Student government at UGA is often accused, including by us, of being an exclusive and nepotistic body. In every election, a pattern holds: The support of current SGA members and a handful of key student organizations coalesces around a ticket deemed next-in-line for the office. This support packs an electoral wallop, and how could it not? Voter turnout for SGA elections rarely cracks double digits; those who vote are high-intensity, highly-involved students — the few students, really, with a vested interest in the outcome. Next-in-line wins.
Yet more evidence: Reports are trickling out that the SGA Elections Committee, composed of students in very close orbit to SGA, may not be the impartial referee it is meant to be.
Bridge UGA, one of two tickets for SGA executive, is the dark horse in the race. One of its candidates admitted as much in a recent sit-down with THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE. Only one of Bridge’s nominees, presidential candidate Zek Osibanjo, has served in student government, compared with all three nominees of rival ticket Drew-Jim-Brittany (DJB). The ticket has good reason to believe it is running from behind, in part because “insider” support is betting heavily on DJB.
Now Bridge has reason to believe the Elections Committee is putting its thumb on the scale, to Bridge’s detriment. According to a source in the Bridge campaign who wishes to remain anonymous, Bridge was audited by the Elections Committee following a complaint. The ticket decided to appeal the audit, and several of its members drafted paperwork to this effect. According to the Bridge source, when junior Eli Staggers brought the paperwork before the committee, papers were “thrown” back at him by a committee member. Staggers feels he and his ticket were disrespected by the committee.
The source claims this is not Bridge’s only grievance with the Elections Committee. Bridge has also been sanctioned $150 in campaign funds for “what amounted to a clerical error,” while a small violation by DJB was not sanctioned even after Bridge staffers brought it to the attention of the committee.
THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE has serious problems with aspects of the Bridge campaign, particularly its support of new course mandates that will make it harder and costlier for students to graduate. However, it goes without saying that Bridge deserves to rise or fall on its own merit. If true, the allegations leveled against the Elections Committee are further evidence of SGA’s insularity.
We have sent a request for comment to the Elections Committee. This post will be updated as more details come to light.
CORRECTION: This post originally stated Bridge UGA was sanctioned $120. The correct number is $150.
UPDATE 4/2/14 1:25 P.M.: No word yet from the Elections Committee, but an article posted in The Red & Black this morning provides details about what occurred at the sanctions hearing prior to the incident. It is an interesting read.
Additionally, a candidate of Bridge UGA reached out to THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE to clarify about their proposal for a service learning requirement (one of two course mandates cited above). According to Bridge, the requirement would replace elective hours from students’ major requirements. If implemented in this way, the new requirement would indeed be less burdensome to students.
UPDATE 4/2/14 4:31 P.M.: THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE has received a statement from SGA Attorney General Shreyas Vangala, who is chairman of the Elections Committee. Vangala notes that the Elections Committee is “not simply a host of SGA insiders,” as it is required to have a certain number of members who are not affiliated with SGA.
His description of events from last night:
I know of one single instance of what I deem unprofessional conduct that was demonstrated after the official hearing had concluded and both verdicts were delivered. During this instance a member of the Elections Committee who was collecting and sorting papers from the hearing nonchalantly tossed some of the papers off of a table. It was at this point that Mr. Staggers re-entered the room inquiring as to whether or not that action was directed toward him. Those of us in the room assured him that this was not the case and attempted to hand him back other paperwork that he had left behind. He declined to take it, and we, the Elections Committee- the only party present in the room-proceeded to wrap up discussion of how we wanted to carry out tabling events for the following day (4/1/2014) … I have since drafted and sent a letter of apology to Mr. Staggers on behalf of the Committee to address any unprofessional behavior that he witnessed.
—M. Blake Seitz is Editor-in-Chief of THE ARCH CONSERVATIVE
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