Student government joint session recap

The joint meeting between the Undergraduate Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) on April 7 ratified the results of the student government election, and also set a new precedent by holding the first election of the Activities Board (AB) Main Chair.

Alexis Ozimok and Catherine Taipe were elected as student body president and vice president respectively, receiving over 50 percent of the 1147 ballots cast and also receiving over the minimum one percent of the graduate vote. The Elections Board also mentioned several potential violations in the election process by candidates and the penalties that had been incurred. There were reports of misinformation from the Ozimok/Taipe and Hyder/Abrams campaigns, candidates Sarah Abrams and Clarissa Liang cold-emailing students using the Andrew Directory, and candidates Ozimok/Taipe, Abrams, and Ariana Carden using their power in social media groups to spread their campaign.

After careful consideration, many of these reports were dismissed as not violating any rules or having much consequence. However, the Hyder/Abrams campaign received a three percent penalty under section 5.E.1 of the elections rules for plagiarizing the Ozimok/Taipe platform, and another 10 percent penalty under section 5.E.8 for posting about their campaign in large social media groups where Abrams was the only one out of all candidates to be an admin. The Elections Board also penalized the Hyder/Abrams campaign under section 5.E.5 for cold messaging students and asking whether they had received promotional messages from the Ozimok/Taipe campaign, which the Elections Board determined to be voter intimidation. This 13 percent penalty did not affect election results, as Ozimok and Taipe had already received the majority of the student body vote.

Despite the nearly unanimous vote of 45 to 1 to 1 by the GSA and 15 to 1 to 1 by the Senate to ratify the results of the election, senators raised concerns over the use of cold messaging in this campaign. The Ozimok/Taipe, Hyder/Abrams, Ariana Carden, and Clarissa Liang campaigns all messaged students on either email or social media, but only Hyder/Abrams received a penalty. The Elections Board considered other candidates' use of the publicly available Andrew Directory to email students and their messages to students in online chats. However, they found that other candidates' messages did not have a power dynamic, and the Elections Board decided neither of these warranted penalties. GSA Representative Adam Boucek (TEP) felt that the penalty on the Hyder/Abrams campaign for asking might be excessive. Senator James Gallicchio (SCS) voiced concerns over allowing candidates to mass-email through the Andrew system, as the directory website states that the system is for reaching individuals and not for mailings.

In addition, many senators were concerned that some seats were left unfilled because more people voted for no-confidence than for write-in candidates. The no-confidence vote expresses that the voter would rather have no one elected if their chosen candidate was not elected. One example where senators were concerned was when there were several open seats for College of Fine Arts senators, but only one candidate on the ballot. There were two write-ins, but because no-confidence gained the same number of votes as those write-ins, the write-ins did not get elected. Senators also noted that the Ozimok/Taipe campaign advocated for voters to vote no-confidence after their first-choice candidate. Senator Diana Crookston (DEH) speculated that perhaps students did not realize the impact of no-confidence on write-ins, and GSA Representative Roger Iyengar (SCS) proposed messaging to make it clear that having a second or third choice would not hurt first-choice candidates. Senator Kayla Griffin (DEH) suggested asking candidates to refrain from asking their supporters to vote no-confidence, but Senator James Gallicchio (SCS) felt that the no-confidence vote is not necessarily hurtful and could instead serve as a sign that voters truly did not want candidates other than their chosen ones.

In addition, the Senate and GSA held their first election of an AB Main Chair. Having the Senate and GSA vote on the AB Main Chair is one of AB's efforts to better integrate AB with the rest of the student government and have more transparency in the organization. This year, there was only one candidate, Andrew Chuang. He said his goals include increasing student engagement and member retention in AB and holding more events with the Senate and GSA to allow for students to better understand what student government does. Since this was the first AB Main Chair election conducted by the student government, most of the discussion was centered around understanding the election process. Chuang was elected as AB Main Chair by a 12 to 0 to 0 vote by Senate and a 48 to 0 to 0 vote by GSA.

Editor's Note: Sarah Abrams is a Pillbox Editor for The Tartan.