Move Made to Disapprove SA Election Results
One last effort—maybe; Resolution failed by a single vote
ITHACA, N.Y.—On March 31st, the Student Assembly gathered in the meeting that would approve the results of the recent SA elections. The Elections Committee, comprised of four seniors, would deliver its final report on the election challenges and the results would become official. Shortly after the meeting commenced, Jackie Koppell ‘05 addressed the quorum for just this purpose.
At that time, Koppell says, the Ombudsman found no wrongdoing on the part of the elections committee. It is the Ombudsman's job to determine whether or not the committee followed the guidelines laid-out in the election rules. Needing to attend another meeting, Koppell left after a few questions on the cost of new elections.
Later in the meeting, Herbie Ziskend ‘07, SA representative, made a motion to disapprove the SA election results. Ziskend, reiterating many of the arguments made before, said that the only fair thing to do would be to hold new elections and invalidate the results of the recent one. Some members like Kwame Thomison pointed out that other elections like the trustee election were bad too; he went on to say that the people who were supporting Ziskend's motion were those who were directly affected in that they lost. Ziskend never sought reelection.
As the discussion wore on, Ziskend saw that those members of the SA that supported his motion were leaving as they had other places to be; at the same meeting, the issue of Steve Grossman's removal from the SAFC was discussed which took a fair deal of time. Ziskend organized a quorumbreak, asking that his supporters leave so that the motion could not be put to a vote that day; after fewer than half of the representatives were left at the meeting, the meeting needed to dissolve. Ziskend explains that there was no proxy voting allowed at this meeting as the resolution that he proposed was new business.
At the beginning of the April 7th meeting, the Review and Turn Left issued a joint statement saying that they stood as a 'united front' that believed that new elections were in order. Many other members of the community also addressed the SA, but most are convinced that no one really changed their mind during the course of the discussion.
Another interesting point brought-up in during the open microphone session was that before leaving office, Hope Mandeville (former Director of the Office of Student Assemblies) had contacted Erica Kagan '05, president of the student assembly, and Josh Bronstein '06, saying that she would be leaving soon thereafter but offering her help in running the elections. Kagan told TL that Mandeville's last few weeks in office were hectic but that Kagan and Bronstein had met with Mandeville before winter break to discuss publicity ideas. As per sending-out an e-mail soliciting the elections, Kagan says, 'When we didn't hear from Hope on that, we assumed the email wasn't a possibility.'
Furthermore, Martin Lang of the Office of Student Assemblies clarified that he had made-up the contested $6,000 figure which was, in fact, accurate if the cost of the elections would include staff hours, not just the $4,500 charged by the electronic voting company. Lang went on to apologize for the lack of advertising saying that he was as responsible as Koppell and Fernandes for the lack of advertising.
Save this new information, the debate remained basically the same as before. The April 7th meeting was set to end early as the SA was holding an event with the USA Today editor after the meeting. As a result, the question on Ziskend's amendment was called almost immediately after Ziskend was given the floor. Ziskend explains that the resolution required a 2/3 vote to pass, which it narrowly missed by a single vote with 14 voting for the resolution and 8 against.
Before the question was called, Ziskend and SixPAC member Joe Rudnick '08 asked some very pointed and, to the outside observer, confusing questions. First, Ziskend made a motion to discharge the elections committee which Kagan ruled out of order as the elections committee's report was already finalized. Second, Rudnick asked if something was pending with the Ombudsman if the proceedings could continue; Kagan informed him that they could, in fact, go on as the report of the Elections Committee was already delivered.
Ziskend has explained to TL that if the Elections Committee were still standing, it could be disbanded by a simple majority vote whereas appealing the decision of the chair would require a 2/3 vote again which Ziskend knew he did not have. Apparently, going into the meeting, Ziskend said that he was unsure whether one voter would swing his way or against as the vote did not follow party lines with several Students First members voting for Ziskend's motion.
Mazdak Asgary '08 explained to TL that there are two compelling reasons to believe that the elections committee's report was not properly finalized. First, new information on one of the challenges came up; a pledge of Michelle Fernandes's '06 sorority told the Sun that the sorority does, in fact, give rooms points, a point which Fernandes vehemently denied. At the same time, the election rules say that ‘[o]nly those challenging or named in the challenge shall be present during a hearing,’ but there were witnesses involved in several of the challenge hearings. This information being presented to the Ombudsman, the committee's report could not be finalized because the Ombudsman could not have been done reviewing the facts of the challenges. Additionally, Robert's Rules call for all votes to take place in-person; Asgary said that he has contacted several noted parliamentarians who have agreed that voting via e-mail is inappropriate and not acceptable under Robert's Rules. Again, this would imply that the elections committee had not properly finalized its report.
Either way, it is possible that there will be new challenges on the floor at this Thursday's SA meeting, but no one has confirmed or denied such considerations to TL. The next meeting of the Student Assembly will be held Thursday, April 14 at 4:45 pm in the Memorial Room of Willard Straight Hall.