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Elections Committee, Losing UGBC Pres. and VP Team Address Election-Deciding Sanction

A 25-vote deduction made the difference in the UGBC election Monday night when Jordan Nakash and running mate Yosan Tewelde lost after originally receiving 11 more votes than the winning team. 

But after appealing the sanction—which they received for violating campaign policy by posting a video endorsement from two Division I lacrosse players on Instagram—the pair was told the deduction would be lowered from 25 to 10 votes. If true, they would have won the election instead of Jonah Kotzen, MCAS ’24, and Meghan Heckelman, LSEHD ’25.

“What is disheartening about the sanction is that we were told after our appeal was filed that it would be reduced to a 10 point deduction but were then later informed that the sanction could not be reduced and the initial 25 point deduction remained in effect,” Nakash, MCAS ’24, said in an email to The Heights. “This is despite the fact that precedent had been set last year with the same infraction costing one of the candidate’s a ten point penalty.”

The Elections Committee only deducts votes for a level three sanction, which occurs if there is negative campaigning or a team receives sponsorships from University programs or BC student organizations within the Office of Student Involvement, according to the Elections Committee UGBC Campaigning Code. The baseline penalty is five negative votes, but the committee may increase it at its own discretion.

Matt Razek, associate director for student programming and primary advisor to UGBC, said in an email to The Heights that when he first reviewed Nakash and Tewelde’s sanction appeal, he changed the number of deducted votes from 25 to 10. 

“Initially, I had responded to the appeal changing the sanction itself (from 25 to 10 votes) to be consistent with similar situations in the past,” Razek said in an email. “However, the Election Committee reminded me that as the individual hearing the appeal, I am only able to respond to the rendering on the violation and not on the sanction associated with it.” 

The Elections Committee also said in an email to The Heights that Razek responded to Nakash and Tewelde’s appeal without the committee’s knowledge, knowing that lowering the number of deducted votes would change the final outcome of the election.

“While the committee deliberated on sanctions and negative votes prior to learning the election outcome, or how close the totals were, the Associate Director [for student programming] responsible for reducing the negative vote total did so while knowing that negative twenty five votes would change the outcome and negative ten would not,” the Elections Committee said.

Razek said his decision regarding Nakash and Tewelde’s appeal was made independently of the election’s outcome.

Nakash also pointed out that Kudzai Kapurura, MCAS ’23, and Caleb Wachsmuth, MCAS ’24—two of last year’s presidential and vice presidential candidates, respectively—saw only 10 of their final votes deducted for also violating endorsement policy. 

“Had they only deducted the 10, the result would have been different,” she said.

According to the Elections Committee, Kapurura and Wachsmuth received a 10-point deduction for posting an endorsement on Instagram from Phil Jurkovec during their election last year. But, the Elections Committee said the two lacrosse players in Nakash and Tewelde’s post had a “heavier influence on students” compared to the former quarterback’s endorsement last year, which is why there was a higher vote deduction.

The committee added that Nakash and Tewelde ultimately received a higher penalty for posting their endorsement on election day, unlike Kapurura and Wachsmuth, who posted their video several days before.

“The Elections Committee reviews complaints submitted on elections day after campaigning has ended, and thus because the endorsement could no longer be removed during a campaigning period, the committee unanimously agreed that this endorsement would require a higher deduction of votes than last year’s,” the Elections Committee said. 

The Elections Committee also noted that the lacrosse players in the endorsement video explicitly quoted Nakash and Tewelde’s slogan “Unite the Heights” and were the only ones featured in the post, whereas Kapurura and Wachsmuth included both Jurkovec and Kapurura in their sanctioned campaign video.

“The lacrosse girls appeared alone, only identifying themselves as part of the team and as supporters of the campaign,” the Elections Committee said. “For this reason, we found it necessary to raise the vote deduction amount, given our findings that this would bear a heavier influence on students as compared to last year’s endorsement.”

Though the Elections Committee does not explicitly outline endorsements from student-athletes in its 2022–23 campaigning code, the committee categorizes Boston College Athletics as a “University program,” thus prohibiting candidates from accepting its endorsements.

The committee cited the BC Athletics website, which states that “Boston College student-athletes have a unique platform to further the University mission, ‘Men and Women for Others.’”

The committee also said according to Section F of its campaigning code—Violations, Complaints, and Sanctions—it is allowed to “review and investigate complaints at its discretion in order to determine whether candidates are adhering to reasonable campaigning practices.”

Regardless of the sanction, Nakash said she and Tewelde accept the election’s results and know Kotzen and Heckelman will do well as UGBC president and vice president. 

“We congratulate Jonah and Meghan and we know they will do a great job leading UGBC,” Nakash said. “We are happy to know that we did win the popular vote and it was a sanction that in fact caused our loss.”

April 5, 2023