Following the ERC v. Palyam and Pham ticket trial Monday, the Student Government (SG) Supreme Court released its Majority Court opinion, unanimously ruling that President-elect Nithin Palyam and Vice President-elect Amy Pham didn’t violate campaign statutes.
After losing the election by 649 votes, presidential ticket Tony Tran and Rughved Brahman filed a major grievance against Palyam and Pham, claiming their victory was assisted by a campaign infraction they committed.
Statute 706.5.8.2. states that any use of SG or USF resources to assist or harm a campaign is a violation, while statute 706.5.8.2.3 declares using department or office tabling events to campaign is also a violation, according to Chief Justice Hellen Popa.
At a Feb. 23 SG tabling event, Palyam and Pham’s campaign manager Gustavo Wengerkiewicz-Storck posted a video intended for the SG Instagram on the campaign account, according to the opinion. Being the SG Tampa graphic designer, Wengerkiewicz-Storck also has access to the SG Instagram account, making the mix-up as easy as a double-tap on the profile icon.
As a result, on March 7, Supervisor of Elections Savannah Carr submitted a trial request to the SG Supreme Court per the major grievance filed by Brahman.
Under Statute 700.2, active campaigning, which is a public and intentional expression of support for a candidate or ticket including vocal campaigning, distributing flyers and campaigning via social media or email, is forbidden, according to the consolidated statutes. That said, Wengerkiewicz-Storck posting official SG content on a campaign account lays the groundwork for potential interpretation of intentional support from SG.
Wengerkiewicz-Storck removed the post 20 minutes later after realizing the mistake, but Tran had already screen recorded the error, according to the opinion. When brought to trial, the defense pleaded there was no intent to elevate one campaign over the other and the posting was a simple blunder.
During the trial on April 18, the plantiff offered no evidence demonstrating that the tabling event contained campaign support for Palyam and Pham. Brahman’s concern in an examination hinged on the assessment that within the 20 minutes the video was published, students viewing their story may associate their campaign with official SG matters and potentially influence their vote.
In deliberation, two major variables were considered: the intent, as defined in Statute 700.2, and the consequential attention the post brought to Palyam and Pham’s campaign. Believing that the post was a mistake and understanding no campaign material nor endorsement was projected in the video, the justices affirmed it aided no benefit to the campaign.
It’s within the ERC’s authority to appeal the decision to Dean of Students Danielle McDonald. However, Carr said it will not be doing so due to the lack of clear and convincing evidence.
Brahman has requested an appeal form, according to SG advisor Gary Manka, however, it is not confirmed whether he will follow through.
If the losing ticket doesn’t appeal the decision within the next five business days, Palyam and Pham will receive the oath of office and become the next student body president and vice president.