Student Government Association adviser says senators aren’t making necessary changes to elections code

The Daily News





Just weeks after one of the most controversial Student Government Association elections in recent memory, none of the senators who vowed to make revisions to the organization’s elections code is working on making changes. 

Jennifer Jones-Hall, SGA adviser and director of Student Life, said she hopes senators correct the elections code, but she isn’t hopeful because students haven’t talked to her about revisions.

“I think the sad thing right now about once elections are over, everyone retreats out of senate,” she said. “You’ve got your die-hards that are going to stay forever, but if your slate did not win, then they [typically] all drop out and the elections board is dissolved, so nobody is looking at the elections code.” 

Zeyne Guzeldereli, Cardinal United presidential candidate and president pro-tempore, said during the election that he would work on the elections code. But last week he said no one is working on the revisions now because senators and executive board members are transitioning, and he won’t return to SGA in the Fall Semester. He said senators need to work on revisions for the elections board nonetheless.

Some elections code revision suggestions include tightening restrictions, such as campaign members carrying laptops or iPads around campus and asking students to vote with them. The elections code only prohibits that activity in residence halls.

Setting fine amounts and standards for campaign violations could also be a revision priority. Jones-Hall said she thinks it would be beneficial to define grey areas for common violations such as early campaigning. 

“You can’t go from a $5 fine to a $600 fine in 24 hours,” she said.

Kevin Thurman, 2013 elections board chair, said he is opposed to defining the range of fine amounts directly in the elections code.

“There is a concern, though, with legislating how much each fine is, because then everyone knows,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, it’s only $15 if I tell my class of 200 people that I’m running,’ or ‘It’s only $50 if I send out through Gradebook to all of my classes saying I’m the presidential candidate.’”

Jones-Hall said she would like senators to look at other Mid-American Conference schools’ SGA elections codes for ideas. She said she would like to see the current code thrown in the trash and rewritten with fresh eyes because past revisions haven’t made enough changes.

She has a large binders containing all MAC school SGA constitutions, bylaws and elections codes for reference, since those schools are generally the same size as Ball State. She said no one has ever asked to see the binder.

Ball State has longer elections than other MAC schools’ student government elections. Most elections last less than two weeks, whereas Ball State’s lasted three this season. Ball State also differs from other MAC schools because slates can’t announce they’re running before the Nomination Convention, and slates run with four officers instead of just a presidential and vice presidential candidate.

Malachi Randolph, SGA president-elect, said he wants to have two to three students work on the elections code in the Fall Semester. 

Transparency was an issue many senators and candidates discussed this past election. Con Sullivan and Jason Pickell, two senators associated with Cardinal United, were accused of running an anonymous Twitter account that fact checked the election and cyber bullied a senator. After the charges were made, Chad Griewank, then SGA parliamentarian, confessed to the actions and said Sullivan and Pickell were not involved in any way.

Documents obtained through a public records request showed the reasons the 2013 SGA elections board accused the two students. 

Screenshots from social media were viewed by the elections board, according to the Feb. 19 meeting minutes. The screenshots were not provided through the request, and Thurman said he would not release them.

One of the students, whose name was redacted in the documents, was accused because he or she attended two debates, owned an Android phone, worked for Cardinal United and “is a Democrat and is notorious for displaying views on public forums.”

Thurman said issues with the elections board are handled similarly to how they are with the university, meaning the more likely scenario is chosen when charging senators or slates with fines rather than being innocent until proven guilty.

Michael Gillilan, director of Student Rights, said accused students through his office are always shown what evidence will be used against them before the hearing. Sullivan and Pickell said they were never shown what the evidence was against them. 

“I think it would be appropriate if, especially when there’s possibly removal of a slate and or a significant fine, I think it would be appropriate to say this is the information and give them a chance to respond to that [before charges are made],” he said. 

Gillilan said he thought executive board slates were too concerned about winning this year and other important values seemed to be lost during the election.

“I just really saw a lack of civil discourse and wanting to be transparent, and specifically wanting to serve students,” he said. “That seemed to be secondary, at best, if not completely absent.”

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