SGI elections reflect disorganization

Elections for the Student Government Inc. 2011-12 executive board were mired in scandal following the suspension of an entire slate of candidates.  

Multiple sources, including Darren Morton, the associate vice president for Student Affairs, confirmed that the FORCE, Focusing on Revamping the Campus Empire, ticket was suspended for allegedly violating a campaign rule limiting the placement of posters around campus.

Their opponents on the POWER, Producing Outcomes with Efficient Results, ticket were allowed to continue their campaign.

Both tickets were comprised of seven candidates, running for the positions of president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, as well as senators from the sophomore, junior and senior classes. Campaigning had begun several weeks ago, with two debates taking place last week.

Voting began March 29 at 12:01 am and will continue until March 30 at 2:00 pm.

The Torch repeatedly made efforts to speak to members of the SGI elections committee and the candidates, but reporters and editors were continuously rebuffed. Calls and emails to the offices of SGI went unanswered throughout the afternoon.

Candidates from both tickets were instructed not to speak to the Torch by members of the current SGI executive board and elections committee, according to Taryn Glynn, the chair of the SGI elections committee.

In a phone interview with the Torch, Glynn said that candidates were told not to speak to any Torch reporters. She also said that anyone running could not speak to “St. John’s media.” When corrected by an editor that the Torch is the independent student newspaper and not run by the University administration, she still refused to continue speaking.

The violations were handled by the elections committee, who did not answer the Torch when asked to confirm where the allegations came from.

Tami Telford, the vice president of SGI, denied that any ticket had been suspended when first asked about the incident. Katie Beckmann, the chair of the SGI public relations committee maneuvered a candidate with the FORCE ticket away from an approaching Torch reporter, in full view of a Torch editor, after word of the suspension broke.

Patrick Brewer, the president of SGI, emailed a brief statement to the Torch just prior to deadline.

“To be honest I’d prefer not to comment because some elements of the situation are still being examined,” he said. “The Elections Committee is being very diligent with its approach to any concerns that involve campaigning guidelines, and as such they are currently working on an extra level of confirmation for a few things.  Due to this pending nature I think it’d be best to let the Committee sort everything out first.”

Other sources, who would only speak to the Torch on condition of anonymity, said that both parties had received violations earlier on in the week, but were told that the errors could “cancel each other out.”

According to those same sources, POWER was cited for sending unsolicited emails to students through OrgSync. FORCE had been cited for having too many posters in certain locations, as well as campaigning in the residence halls, violating a newly implemented rule.

Several sources within SGI said that students had complained about receiving emails in previous years, which had led to stricter standards. They also stated that the elections committee wiped out the violation against POWER, saying that the use of OrgSync to reach out to students did not violate any campaign rules, since it was equal to using Facebook to promote their platforms.

The sanction against FORCE regarding campaigning in the dorms was reportedly going to be reviewed by Public Safety, in order to verify that the candidates entered the dorms, sources said.

After numerous attempts to confirm or receive a comment by phone, a Torch reporter went to the Public Safety office to verify what sources were saying. The Torch was asked to leave the Public Safety office by the officers present, who said they could not give out that information.

As part of having their campaign rights revoked, the FORCE ticket was absent from participating in the Storm the Ballot event that took place Tuesday, as witnessed by Torch reporters. They were also prohibited from doing any campaign work for the final 24 hours of the election process.

Morton said that he was made aware of all of the violations, but left the ultimate decision about suspensions up to the elections committee, which is comprised of members of the current executive board and other SGI members.

At press time, the FORCE ticket was still suspended from campaigning. Results of the election will be announced March 30 at 3:30 p.m. in the D’Angelo Cener Coffeehouse.

For continuing coverage of this breaking story, check out the Torch Web site throughout the week.