Allegations that student body president-elect Bijal Chhadva harassed students to obtain their vote were behind the Student Government Election Rules Commission’s decision to disqualify Chhadva and vice-president-elect Andrew Aubery on Tuesday.
The complaints, the bulk of which refer to incidents in the student body presidential runoff, describe Chhadva following students and badgering them to vote for him. Complainants characterized Chhadva’s approach as “threatening at times,” and “aggressive.” One complaint from a member of Brandon Faza’s campaign accuses Chhadva of approaching every student he had just spoken to. Another alleges Chhadva tried to recruit a member of Brandon Faza’s campaign team. Chhadva’s running mate, Aubery, is not named in any of the complaints.
Andrew Read, the director of the ERC, said he had received seven formal complaints from six different students. Five of the complaints will be presented as evidence when the SG supreme court hears an appeal from Chhadva and Aubery against their disqualification today at 2 in the Phyllis P. Marshall Center.
According to SG attorney general Jarrod Ali, who will represent the ERC at the appeal, the commission also received similar complaints from several other students who wished to remain anonymous. Ali said he would be arguing to the supreme court that the charge of mental intimidation does not have to mean the use of overwhelming force.
“(It’s) behavior that is unbecoming for a student body president,” Ali said. “It causes fear, causes the student to be intimidated or hindered from going about their normal routine. The behavior that he has exhibited has been a deterrent to students. I really believe that does warrant a 10-point assessment on that campaign.”
Chhadva refuted the allegations Thursday.
“We definitely did not do any mental intimidation,” he said. “I just did my normal campaigning. I approached people. I talked to them and I gave them a flyer, and I tell them to look at our platform and e-mail us if they have any concerns.”
SG supreme court chief justice Dustin Sachs said the court will hear a presentation from both sides before reaching a decision. Four of the students who have submitted written complaints will testify on behalf of the ERC including ERC deputy Donya Presley. Not wishing to speak in front of the supreme court, one of the students will testify by speakerphone.
Regardless of which way the supreme court rules, a student body president and vice president will be inaugurated at 10:30 Monday morning in the Marshall Center Ballroom, Read said. If the disqualification is upheld, then Faza and running mate J.P. Murphy will be inaugurated. The ERC director said he will likely certify the election results after today’s appeal.
Ali said he was confident the supreme court would rule in their favor today. Ali said the weight of evidence pointed to the justices upholding the decision of the ERC.
“Reviewing all the statements and interviewing the complainants over the phone, I really believe the charges are warranted here,” Ali said.
Chhadva said he did not want to disclose his strategy to deal with the charges before the appeal but said he expected the decision to go his way. He said he and Aubery have not contemplated what further action they would take were they to lose the appeal.