USG Fails to Disclose Prior Sanctions Against Candidates

USG+Fails+to+Disclose+Prior+Sanctions+Against+Candidates

Sebastian Diaz, Features Editor

With United Student Government (USG) elections starting today, Monday, April 11, The Fordham Ram conducted an investigation into USG election processes which uncovered a lack of transparency about candidates who break the organization’s lengthy rules while campaigning, raising questions about why USG does not disclose important information to voters. 

The investigation discovered that in the 2021 USG election cycle, its Elections Commission placed sanctions on several candidates then-running for office after an internal investigation into misconduct. USG’s standard operating procedure is not to publish or share any information about such investigations’ results. It neither announces which candidates have been sanctioned for breaking its rules, nor does it announce which sanctions it has ordered, leaving voters in the dark as several of the candidates are now running for USG offices in the 2022 election cycle. 

“As we expressed to the candidates before the election began,” said current USG Executive President Thomas Reuter, FCRH ’22, who was the executive vice president of USG at Rose Hill at the time and member of this cycle’s Election Commission. “Complaints, investigations and sanctions are entirely private. We will not broadcast the result of an investigation to anyone,” Reuter explained. This policy extends to all investigations and is not specific to the investigation from April 2021, as confirmed by Reuter.  

The sanctions, placed on the candidates in April 2021, prohibited several USG candidates from campaigning for 24 hours between April 13 and April 14. According to several students interviewed by the Ram, the sanctions were put in place after someone complained to USG election officials about a series of text messages shared in a group of at least 11 USG senators, executive board members and committee members that disparaged another member of USG. The name of the group chat in which the messages were sent was also changed to various insulting phrases about said candidate. The Ram has both seen and verified these messages with multiple people involved in the group chat, but has chosen not to publish them because they are defamatory.

According to the United Student Government Election Code, campaign suspensions lasting 24 hours are penalties for misconduct the Commission deems to be a Major Infraction. As the code states, “A Major Infraction has significant material impact on the Election and causes severe harm to the integrity of the election.” 

A later rule described in the code reads: 

“A candidate will be disqualified immediately for the use of racial, sexual, or religious, or any form of discrimination towards another candidate.”

Following the sanctions and numerous meetings with the disparaged student, the former Assistant Dean for Student Involvement Cody Arcuri and the Elections Commission in April 2021, the commission ultimately decided to sanction the candidates involved. Neither officials involved in running the 2021 USG elections, nor USG officials then-serving informed the student body about the objectionable behavior or the sanctions at the time. 

The Fordham Ram has confirmed that multiple of the sanctioned students are up for election during the current 2022 cycle.  

The only public information available to students was in one of the Ram’s regular USG columns, published April 21, 2021. The article cited Maggie Tattersfield, FCRH ’22, and vice president of Sustainability at the time, who had publicly brought up concerns of broken election code by a third of the USG Senate. As the article reads: 

“Tattersfield motioned for a reevaluation of the class of 2024 Senate Elections. The motion did not get a second, nor did it pass as the rest of the senate felt that the action taken within the Election Commission was enough.” No discussion at the meeting outright revealed what the cause for concern was. 

Instead, the meeting revealed that the commission had placed campaigning sanctions on selected, unspecified candidates for an unspecified amount of time that totaled between 12 and 24 hours. 

The investigation and its results have become an open secret within USG proceedings. In her column last week, the Ram’s USG Columnist mentioned the discussion of “last year’s scandal” at the USG weekly meeting. At April 7th’s Meet-the-Candidates USG event, an audience member asked a candidate a question about transparency, clearly hinting at a prior instance. 

The Ram spoke to Fordham students who feel it is important for USG to be transparent to the community it is elected to represent.

Indra Ramsaywak, FCRH ’23, told the Ram that “the voting body should have access to info about future candidates in order to make an informed decision.” 

Multiple other students have commented on the issues, including Maya Giardina, FCRH ’24, who said, “I don’t know anything about USG, but if I were to vote, I would want to be as informed as possible.” 

Payton Hunt, FCRH ’24, said “if [candidates] are committing misconduct in a college with no stake whatsoever, then it’s very reflective of a poor political system and poor future candidates.”

By withholding information concerning electoral misconduct, many students feel they do not have all the information necessary to make an informed decision on election day. 

This is an updating story.