The Associated Student Government Election Committee announced Wednesday that it has opted not to disqualify the two newly elected officers who admitted to behavior found unethical to get votes during the ASG elections.
The two elected candidates, along with two unelected former candidates from the same group, Students Foremost, admitted on Monday that they had on one occasion during the elections set up laptops and provided food to students while encouraging them to vote.
After a hearing to investigate a complaint against Students Foremost, the committee decided that while the candidates’ actions were unethical, they were not in direct violation of ASG election by-laws which prohibit candidates from staffing a voting booth.
A written warning was issued to Carolyn Dewitt, Environmental and Social Responsibility Rep., and Jean-Claude Kameni, Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Rep.
The warning was also extended to Fiona Soyan Liu, former candidate for VP of Equity and Pluralism, and Sunny Ho, former candidate for Clubs and Programs Rep.
The committee declared in it’s final report that the claims made in the original complaint were too insufficient and non-specific to be rendered as valid proof against members of the group.
Following spoken testimonies by all parties at Monday’s hearing, however, the committee decided that the above mentioned four members of the group had in fact acted irresponsibly enough to warrant discipline.
In its findings, the committee also recommended that the by-laws be reassessed in order to clarify appropriate campaigning procedures for the future.
“The candidates in question exercised poor ethical judgment in this regard,” wrote Faisal Jaswal, chair of the committee, in the report.
The committee consisted of members Henry Amaya, retention specialist of multicultural services; Vanessa Pantley and Brianne Wood, ASG Legislative Committee members, Denise Vaughan, Political Science instructor, and Jaswal.
The hearing, conducted as an open forum, was scheduled between 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., although discussion continued until 3:45 pm. The attendees included a mixture of over 30 former candidates, students and faculty.
The complaint, filed May 4 by John S. De Friel Jr. and signed by several other candidates claimed that unnamed candidates of the campaign team Students Foremost, had broken the ASGBCC Election by-law 18.104.22.168.2 on Friday May 1. This by-law states, “A candidate shall not attempt to coerce or petition a student who is actively submitting a ballot.”
The complaint did not, according to Jaswal, specify how or where the law had been broken.
Kameni and Dewitt said during the hearing that the quoted by-law was unclear on what constituted a voting booth and what constituted coercion of voters.
“We didn’t force people to vote. We asked if they had voted,” said Kameni.
Dewitt, who admitted to bringing candy to the table with the laptops, said that they were just making the computer available for voting, but not to force students to vote for their campaign.
Ho also stated that he had asked the front desk attendant if it was okay to use the laptop and she had said that she believed it was.
Other attendees countered that a receptionist was not the appropriate person to ask, and that the candidates in question should take responsibility for their actions. Kameni then stated that the laptop was out for around 45 minutes before Candy Stewart, the ASG advisor, came down and issued a verbal warning. Afterward, the activity stopped.
Luis Sanchez, incumbent VP of Equity and Pluralism, was among candidates who signed the original complaint.
“As candidates, it [was] our responsibility to read the by-laws and understand them fully,” he said. “If the by-laws were read and understood, it would be common sense that the laptop would not have been allowed.”
It was mentioned that during the election orientation, on April 14 and 15, Burke Colquhoun, current emerging technology and entrepreneurial rep. and part of the ASG Interim Judicial Board, had told candidates that if there was any confusion regarding the by-laws or campaign procedures, candidates were to report to him.
“At orientation they made it very clear that we were not to hand out anything in exchange for a vote, it was clear we were not allowed to participate in any kind of that activity,” said Andres Munt, incoming Clubs and Programs rep. “It is unfair to those that obeyed those laws.”
Munt said that Colquhoun had stapled his business card to the list of by-laws handed out at orientation, and had told the candidates that if they had any questions they could e-mail him.
John De Friel said that at orientation the entire list of by-laws had been read to the candidates.
“[But] They didn’t explain any analysis of the by-laws,” said John Daniel Peppe, current ASG Chief Justice and former presidential candidate with Students Foremost. “They just read off sections of them, and answered questions at the end, without giving any analysis on what was their intent.”
Certain attendees of the hearing made it clear that they wanted a just punishment for those found guilty of unethical behavior.
“I have great confidence in this committee to make the right decisions based on this hearing,” said Jaswal then, before the verdict was released.
“The reason we have this hearing is to hear the voices of the students and their interpretation of what they want to see done.”
He also stated several times that that Bellevue College is a learning environment.
“We are not here [at the hearing] to go after people, I’m not interested in punishment,” he said. “I‘m interested in how we can move forward.”
The final decision of the committee is open to be challenged by members of the student body through appeal to the ASG-led Interim Judicial Board, according to Jaswel.
If Jaswal’s committee’s verdict is challenged, it will be up to the Interim Judicial Board’s members, Vicki Waiking Ma, Dominic Lee, and Burke Colquhoun to re-examine the evidence and re-open the investigation.