Cue the campaign signs and free t-shirts. Election season is right around the corner. However, this year Student Government (SG) is working to avoid a repeat of the controversies that surrounded last year’s election.
After the election of president and vice-president, Moneer Kheireddine and Shaquille Kent, a grievance was filed stating that Dika Ezevillo, a USF student employee, wore his employee nametag while campaigning for Kheireddine and Kent.
After deliberation, the SG Supreme Court unanimously found Kheireddine and Kent guilty of a major grievance involving an abuse of power by Ezevillo resulting in the ticket’s disqualification.
However, Kheireddine and Kent successfully filed a letter of appeal in which one of the reasons for appeal stated that the statute in question was vague and did not properly define what an abuse of power is.
SG has simple procedures for vetting applicants, but they are making some changes as to how they communicate campaign rules.
In an email to The Oracle, Gary Manka, director of Student Government Advising, Training, & Operations (SGATO), said when candidates initially apply to run in SG elections, they must meet three basic requirements.
“Basically, students have to meet 3 criteria – GPA (2.5 as undergraduate/3.0 as graduate); credit hours enrolled (6 per semester for undergraduate degree seeking student/4 for graduate. This excludes summers); and they cannot be on probation, suspension or expulsion with the university,” Manka wrote. “A student may be removed for other reasons (e.g., missing a mandatory candidate meeting, etc).
“SGATO checks student applicant eligibility based on the Student Body Constitution requirements and/or university regulations. If the student doesn’t meet the requirements then they can’t run for office (or stay in office if already elected or appointed, this includes volunteers). It is that simple, but it is also a student confidentiality issue protected by law. Membership checks are run for every election and every semester for current SG officers/members.”
Aside from this, applicants aren’t further vetted. This begs the question of how campaign rules are communicated to hopeful SG members and how the statute’s language was changed to avoid a repeat of last year’s election.
“SG revised Title VII during Fall Semester to address any concerns that emerged during the general election last year,” Manka wrote. “Basically, these issues are also being directly addressed in the candidate meetings especially the issues that may have been grey regarding statutory interpretation last year. Finally, as has been the standard in previous elections, candidate meetings are mandatory for all students running for office so each and every candidate should know the regulations.”
All candidates go to these meetings the week before elections. The last candidate meeting is occurring today at 5 p.m.
According to Jennifer Bielen, assistant director of SGATO, these changes are routine.
“Every year there is typically an Ad Hoc called for Title VII by the legislative branch in which they take feedback from things that occurred from the prior general elections and make changes/edits- this is called by the senate president,” Bielen said. “As for the changes they occurred throughout the entire chapter starting with the definitions all the way through the duties of the ERC (Election Rules Commission) with a heavy focus on the Minor and Major Grievances.”
As students move through the election cycle, it will be more evident if these changes can quell some of the drama experienced in the prior election.