Five points was the penalty for a presidential candidate’s Facebook photo showing what appears to be him holding a handgun and a container of alcohol.
Student Government’s (SG) Election Rules Commission (ERC) issued the points to Andrew Cohen at a hearing Wednesday night prompted by 22 grievances filed by opponent Daniel Dunn, a senior majoring in philosophy, on Tuesday.
The ERC only discussed four of the grievances, all of which deal with code of conduct: one for harassment, two for providing false information and one for reckless behavior.
Supervisor of the ERC Michael LeBlanc said the photo of Cohen, 21, was in violation “because of its lack of conscious disregard for its consequences to persons or property in results in actual or potential damage or injury or harm to a person meaning mental damage in this post-Virginia Tech world.”
Dunn’s campaign manager Tucker Matias said at the meeting that the photo causing the sanction “promotes reckless and injurious
behavior.” But Cohen, who apologized, said the gun was not loaded and was only handed to him to hold for the photo.
ERC issued no points for the grievance – filed for violation of the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity’s Discrimination and Harassment Policies – that claimed Cohen, who is Jewish, and an unidentified male seem to be “mooning another country.”
“…Both standing at what appears to be a perimeter fence in Israel. Mr. Cohen’s pants are lowered, and he appears to be ‘mooning’ the Palestinians on the other side of the fence,” the grievance says.
“This grievance form asks us that we look at the Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity and Harassment Policies section 1 and 4 … we took a step back and we look(ed) at it and we realized that nowhere in our statutes does it reference this policy section. Therefore … we as a commission decided that we had no jurisdiction over this,” LeBlanc said.
But Cohen, SG director of University and Community Affairs, said it is “100 percent” incorrect that he was in the location claimed by Dunn’s campaign. Cohen said both photos were taken months ago in a different country, and he shouldn’t be held accountable for what he did in another country.
“I was actually in no way in any representation of form or fashion of the University,” Cohen said. “I understand that if I were at a USF football game, in the office, anywhere on campus, anywhere representing the University of South Florida that I could be held to the Student Code of Conduct.”
Cohen said he plans to appeal the points to the SG Supreme Court today. Candidates are allotted no more than 10 points for violations before facing disqualification from the election.
“I feel that the ERC acted incorrectly without all the proper information and I ask that the students continue to see what it was: a cheap excuse to try and get at another candidate and that it is completely unfair not just to me but to the student body,” Cohen said.
Cohen said grievances aren’t what campaigning is about. Cohen, who filed grievances against presidential candidate Cesar Hernandez’s campaign last week, said the ones he filed are directly involved with campaigning.
“If I had used any of what I was accused tonight during campaigning, I would see reason,” he said.
In the grievances Cohen filed, he tried to remain anonymous. Two of Dunn’s grievances filed against Cohen claim he provided false information for doing so, but the ERC issued no points.
Dunn’s grievance claims Cohen cited Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) – the law that ensures privacy for students. But Cohen said he did not cite FERPA and agreed to release his name upon request.
“The definition of false information is to knowingly make a material false, oral or written statement to any USF system official,” LeBlanc said at the meeting. “Anonymous, we have decided, is not false information.”
The remaining 18 grievances – six for misuse of materials, six for implied endorsement and six for trademark infringement – Dunn’s campaign filed were dropped after Matias sent an e-mail Wednesday saying the campaign mistakenly identified the font they claimed in the violation.
Dunn’s campaign claims the font used by Cohen’s campaign – Adobe Garamond Pro – is in violation because it’s “USF’s official typeface,” the grievance says.
The original grievances claimed the font in question was “Goudy,” but Matias said in the e-mail the font was actually in the Garamond family, which Cohen admitted to using. So Dunn’s campaign filed 18 new grievances citing the new font, and LeBlanc said a hearing will be held sometime today.
University spokesman Michael Hoad said to The Oracle on Tuesday that USF does not own the font and the issue is up to SG.