SGA: a hopeful future in the face of controversy

A follow-up from a Vol. 9 article regarding SGA elections

By Holly Bland

May 7, 2018

The Student Government Association (SGA) election results announced at a Senate meeting on April 6 have been met with skepticism about the role and impact the Board of Elections (BOE) played this year.

The BOE, which overseen the election process, suspended two of the three campaigning tickets during election week, and voiced concerns about the potential impact the suspensions caused on the election results.

Student Advocates posted on its Instagram account on April 7 a statement indicating it had been suspended during election week – as directed by a member by BOE.

Student Advocates also said in the post that there was a constitutional violation made by the BOE, regarding the length of time applications were made available for students to run for executive board positions. 

“Throughout most of the time polls were open, only one party was able to actively pursue votes while the other two were not allowed to discuss the election,” said Rachel Iacofano, presidential candidate for One CSU said in an email April 12, a ticket also suspended during election week. “Therefore only 33 percent of the executive board candidates were advertising elections in person and on social media — all of which belonged to one party.”

According to Iacofano, supporters of the suspended parties were also not allowed to campaign, and a reason for low voter turnout could be the result of the suspension of two out of the three tickets during the voter window.

“So the people calling attention to the election were mostly just associates of one another,” Iacofano said. “I think this explains the low voter turnout, which is not necessarily an accurate representation of student opinion.”

Iacofano added that a member of the BOE, who she says has since been removed, attempted to log into their campaign email account — in an attempt, she believes, to further disqualify One CSU from the election.

“The BOE learned this on Thursday, April 5 and still chose to release results of Friday, April 6 without further examining what this incident could mean to accusations of bias in the election,” Iacofano said. “These events should have been further investigated before any results were released, especially considering there were at least three appeals still being processed by the time results were announced.”

Iacofano expressed the need for transparency regarding the events that transpired during the election and with the BOE. Since the BOE is comprised mainly of students, she feels this can be a point of concern with any election outcome it oversees and the impact it could have. In future years, she hopes BOE and SGA re-examine their processes to ensure a democratic one.

“I would refrain from allowing any students to participate in supervision of the elections,” Iacofano said. “All students, including the members of the BOE and the advisory committee, have a natural bias that is stronger than faculty or administration — they are more invested.”

Shannon J. Greybar Milliken, interim vice provost and dean of students, did not comment on any sanctions made against the tickets – out of courtesy and absence of their consent.

Because the BOE is comprised of mainly students, Greybar Milliken also indicated she was unable to comment whether the alleged actions and termination of a BOE member were true as it could violate University policy and procedures by sharing such information.

Greybar Milliken also emphasized that, regarding SGA elections, the BOE reserves the right to determine any sanctionable violations a candidate can have — which could ultimately result in suspension of campaign privileges — like the instances voiced by Student Advocates and One CSU. 

These sanctions can occur with or without warning, per the BOE constitution and an election packet, which is reviewed and distributed to candidates prior to any election season. Each candidate received the same materials that discuss sanctionable offenses prior to campaigning.

Samia Shaheen, president-elect of SGA, said she feels a more concise and transparent process could have cleared up a lot of the concerns surrounding this year’s elections and its outcomes.

“Your questions need to be answered and you need to know rights and wrongs of any process,” Shaheen said. “In running a smooth and successful campaign, that would have been a big help, and it would have been help for candidates, student life, the BOE — anyone involved.”

Though candidates received election rules, some of their concerns weren’t always addressed in a timely fashion.

“All of the candidates running carefully studied the rules and regulations but in the same token, we still had a lot of questions that weren’t being answered in a timely manner,” said Shaheen. “In such a complex and intricate election, it would have helped if everyone had the full 360 picture on what was going on.”

One component of the elections Shaheen recognized impacted candidates running as well as people who could not run were the deadlines to accept applications and submitting campaign material.

“I think all parties can agree that deadlines for campaigning material — we wish weren’t so stringent,” Shaheen said.

Looking forward, Shaheen and her executive board hope to address some of these issues, among other hopes for the role of SGA.

“Next year I certainly hope to work closer with the BOE to ensure that our prospective candidates running, whoever those may be, have a full understanding and full knowledge of what the rules and regulations are,” Shaheen said. “Perhaps extend deadlines so that everyone has a chance at running and no one is prohibited from running based on a simple deadline.”

Shaheen also aims to increase the transparency of SGA and transform office etiquette — including improvements on their open-door policy to better strengthen their relationship with students on campus.

“People still don’t know who we are, people don’t know what we do, students just have the assumption that we allocate money to organizations, which is true,” said Shaheen. “But in the same token, it’s not the full picture of our responsibilities.”

Moving forward, the new executive board hopes to aid in a campus vote project to increase civil engagement among students, a food recovery project to allocate food to various organizations across Cleveland and work with parking services and veteran affairs to address many concerns voiced on the campaign trail.

“We are so happy to have met so many students and organizations that are so passionate about issues on campus,” Shaheen said. “I look back at the campaign season on how many awesome faces I met and how many relationships I have maintained since then… it’s just been such a pleasure to get to know all of these students on campus and there’s still so many more to meet. The SGA doors are open to all.”

Shaheen emphasized that in addition to strengthening relationships with the student body, the new executive board can continue to have a relationship with the candidates they ran against.

“Going into it, we obviously have a lot of amazing leaders on campus. The candidates that I ran against were qualified to run and to win,” she said. “I do hope to maintain a close relationship with my opponents, and I do hope that they feel the same.”

 


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