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UGBC Team Criticizes Elections Committee

Czar Sepe, MCAS ’21, and Jack Bracher, MCAS ’22, are arguing that policies set by the Elections Committee (EC) should be revised following their 18-vote loss in Tuesday’s Undergraduate Government of Boston College executive elections. Sepe and Bracher received the most votes but lost to Christian Guma, CSOM ’21, and Kevork Atinizian, CSOM ’22, due to vote deductions handed down by the EC for campaign violations.

The EC and Office of Student Involvement (OSI) said in an email that, per standard policy, the EC votes on and finalizes all sanctions before any members know the results of the election.

The EC is a group separate from UGBC that states it is “an unbiased group, comprised of undergraduate students representing all classes” that facilitates BC undergraduate elections. The EC does not publicly release the names of its members, and the EC and OSI declined several times in emails to The Heights to identify its members. The EC declined to be interviewed, and OSI did not respond to requests for an interview.

The EC is distinct from UGBC, but Paul Murphy, associate director for student programming in OSI, oversees both UGBC and the EC. Murphy did not respond to a request for comment, and his role overseeing the EC is unclear.

Bracher submitted an appeal of a vote deduction for smear campaigning to the EC, which sent it to Murphy. Bracher said that Murphy rejected the appeal due to a lack of evidence, and Murphy did not respond to a request for an explanation of his ruling.

Twenty-two fewer students voted for Guma and Atinizian than Sepe and Bracher, though after Guma’s team was deducted 25 votes and Sepe’s team was deducted 65 votes for campaign violations, Guma’s team ultimately won. The Sepe-Bracher ticket was deducted 40 and 25 votes for “smear campaigning” and receiving an unauthorized endorsement, respectively. Guma and Atinizian were deducted 25 votes for sending an unsolicited GroupMe message on the day of the election, though the Sepe campaign said they reported additional unsolicited messages to the EC after the reporting deadline.

The team of Dennis Wieboldt and Lorenzo Leo—both MCAS ’23—and the team of John Gehman, MCAS ’21, and Leonardo Escobar, MCAS ’22, were both also deducted votes for an unsolicited GroupMe message on the day of the election.

In an interview with The Heights, Sepe stressed that the election was over and his team was not challenging the results—but, he added, he believes that the process in the future should be amended to be more fair and transparent.

“We’re trying to move forward from this,” Sepe said. “It’s over. It’s over. It’s done. But the EC, with OSI, needs to look at why things transpired.”

“The Elections Committee would like to be clear that all decisions were made in line with the Election’s Code,” the EC wrote in an email to The Heights. “Staff from OSI are present at every EC meeting to assure that no sanctions or decisions made by the EC are in violation of the code. These OSI staff members can attest that all sanctions applied by the Elections Committee were unbiased and within the boundaries of the code.”

Sepe’s team mainly takes issue with two points in the elections process, the first being the lack of transparency within the EC. Sepe also wants teams to have the ability to defend allegations such as smear campaigning before the EC votes on sanctions. Sepe said he is speaking out because he doesn’t want any problems with the process in the future, and he wants campaign rules to be better advertised to students to increase reporting of violations.

In a Thursday interview with The Heights, Guma said that he perceived the EC to be fair and to operate without bias. He noted that when his own team was penalized, the EC provided a chance to appeal the decision.

“[Our campaign] said from the outset, ‘We need to follow the rules strictly,’” Guma said. “I would just encourage teams in the future that run to make sure that they are careful because the rules are strict.”

In particular, Sepe and Bracher disagreed with the 40-vote deduction they received for “smear campaigning.” The Elections Code defines negative campaigning as “any personal attacks or insults that are not pertinent to the campaign. Objections to platform criteria are considered to be fair and are not considered negative campaigning.”

Sepe and Bracher’s team told The Heights that the smear campaign sanction was for a comment Bracher made during the final debate on Sunday night, criticizing Atinizian for one of his comments in a Heights feature. The EC did not respond when asked for what Sepe and Bracher were sanctioned for, and it declined to explain why this sanction was put in place after multiple requests.

“I would rather have [as vice president] someone who is a freshman, than someone who in their Heights exposé said that anyone who wants this position should not be someone who loves BC,” Bracher said in the debate. 

In the feature, Atinizian said students in UGBC shouldn’t love BC, because someone who loves BC and thinks it is perfect will think there is no room for improvement. Atinizian said that by omitting the word “perfect,” Bracher had misrepresented the context of his quote.

Bracher said to The Heights and in the appeal to OSI that he believed this comment was meant to highlight a difference between the two campaigns, and thus it does not meet the definition of “any personal attacks or insults that are not pertinent to the campaign.” 

After the alleged violation was reported to the EC, the EC said that it voted on the violation and the sanction with the oversight of OSI, per current policy, at which point Sepe and Bracher appealed, and the appeal was denied.

Sepe’s team also said that the reporting deadline should be extended, such as with a 24-hour window. They said they found other possible elections violations from other campaigns, but the EC could not rule on these because they were reported after the 5 p.m. election-day deadline.

Jack Miller contributed reporting to this article.

Featured Image by Nicholas Newbold / Heights Staff

February 18, 2020

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