4500 block of Wilde Street.

Her father, Jeffrey Mancuso, 41, was found unresponsive inside a second-floor bedroom in what Homicide Capt. John Ryan called an apparent suicide.

Ryan said the girl’s relatives checked the house because she was supposed to have returned to her mother’s home in Langhorne on Sunday. The father and mother had been engaged in an ongoing custody disagreement, Ryan said.

“Very brutal and tragic,” he said.

Both the girl and her father were declared dead at the scene at 11:07 a.m., police said.

The tumultuous custody battle and disturbing details of the father’s history of violence were laid bare in a May 21 order by Bucks County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey G. Trauger awarding primary custody to the girl’s mother, Kathryn Giglio, but allowing visitations by Mancuso.

The order mentions Kayden personally witnessing her father’s violent behavior when he was frustrated or angry, including “punching the family dog,” screaming at Kayden, and punching himself in the face.

In 2012, Mancuso bit part of a man’s ear off while at a bar in South Philadelphia on New Year’s Day, the judge’s order states.

“I beat him up, he put me in a headlock, and I bit down on his ear and took off the top part of his ear,” Mancuso told a court-appointed psychologist.

Mancuso was found guilty of aggravated assault, and served a sentence of house arrest, court records show.

Last October, he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence. His case was still pending with a trial date scheduled for Sept. 5

The psychologist diagnosed Mancuso with “major depressive disorder, moderate with anxious disorder and identified narcissistic and antisocial personality traits.”

Mancuso also was “experiencing disordered sleep, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness and suicidal ideation.”

The order mentions that Mancuso had multiple communications with Kayden’s teacher and school principal that “were rude, belittling, abusive, and condescending.”

His behavior prompted the Pennsbury School District in Bucks County to send Mancuso a certified letter from a lawyer advising him “to cease and desist all communications with the school.”

Mancuso was banned from being at the school except to pick up his daughter, outside the building.

Nonetheless, the court said that Kayden “presents as a happy kid with a generally normal relationship with both parents despite the volatile relationship they have with each other.”

In the judge’s order, Mancuso was granted partial physical custody, including every other weekend from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday.

A GoFundMe page was launched Monday night by Jennifer Sherlock, the sister of Kayden’s stepfather, Brian Sherlock, seeking financial help for the girl’s funeral.

The page states: “Kayden’s mother trusted that the law and the court system would work for her daughter’s best interests. However, the system failed and she was taken too soon. Kayden’s mother was told to trust the process, but the door was slammed in her face time after time.”

Philadelphia police also were faulted for not doing more when Kayden was reported missing.

“Nothing can bring back this vibrant, outgoing, loving child,” the page states. “Kayden excelled at every activity she was involved in. Kayden recently made the Pennsville U10 softball team as a 7-year-old. Kayden excelled in soccer, gymnastics and basketball. She was taken too soon and will never have the chance to lead the life she was meant to live.”

In Manayunk, neighbors said Mancuso had lived in the home for many years. But they said they knew he was in the middle of a custody dispute and depressed.

One neighbor, Raymond Goyle, 29, said Mancuso was a nice guy, but added that he knew Mancuso used to argue with Kayden’s mother.

Another resident of the block, Kevin Dougherty, 29, said police had been called to the neighborhood several times.

Administrators at the Pennsbury School District sent an email to parents Monday,  informing them of Kayden’s death and the availability of grief counseling this week for students and families at the school. The girl was scheduled to enter second grade at Edgewood Elementary in Yardley later this month.

“I am completely heartbroken about the situation, and my heart aches for Kayden’s family, especially her mother. No mother should have to experience this type of pain,” Jacqui Redner, president of the district’s board of directors, said in a statement to the Inquirer. “The entire school board is shocked and heartbroken, and our prayers go out to the entire family.”

(Published on Philly.com on Aug. 6, 2018 and in print)


Harvey Mudd College Student Found Dead in Dorm Room

Note: Initially, we didn’t know this student’s death was a suicide. So, we reported on it like a regular crime story. After I searched the student’s name on the LA County Coroner’s website and discovered it was categorized as suicide, we had several long discussions about the ethical way to report the story. We added information about available support on campus and didn’t include further details of his death.

A Harvey Mudd College student was found dead in his dorm room Friday morning, according to an email sent to the students, staff and faculty from Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe. The student identified in the email was Lawrence Vuong HM ’21.

The Los Angeles County Medical Examiner-Coroner’s Office determined Vuong’s death was suicide.

“The Harvey Mudd community mourns this loss tremendously,” Klawe wrote. “As always, our focus over the coming days and weeks will be on ensuring the safety and well-being of all members of our community as we process this devastating loss.”

Vuong was from Huntington Beach and hadn’t declared a major yet, HMC Director of Communications Judy Augsburger wrote in an email to TSL. Vuong spent his summer on campus working in the Facilities and Maintenance Office, Augsburger wrote.

