On May 18, an Elections Committee held a meeting to discuss complaints made against the former campaign manager of Students Foremost. The meeting investigated whether third-party activity had contributed to the success of any members of the ASG election group, and if this activity should render elected members as invalidly elected.
It was alleged that during the 2009 campaigning process, the former campaign manager intimidated ASG election candidates that were running against Students Foremost, as well as potential voters.
On May 19, the Elections Committee issued a statement saying that, while the incidents they discussed “were of an alarming nature,” there was “insufficient evidence to link candidates in the ASG elections to the actions addressed in this complaint.”
The statement also recommended that the ASG by-laws be revamped, something that could alter the way candidates run during future election campaigns.
During the recent ASG election, a few groups and individuals were represented by a campaign manager or third party, an approach that was new to this year’s election. The current by-laws do not stipulate that a candidate or group is responsible for the actions of an unofficial affiliate representing them.
One candidate alleged that they became so intimidated by the former campaign manager of Students Foremost, that they were unable to concentrate on their own campaign, spending much of their time searching for refuge. Now thar the appeal process is over, no action will be taken against members of Students Foremost in relation to their former campaign manager.
“These are growing pains,” said Faisal Jaswal, Assistant Dean of Student Programs, who considers the recent complaints an inevitable part of student politics. Jaswal said that, while all concerns were heard and documented, the situation offers a tremendous opportunity: to put stronger by-laws together for a future generation.
Tom Pritchard, Vice President of Student Services, said, “I support Faisal’s notion that this is a learning experience.”
Pritchard also acknowledged that a new by-law may have to be written, and that it would not be impossible to craft a rule that would implicate candidates or groups in the behavior of unofficial affiliates.
Jaswal and Pritchard are confident that new by-laws will be an improvement on the current system, especially with the guidance of Dr. Denise Vaughan, a member of the Elections Committee.
Vaughan, who is a political science instructor at the college, does not have power over any change of election by-law, but can offer advice and help to the ASG when they write them.
Vaughan said, “I certainly hope that students will take the opportunity to revise the by-laws. They are always an ongoing project. This is the learning opportunity that students have.
“The difficulty in writing any law comes in the balance between preventing specific circumstances and writing law general enough to address the needs of the community.”
While by-laws need to be written for future student elections, Jaswal said he has taken the recent complaints seriously, assessing the accusations in the context of the college, rather than the election. Jaswal’s authority, he said, only extends so far, and he has taken the information to a higher administration and an investigation is in progress now.
However, allegations are no longer being approached in relation to the 2009 ASG election.
The final statement that was issued by the Elections Committee described that the alleged acts were, “several disturbing incidents.”
However, because the committee only has jurisdiction over members of Bellevue College, those who had their campaigns sabotaged can only try to forge some lesson from the situation.
Vaughan said, “Writing and rewriting by-laws is a genuine learning experience and a real opportunity for students to see the implications of real world situations.”
If this experience has simply been, as Jaswal said, “growing pains,” it is the Elections Committee’s paternal obligation to ensure that these problems don’t reoccur.
“I plan to make sure that as the new ASG board takes shape, these deficiencies are corrected,” said Jaswal.