COURTESY OF/STUDENT GOVERNMENT INC.
The election for Junior Senator, won last Thursday by Atem Tazi, was marred by accusations of negative campaigning on a student-run website and social media.
However, Student Government Inc. (SGI) told the Torch they had no evidence “directly or indirectly” connecting the winning candidate to the posts.
Screenshots of the website obtained by the Torch show that it featured an opinion-based article about losing candidate Anthony Savino’s use of derogatory language in years-old social media posts.
Another screengrab of the website shows digital campaign posters of Tazi and Larissa Kukapa, the incoming Junior College of Professional Studies representative.
Tazi and Savino declined to comment for this story and Kukapa did not return a message seeking comment. But SGI president Chiara Miuccio said both Tazi and Kukapa told them that they “did not sponsor any article or website.”
SGI advisor Jack Flynn referred the Torch’s questions to SGI’s Elections Committee, which is responsible for ensuring candidates follow guidelines and can issue potential violations—including potential withdrawal from a position.
That wasn’t warranted here, SGI said.
SGI’s Elections Committee Chair Cooper Miqueli said they “did not have evidence to determine that Atem and Larissa were either directly or indirectly responsible for negative campaigning.”
That puts to rest rumors of negative campaigning that swirled among the student body while voting was taking place.
Posts circulated among dozens of students on Twitter regarding their comfort level voting for Savino in the wake of published screenshots of tweets from his public account three years ago. These tweets included derogatory language from three years ago and his support of President Donald J. Trump from the past year.
Part of the problem for SGI was its inability to prove that the candidates whose digital posters appeared on the website had anything to do with it.
Miuccio, the current SGI president, said it’s possible that students who created the website post about Savino may have simply taken the posters in support of Tazi and Kukapa from their social media without their knowledge.
Miuccio said SGI has previously never dealt with an outside website posting negative information about a candidate, making this an unprecedented example of possible negative campaigning.
To illustrate the more common definition of negative campaign, she cited an incident from two years ago between the CORE and ICE tickets. According to Miuccio, the CORE ticket campaigned with the slogan, “Don’t slip on ICE.”
Miuccio is confident that all the candidates played by the rules.
“The Elections Committee did an exceptional job at ensuring that all candidates abided by our elections rules,” Miuccio said. “Candidates for both the executive board and representative positions campaigned in accordance with SGI policies.”
One student on Twitter also expressed concern that his posts about Savino would lead to SGI reporting him to Student Conduct. But Miuccio said SGI didn’t report anyone because they “can’t control what students say on social media.”
Miqueli, the Elections Committee chair, said they “can only issue violations to candidates who are running in the SGI election, not to people speaking about those candidates.”
Teresa McNamara, the associate director of the Office of Student Conduct, said the University “expects all of its students to use social media responsibly, and not to abuse or harass fellow students.”
She added that students can file a complaint to the Office of Student Conduct and if a student is found in violation of the Student Code of Conduct, they would be sanctioned. Examples include formal warning, fines and disciplinary probations.
McNamara declined to comment on any specific case, citing student privacy.