In a 7-1 decision by the USF Student Government (SG) Supreme Court, President and Vice President-elect Jaida Abbas and Jennifer Kelly were found to be in violation of a major grievance, disqualifying them from the student body presidential race and title.
Following the decision, the ticket submitted an appeal request to the SG Advising Office on April 14, which determined the proper appellate authority is Dean of Students Danielle McDonald. The ticket is awaiting McDonald’s acceptance or rejection of the appeal.
The court voted that the ticket was in violation of statute 706.5.8.1.2 which prohibits the use of money to persuade voters to act in favor of a ticket because the ticket facilitated the giveaway of a $25 gift card. This violation was brought to the attention of the court in the form of a grievance filed by senior English major Matthew Gallot-Baker on March 12.
If McDonald upholds the court’s decision, Abbas and Kelly will no longer serve as president and vice president for the 2021-2022 term and the SG Senate will select the next student body president and vice president from the pool of existing candidates. This pool currently only includes Julia Cunningham and Jillian Wilson and those candidates will become the student body president and vice president, according to Gary Manka, SG advising training and operations director.
The court heard the case April 9 and released its majority opinions April 13 in a document on BullSync.
In the decision, the court wrote that the use of a $25 gift card did qualify as using “money” as outlined in statute 706.5.8.1.2. Because the post on the @risewithjandj Instagram account asked students to follow the campaign account, tag two friends on their post and share the post on their personal Instagram story and tag the account, it constituted “persuading students to act in a certain way,” according to the 8-0 vote by the SG Supreme Court.
“The creation of a giveaway and the potential of a prize for one of the participants at the end of said giveaway creates a situation that would persuade students to act in a certain way,” the document stated. “While it is understood that there were no requirements on what comments could be made on the giveaway post, all participants were still required to follow instructions for how people were to enter the giveaway.”
A significant amount of the court trial debated whether or not gift cards could be considered money. The court wrote that because nursing major Olivia Garfinkel won the contest and selected that the gift card be from Amazon, it could be considered money.
“A gift card in the amount of $25 holds the same monetary value of that $25 in any other medium and can be exchanged for the same amount of goods and services as $25. Given that the statute does not specify a specific form of money (e.g., cash, checks, etc.), any form of tender may be ruled as money under this statute,” the majority opinion stated.
“Therefore, ‘money’ is any form of tender (cash, check, gift card) that can be exchanged for or used to purchase further items that were not themselves purchased by the ticket. The court affirms that a gift card is thereby ‘money’ in accordance with this statute as it is a form of payment and should therefore be treated equally.”
Defense co-counsels Yusuf Fattah and Devon Shank for the Abbas-Kelly ticket tried to prove that a gift card could be considered a “good” as mentioned in statute 706.5.8.1.2, but the court rejected this idea in its written opinions.
“With money having been defined in the previous paragraph, it logically follows that a ‘good’ is a promotional item purchased to promote a campaign that cannot be exchanged for or used to purchase further items that were not themselves purchased by the ticket (a water bottle, a T-shirt, etc.),” the majority opinion stated.
“A gift card cannot be considered to fall under this definition of a good as it can be used to purchase further items that were not themselves purchased by the ticket.”
Due to the first decision that the ticket was persuading people to act in their favor, the second decision that gift cards are money and the final decision that gift cards are not goods, the court determined the ticket had violated the statute.
“It is our ruling that a gift card is not a good, and therefore constitutes money. Given the known facts that the gift card was only accessible if certain tasks were completed and our ruling that the gift card does not constitute the purchase of a good nor a sponsorship, it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the Abbas-Kelly ticket has violated §706.5.8.1.2. and therefore, committed a major violation,” the majority opinion stated.
All parties involved are now waiting to see if McDonald will accept or reject the appeal. There was no determined date for when the decision will be made as of April 15.
This is a developing story. Stay with The Oracle for more updates.