Vuong’s death came on the day first-year students at HMC left for their orientation trips. Other HMC and Claremont Colleges students will be returning to campus from summer break this weekend for the coming academic year that begins Sept. 4.

For students across the Claremont Colleges, Monsour Counseling and Psychological Services is located in the Tranquada Student Services Center, while an on-call therapist is reachable 24/7 for after-hours support at 909-621-8202. Other resources are available through The Chaplain’s Office, along with through staff and faculty on campus. 

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated Vuong was from Lancaster, CA. The article has now been updated to reflect that he was from Huntington Beach, CA. TSL regrets this error. 

(Published on tsl.news Aug. 31, 2018)


ASCMC President and CFO Resign Following Fraudulent Reimbursement Receipts

Note: We found out about this story from emails the ASCMC president and CFO sent out one summer evening. We published the article that same night.

ASCMC President Elliot Behling CM ’19 and Chief Financial Officer Philip Lippincott CM ’19 resigned Monday after an internal investigation found approximately $2,000 worth of fraudulent reimbursement receipts processed to students this past academic year, according to an email to all Claremont McKenna College students.

Maya Love CM ’20 and Connor Bloom CM ’19, who before the investigation served as executive vice president and president pro-tempore, respectively, sent the email. They stated that, per the ASCMC constitution, Love will immediately assume Behling’s previous role as president.

The email states that “near the end of the academic year, some questionable activities of the Corporation of [ASCMC] were brought to the attention of [Love and Bloom] by CMC’s Dean of Students Office.”

ASCMC reviewed their financial records and conducted interviews during an internal investigation process. They concluded that several “fraudulent receipts were submitted and processed for reimbursement.”

Love and Bloom wrote that the investigation revealed “failures in ASCMC’s financial controls to prevent this unauthorized activity.”

In Behling’s resignation letter, which was attached to the email, he said he personally made purchases for student activities and did not save the receipts or submit them “in a timely manner.” To ensure he would still be reimbursed, he said he submitted receipts from “unrelated, and unauthorized, transactions.”

“My intention was always to ensure those activities for which items were purchased were successful,” Behling wrote. “I realize, however, that my intentions do not justify the circumvention of our financial standards.”

That’s why, he said, he resigned.

In Lippincott’s resignation letter, which was also attached to the email, he explained he had no knowledge of the inauthenticity of the reimbursement receipts he was processing and was cleared by the investigation team of having any direct involvement.

Lippincott had recently implemented numerous changes in an attempt to reorganize the “chaotic reimbursement process,” which previously often left them with several outstanding expense reimbursement requests, he wrote.

He had crafted a three-step system which began with approval of the initial expense by the board member who had oversight over the activity that incurred the expense.

The reimbursement receipt would be approved by the treasurer, who then verified the accuracy of expenses while also entering the amount into an accounting system. The final step would be for Lippincott to verify the receipt himself to ensure that it matched the amount in the system before a check was sent.

Lippincott said he resigned because the policies and procedures he oversaw did not prevent the fraud from happening.

“I tender my resignation […] in hopes that ASCMC can move forward to carry out its mission to leave a positive impact on the Claremont McKenna College students,” Lippincott wrote, stating that additional improvements to ASCMC are necessary.

He suggested that anyone seeking reimbursement be required to sign a code of ethical conduct with the submitted receipt. Lippincott recommended ASCMC to create a checklist with dates, specific items, and overall amount of expenses to check for with each receipt submitted for reimbursement.

Behling also cited a need for change in ASCMC in his letter of resignation.

“ASCMC’s financial management practices require substantial, systemic reform,” he wrote. “The best thing I can do to ensure positive change is to remove myself, to ensure my presence does not interfere with the necessary reform process.”

CMC Vice President for Student Affairs Sharon Basso wrote in an email to TSL that in light of this situation, the Dean of Students office will help manage and supervise the handling of ASCMC’s funds.

“For now, ASCMC will continue to determine the allocation of ASCMC funds, but the Dean of Students Office will administer the disbursement of those funds and will serve as additional oversight to ensure purchases are in accord with ASCMC and College policies,” Basso said.

The email from Love and Bloom stated that the investigation did not find misappropriation of funds or lack of oversight by any other board members.

“We have full confidence in the ASCMC Executive Board to fulfill their duties that best serve CMC,” Love and Bloom wrote.

According to the ASCMC Constitution, Bloom should succeed Love as executive vice president. However, Love and Bloom wrote that they believe the transition will run more smoothly with Bloom remaining as president pro-tempore.

A new executive vice president and a new CFO will both be appointed for the fall semester, while the process for their appointments will be announced in the future.

Until then, treasurer Max Dawson CM ’21 will assist with the responsibilities of the CFO role, according to Love and Bloom.

The ASCMC investigation and resulting resignations follow financial controversies within Pitzer College Student Senate last semester, when TSL revealed that $40,000 in club spending was unaccounted for.

(Published on tsl.news on June 11, 2018)