Student president-elect’s campaigning questioned


KATHYVAN TRAN, Associate Editor

Student Advocate-elect Christopher Lee was disqualified from his position after an emergency meeting called by the associated student government election commission found him guilty of violating election rules during his campaign.

The commission met at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 4, to review a formal complaint made against Lee that accused him of explicitly soliciting votes from students.

The complaint said that Lee approached students who were at computers and asked them to log onto Pipeline and vote for him.

According to the election commission’s rules for Spring 2017, “Candidates may not solicit votes from students who are actively using SBCC computers.”

As a result of this violation, Lee was disqualified from the position of Student Advocate.

Lee finished with 45 percent of the total votes for Student Advocate, with 432 students voting for him. First runner-up, Krystle Farmer, who finished with 33.54 percent of the vote and a total of 322 students voting for her, will replace Lee as Student Advocate.

President-elect Charlotte Donnay Rochard was also in attendance at the emergency meeting.

While the commission reviewed the accusations made against Lee, Rochard made no mention about any of her own campaign practices, yet eyewitness accounts from several staffers on The Channels, said that they also saw Rochard engaging in similar practices as Lee did.

James Howard, a lab teaching assistant for the computer science department, also said that he heard of Rochard soliciting votes in the lab that he works in, but did not witness it.

At about 11:30 a.m. Friday, The Channels Editor in Chief Alyssa Durant and News Editor Julia Pizza brought this information to the attention of Dr. Christopher Johnson, dean of student support services.

“It’s kind of out of my hands,” Johnson told The Channels, on the record. “But you know, they all break the rules.”

Johnson advised Durant and Pizza to contact outgoing-president Dylan Raiman, who made it clear that “this has been brought to my attention already.”

Raiman advised that a formal complaint in writing would have to be made, but said that without clear evidence or a photo, “nothing’s gonna happen.”

According to the violations and disqualifications section of the Spring 2017 Election Rules set forth by the commission, “accusations of a candidate violating the election rules must be in writing and formally submitted to the Election Commission Chair.”

The document however, does not specify that concrete evidence must be provided along with the formal complaint. So, Pizza went ahead and filed a formal complaint via email to Raiman, who serves as commission chair, at about 12:50 p.m. Friday.

“Charlotte is an electrical engineering major and spends time in the Computer Science Lab in the Humanities Building,” the complaint said. “During the week of campaigning, I saw this candidate going up and down the aisles talking to each student at a computer… [She] read out the link where the students could vote for her.”

The appeals process section of the commission’s rules states that “Written complaints and any other relevant materials” will be reviewed by the commission.

However, the text does not define what “other relevant materials” must be. The ambiguous language leaves this portion of the rule up for debate. Relevant materials may be interpreted as anything ranging from emails, texts, tweets, videos, flyers, and eyewitness accounts.

Lee was disqualified from his position of Student Advocate for his violation of the elections rules. Rochard is being accused of engaging in the same campaign practices that disqualified Lee from his position.

The commission’s rules states that “If a candidate is accused of violating the election rules, he or she will be subject to a review process.”

In an email copied to Durant and Pizza, Raiman requested a second emergency meeting at 1:57 p.m. Friday to review the complaint Pizza made against Rochard, to be set for Monday, May 15.

While Friday is The Channels’ last day of publication for spring semester, according to the student government’s Bylaws, “All Officers’ terms of office shall be one year, from July 1 through June 30.”

The Channels will follow up with this story in fall semester.

The Channels Editor’s Note

While The Channels acknowledges a conflict of interest in that the formal complaint made against Rochard was based off of several eyewitness accounts from staffers, nonetheless, another citizen’s on-the-record account is considered in the complaint as well. Furthermore, the election commission’s rules’ ambiguous text of “relevant materials” leaves the type of circumstantial evidence that can be used for review up for debate. It does not specifically define what that type of evidence must be included for review, such as a “photo,” as Raiman verbally suggested to Durant and Pizza Friday morning, or eyewitness accounts, which is what Pizza based her complaint off of. Finally, firsthand accounts may be more powerful than secondhand accounts such as word-of-mouth.

Durant and Pizza were not involved in the process of writing or editing this story.

Correction: Thursday, May 11

A previous version of this story erroneously stated that Rochard in fact engaged in the same campaign practices that disqualified Lee from his position. This updated version corrects the claim to say that Rochard was accused of engaging in the same campaign practices that disqualified Lee from his position.