Election grievance ruling shared with Student Senate

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

The election commission gave its ruling Wednesday on a grievance filed with the student government for promoting two executive position candidates on social media.

Because no official election rules were violated, the results of the initial vote will stand; however, the commission reported that the student government should not have directly endorsed candidates in their statuses and offered recommendations for social media guidelines during future elections.

Promotional graphics for Maralea Negron, who was running for executive vice president, and Derek Pierce, who was running for vice president of student affairs, were posted on the student government’s Instagram at the start of the election that began March 22.

The student government also commented on its post, saying, “Vote for our very own Speaker of the Senate Maralea Negron and past Business Affairs Committee Chair Derek Pierce!”

Senator Chris Pickard stated in his grievance that the post was a conflict of interest because as the current speaker of the Student Senate, Negron is also part of the branch of student government in charge of social media accounts.

“This gives an enormous benefit to those already in position of power and prevents real challenges from newcomers,” Pickard stated in the grievance. “Whether this sways the election or not it is still an abuse of power.”

The grievance also states that as the organization facilitating the election, the student government should strive to remain unbiased.

“I, or any other member of student government, can individually promote and support a candidate, but the organization should not give preference,” Pickard stated in the grievance.

The election commission reported that the Instagram post was taken down within 24 hours, and the internal affairs chair was not pressured into putting up the post but rather was fulfilling her responsibility to promote what student government was doing.

Senator JaLisa Smith, the internal affairs chair, said the grievance would have been stronger if other candidates had sent in their campaign materials and they were not posted, but she never received any others.

No specific election violation was listed in the grievance, and it did not include a time and date or signature, all of which are required for submitting election grievances.

Because the student government is a registered student organization, it was allowed to post on behalf of candidates as other RSOs were doing.

Reasons the commission listed for not conducting a revote include that a second round of voting would likely yield a lower voter turnout and that both candidates alleged to have the unfair advantage won by more than 200 votes.

Proposed new social media guidelines include that candidates using any electronic forms to campaign via their own accounts or any RSO accounts must send a link of the posting to the election commission and that candidates are not allowed to post negative or slanderous campaign advertisements against other candidates.

Other proposed guidelines are that social media postings must be taken down 24 hours after elections just as any print material would have to be, and Facebook or social media groups must be deleted within the same time frame.

Kimberly Cuspa, one of three members on the election commission, said the commission analyzed the grievance carefully and made sure every point was addressed.

“Social media is fairly a gray area, so the grievance didn’t actually go anywhere, but we are creating new guidelines for the future of social media,” Cuspa said. “We’ll continue to work on them and improve them and get the senate’s input on them, and then before elections next year, they will be voted on via senate.”

Student Body President Shirmeen Ahmad said any problems with the commission’s ruling can be taken up with the Student Supreme Court.

The senate also approved a bill Wednesday that will spend up to $430 to replace four recycling can lids on the receptacles between Coleman, Lumpkin and Klehm halls.

The new lids will have holes that are 4 inches in diameter to fit larger recyclable beverage containers, as the current size only fits smaller bottles and soda cans.

Pickard, chair of the university enhancement committee, said the lids would be purchased from the same company they were bought from 20 years ago.

An amendment was added to the bill that states the senate would look into whether or not university staff could alter the existing lids by cutting larger holes, and if not, the senate would go through with ordering new ones.

The senate was also supposed to hear speeches from the two candidates running for speaker of the senate, Senators Katie St. John and Pickard.

However, St. John has resigned from the senate to recover from injuries and focus on classes after a recent car accident.

Pickard presented his platform for the position, which includes responsibilities such as running senate meetings and recruiting and appointing senators.

The senate will vote on a new speaker during next week’s meeting.


Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].