Two high-ranking members of American River College’s student government were sent home early from the General Assembly for California Community College Student Senates for what Director of Public Relations Cameron Weaver said were incidents “regarding substances.”
David Hylton, the director of activities for the ASB Student Senate, confirmed that he and Jeremy Diefenbacher, the president of the Clubs and Events Board, were the students removed.
Hylton admitted to being sent home for a marijuana-related incident at General Assembly.
“I’m on probation. Today is my first substance support group,” said Hylton. “I’m not expecting to not get punished for it.”
Diefenbacher, when asked about what he did at General Assembly, refused to answer questions and went on a swear word-laced tirade.
“We’re not talking about that. We’re not discussing that,” said Diefenbacher. “I don’t know what the f— is going to happen and who you think I am.”
Diefenbacher said he would answer questions via email. He had not responded as of press time.
Los Rios Student Trustee Omba Kipuke said that he saw Diefenbacher at a rehearsal for the play “Gumbo” on the Sunday morning of General Assembly.
“I was at rehearsal. I cannot confirm if he was intoxicated. I do remember asking how he got to the rehearsal so quickly, because I thought he was supposed to be at General Assembly in Los Angeles,” said Kipuke. “All he said was that people assumed that he was drinking and he was sent home.”
This controversy comes on the heels of a trying couple of weeks for Diefenbacher, who drew criticism for a derogatory remark regarding transgender people made in a Clubs and Events Board meeting in what Dean of Student Development Manuel Perez insisted was a sarcastic joke.
The possession or use of illegal drugs and the consumption of alcohol are prohibited at the assembly by the Board of Governors of the California community college system, the American River College code of student conduct and the Los Rios Community College District.
The General Assembly, an advocacy event for community college student governments, took place in Los Angeles from Nov. 14-16.
Tamara Dunning, who is acting as ASB Student Senate president, confirmed that two members of the ARC delegation were sent home early.
The members of the ARC delegation were Dunning, Hylton, Diefenbacher, Student Senate Director of Legislative Affairs Kenneth Hinton and Clubs and Events Board Director of Activities LeslieAnn Dameron. Hinton said that questions about “anyone else’s participation” should be asked of Perez, and Dameron had not responded to an email as of press time.
Dunning referred questions to the ASB adviser, Dean Perez.
Perez neither confirmed or denied that anybody was sent home early from General Assembly or that any incident regarding substance use took place, and said that he cannot comment due to student privacy concerns and that he may or may not be part of an investigation.
“I cannot say, because it’s private student information,” said Perez. “If any students were under an allegation or confirmed incident of misconduct that would be part of an investigation.”
Perez also said he will discuss the profane remarks Diefenbacher made to reporters with him.
“We absolutely do not encourage folks to act in that way,” said Perez.
ARC President Thomas Greene and Public Relations Officer Scott Crow said they were unaware if “anything untoward” had taken place at General Assembly.
“I haven’t heard anything,” said Greene.
Added Crow: “I haven’t heard of anything either.”
According to California community college policy on conduct at General Assembly, students who attend agree that, in case of a violation of the rules, “neither the Chancellor’s Office or the Student Senate will be responsible for any expenses incurred in my transportation home, and that I will not receive a refund of conference registration fees.”
Perez said that he couldn’t comment on whether or not Hylton or anyone else paid their own expenses, because he did not acknowledge that anybody violated the rules or was sent home early.
However, Perez said that if a student violated the rules, then the financial liability “depends on lots of different factors, lots of different things” including what the violation was and where and when it took place.
Hylton said that he has to refund money that was spent on him at General Assembly.
“It was already paid for, but I have to pay all the money back because I also missed two days and they gave me a stipend,” said Hylton.
Perez said that students who commit illegal activities or violate rules are not automatically expelled from ASB governance bodies.
The American River College Constitution says that the Student Senate must agree unanimously that a student is responsible for illegal conduct and that this must be confirmed by the Office of Student Life before a member can be expelled from the board.
Weaver said he is proud of Hylton for his honesty and transparency.
“I want to emphasize how proud I am of Hylton in being upfront about the accusation,” said Weaver. “While the ramifications of his action will be reviewed by the administration, I commend David for his honesty.”
Jorge Riley, who was elected ASB student senate president over Dunning by a margin of 62 votes, but whose election was invalidated for reasons the administration and ASB have not disclosed, said that Hylton and Diefenbacher should resign.
“They should step down,” said Riley. “Diefenbacher should definitely resign. Oh my gosh. I never sat there and swore at people. Keep it to yourself. The worst I did was throw away papers.”
The Current will update this story as more information becomes available.
Barbara Harvey and Joseph Daniels contributed to this report.