Following debate about the legitimacy and fairness of some of the Student Association (SA) E-Board elections, the Student Congress voted Monday to hold off approval for the results of the vice president for finance (VPF) position.
Ethan Shepherd, who won the VPF election with 1,566 votes to opponent Thomas Sheehan’s 1,440 votes, is under scrutiny for potentially violating SA election rules. The approval of his election was not passed, with 10 voting against it, eight in favor and 11 in abstention.
During the SC meeting, the current VPF, Ravi Prakriya, displayed an email sent to him by a student who claimed Shepherd told her who to vote for, and watched her vote. According to Katie Tashman, the chair of the Planning, Research and Elections (PRE) Committee, two other students also said they saw Shepherd taking his friends’ phones and voting for them.
These two instances were never put into a formal complaint with the SA. Tashman, a junior double-majoring in bioengineering and mathematics, said the witnesses did not experience any intimidation personally, but claimed to see it, making the accusations hearsay. Shepherd is not formally accused of anything and nothing is under investigation, according to Tashman.
Approval of the portion of the PRE report declaring Shepherd the winner of the VPF election is being tabled until next Monday’s Student Congress meeting by Prakriya’s advisement, giving time for anyone to come forward if something did happen.
Shepherd, a junior majoring in political science, said the accusations were false.
“I won this election because of my hard work, dedication, and drive to make the S.A. a better place,” Shepherd wrote in an email. “I am shocked and offended that anyone would make these allegations against me.”
Until a formal complaint is lodged, the accusations remain unverified.
“A lot of it is just accusations,” Tashman said. “It’s hearsay. We need someone to come forward, actually come in and talk to us, to my committee, write that it actually happened, sign it. We need definite proof, because a lot of things are going to be said, and that’s not grounds to have someone kicked out or do a runoff.”
Tashman predicted that if the accusations were true, the most serious consequence would be a runoff election between Shepherd and Sheehan, but if no formal complaint is filed, the SA will have to approve Shepherd’s victory.
“We just wait. If someone does file a formal complaint, then we’ll deal with that. They’ll come in and talk to us, we’ll also hear Ethan Shepherd’s side, and then we will deliberate and make a decision as a committee,” Tashman said.
Shepherd will continue his VPF training until a decision is made on Monday.
“I think with any election there are people that will be upset by the outcomes and try to remedy, in their eyes, the fair and equal elections of individual positions,” Shepherd wrote in an email. “These inappropriate and unfair allegations have not deterred me, just motivated me to work harder. I look forward to my term as VPF and as a resource to the student body.”
The election results for the position of SA president also came under scrutiny, as some representatives alleged that Alexander Liu, who won the position, created an “unfair election environment.”
Former PRE chair and candidate in the vice president for academic affairs (VPAA) runoff election Don Greenberg raised doubts surrounding Liu’s election, arguing that using his fraternity to campaign and other “arbitrary factors” created an unequal campaign environment for one of his competitors, Prakriya.
“In the end you want an election to reflect the qualifications of the candidates, and if it looks like the candidates are not being evaluated based on their qualifications, you don’t have an election that’s useful for the campus,” said Greenberg, a junior triple-majoring in computer science, finance and mathematics. “I’m not concerned to whether or not each candidate was qualified, and I’m not really saying that there’s a problem, but think Congress should give it a second look.”
Liu, a member of Zeta Psi Fraternity, said he found the allegations discriminatory.
“I would say that as a brother of a fraternity, my brothers support me in whatever I do. I chose to join a fraternity, and that’s been my course of social involvement on this campus,” said Liu, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law. “So I don’t believe that using my brothers to help me to campaign that day was an unfair advantage, because I’m sure my competitors developed friendships as well. They could have easily used resources to help them campaign; it’s only because my resources have a title and are an organization it’s perceived as unfair.”
Greenberg also brought up a Pipe Dream article published on March 4 regarding censure charges brought against Prakriya at a Student Congress meeting on March 3. Though Prakriya was never censured, Greenberg argued that the article painted Prakriya in a negative light, and left voters with a bad impression of him as a candidate.
“There was an article to which most of the campus responded in a negative sentiment towards Ravi, and then did not attempt to inform themselves about Ravi’s qualifications,” Greenberg said to the Student Congress. “So you immediately have an issue … when you have one candidate that has a Pipe Dream article written about them … and a campus which makes little attempt to figure out if the article was accurate.”
Greenberg listed other “arbitrary factors” that contributed to Liu’s election that were unrelated to the qualifications of the candidates and swayed “uninformed voters,” including heavy election-day campaigning — which Greenberg said was impossible for candidates with classes that day and without friends willing to do it instead — and the pressure Greenberg said was exerted on Greek Life members to vote for Liu, the former Interfraternity Council president.
Liu disagreed with Greenberg’s definition of “unfair election environment.”
“I don’t think that I swayed a bunch of uninformed voters, I think I was able to motivate a portion of voters that doesn’t normally vote because of what I’ve done for the community,” Liu said. “I definitely made an effort to campaign very hard on the day of the elections. The reason I did so was not to sway uninformed voters, but it was to make sure the people that said they were going to vote for me would remember to vote. With over 13,000 undergraduate students and only 3,000 voting, it’s really important that you’re campaigning, getting endorsements, knowing people.”
Liu’s election was approved with 19 in favor, three in opposition and eight in abstention.