On the last day of voting for student body elections, candidates for student body president await the outcomes of grievances filed against them for violating campaign rules.
Members of the Election Rules Committee (ERC) met Wednesday evening in the Marshall Student Center to hear statements from several students who filed grievances and the candidates’ statements in response to the complaints.
Two grievances were filed against the campaign for Jean Cocco, one against Brandi Arnold’s campaign and two against Danish Hasan’s campaign.
Those filed against Hasan were declined a hearing by the ERC because they were deemed “fallacious,” according to ERC Supervisor Sayf Hassouneh.
One grievance heard Wednesday was against Cocco, presented by Ahmad Saadaldin, a senior majoring in public relations.
According to the Saadaldin’s complaint, Cocco’s campaign website did not have the link for Student Government’s (SG) voting website, which is required to be put on all campaigning materials per campaign rules.
Cocco said SG’s link on his website, wts2014.com, was not working at the time Saadaldin filed the grievance, but that his website is “constantly being updated” and is a “work in progress.”
“It is not an easy task to create a website without professional help,” Cocco said. “I am not a web-coding expert, nor do I expect anyone else to be.”
Hassouneh, said the SG link, usf.edu/vote, doesn’t have to work, but it does have to at least have it.
Hassouneh compared it to a paper flier.
“As long as it says it, it doesn’t have to redirect to the website,” he said.
Cocco faced a second grievance, this one pursued by the ERC.
According to the complaint, Cocco purchased business cards for his campaign using Activity and Service (A&S) funds, part of a budget controlled by SG and which every student pays a $7 flat fee each semester.
According to campaign expenditure forms found on SG’s website, 500 business cards were purchased for Cocco’s campaign for $120 through the Sigma Lambda Beta fraternity.
Cocco said there is no written policy that states a fraternity cannot purchase campaign materials, because no fraternity that pays member dues receives A&S funding.
ERC rules of procedures prohibit any A&S funded materials to further a campaign, with exception to anything printed in SG computer labs.
Hassouneh said Cocco’s campaign was in violation because it used the TechSmart printing lab in the Marshall Center, which has an A&S funded account for all student organizations through a blanket purchase order with the A&S Business Office. He said though Cocco didn’t use an A&S funded organization, Cocco did use a service that is funded for all student organizations through A&S fees.
Cocco said violation and the policy in question “exists in the shadows” and is “profoundly unclear,” and may violate SG proviso as SG does not fund Greek organizations, and asked why these organizations are receiving “A&S funded prints.”
The organization, Cocco said, never received nor sought A&S funding.
The final ERC hearing of the night was for a grievance filed against Brandi Arnold’s campaign.
Corey Ulloa, a criminal justice major, presented a grievance in regards to a Facebook post in the USF Class of 2017, in which one of Arnold’s supporters, Michaela Foronda, used her stance as a Orientation Team Leader (OTL) and university figure to promote Arnold’s campaign.
According to ERC rules of procedure, using a university figure, such as Rocky the Bull or any NCAA Division I athlete, is a minor violation.
According to the post Ulloa read at the hearing, Foronda presented herself as an OTL and “invited” students to “check out” the Facebook page for Arnold’s campaign.
Sidney Resmondo, who works for Arnold’s campaign, spoke at the hearing in defense of Arnold, said Foronda was not an OTL at the time the Facebook post was made and she was using her previous position at the university to “relate to the student body” similar to how other candidates may use their position as a resident assistant or similar position in student involvement on campus.
Ulloa also filed two declined grievances against Hasan’s campaign. On one grievance form, Ulloa wrote “a student in support of Hasan/Patil posted a Facebook post of slander and libel stating that the competitors ‘only want the position for their resume.’ This is harmful towards both the Arnold/Nouri and Cocco/Whye campaign due to false statements.”
On the other grievance, Ulloa wrote “Advertising for the Hasan/Patil campaign was done in the SG Business Office. A flier was placed on the front desk of the Business Office.”
According to ERC rules of procedure, all the grievances made are minor violations if assessed by the ERC, however any violation may be promoted to a major violation if the ERC “feels the situation warrants it.”
Hassouneh said, according to the rules of procedure, if a candidate is assessed with at least one major violation or three minor violations, he or she will be disqualified.
According to the rules of procedure, the ERC must release an official decision on violation assessment no later than Friday, two business days from the adjournment of the meeting.
Official documents for the grievances from SG were requested by The Oracle last week, however, only records for the discarded grievances against Hasan, had been received as of Wednesday evening.