Opinions, Editorials

Elections Committee Needs To Revamp Its Sanction Policies and Election Day Process

Following its disorganized supervision of this year’s UGBC presidential and vice presidential election, the Boston College Elections Committee needs to overhaul its sanctioning process and reassess its election day protocols.

In this year’s UGBC presidential election, Jonah Kotzen, MCAS ’24, and Meghan Heckelman, LSEHD ’25, defeated Jordan Nakash, MCAS ’24, and Yosan Tewelde, MCAS ’24 by a margin of only 11 votes. Had the Elections Committee not deducted 25 votes from Nakash and Tewelde, the two candidates would have won by 14 votes. The deduction changed the result of the election. 

The 25-vote sanction Nakash and Tewelde received was “for violating campaign policy by posting a video endorsement from two Division I lacrosse players on Instagram,” according to a statement the Elections Committee gave The Heights following the election. 

But in the 2022–23 Elections Committee UGBC Campaigning Code, no rule explicitly bans endorsements from student-athletes. Clause 1.B.ii states that “candidates may not be endorsed by recognized BC student organizations (RSOs) within OSI, or University Programs.” 

By sanctioning Nakash and Tewelde on the basis of an endorsement from two student-athletes, the Elections Committee is effectively making the assumption that two athletes speak on behalf of the entire University lacrosse program. The policy—almost improvisationally applied to both this election and the 2022 UGBC election—limits athletes’ freedom of expression as students at BC. The committee should permit individual athletes to make endorsements.

Moreover, the size of the sanction did not make sense. Aside from setting a baseline sanction of negative five votes for endorsement policy violations, the Elections Committee does not provide a predetermined standard for vote deductions. These deductions and the reasoning behind them are not easily accessible to students, and they are only made public after The Heights requests them. 

The committee set a precedent in 2022’s UGBC presidential election, deducting 15 votes from one ticket after it posted a student-athlete endorsement with former starting quarterback Phil Jurkovec. In ballooning the sanction by another 10 votes during this year’s election, the committee disregarded this precedent. 

Its justification for the higher sanction was that the two lacrosse players had a “heavier influence on students” than Jurkovec. This conclusion was in part based on the fact that the video of the lacrosse players featured only them—they identified themselves as lacrosse players and supporters of the campaign, specifically stating the team’s slogan. In comparison, the Jurkovec video featured both him and the presidential candidate, and he did not explicitly state he was a football player. The Elections Committee also stated that this year’s endorsement violation was posted on the day of the election, while last year’s was posted a few days prior.

Overall, this distinction is slim, and the impact of the two videos is debatable. Jurkovec played a very public role at BC and has thousands more social media followers than the two lacrosse players combined. As such, the committee’s justification for docking more votes this year is not entirely logical.

The Heights recommends that the committee build a rubric that better outlines sanction sizes for certain types of prohibited endorsements.

A section should also be added to the Code of the Elections Committee explaining how it operates on election day. This should include an explanation of how the committee responds to appeals, as well as the addition of a standard procedure for the way in which winners will be announced. 

After initially learning about the 25-vote deduction, Nakash and Tewelde were told that the penalty would be lowered to 10 points following an appeal. That did not happen. This serves as one of several examples of the tone of disorganization and lack of consistent communication that characterized the committee on election day. 

This marks the second time in the last four years that an Elections Committee sanction changed the results of a UGBC presidential election. The last flip occurred in 2020, when Christian Guma, BC ’21, and Kevork Atinizian, BC ’22, were elected UGBC president and vice president after the committee deducted 65 votes from their opponents. After the election, The Heights Editorial Board called on the Elections Committee to create clearer guidelines. In the three years since, the committee has not moved far enough.

Finally, the faculty adviser of the Elections Committee, Matt Razek, also oversees UGBC. This is a clear conflict of interest. The Elections Committee should be an entirely independent organization with a distinct faculty adviser.

As two of the last four UGBC elections have shown, the Elections Committee can and will change the results of UGBC elections through its vague and inconsistent campaign sanction rules. The Elections Committee would better serve the student body if it reframes its sanctioning process and election day protocols.

April 16, 2023