By Jason B. Hogan
Presidential and vice-presidential Student Government Association incumbents Melissa Quintanilla and Priscilla Lopez were re-elected Friday. Both will serve during the 2013-14 academic year.
Quintanilla and Lopez won against Andres Holliday and Jeff Schnoor by a 230-133 vote. Elections Commissioner Jennifer Faubion said she hoped to have 400 votes, or 10 percent of the student population. The vote tally came to 363 students.
Faubion hoped more people would run which in turn could have impacted voting turnout.
“When you have more people running you have candidates going to students and saying, ‘hey vote for me,’” she said.
The elections began a week later than anticipated because no students volunteered for committee positions. A week into the elections process, Faubion was the sole volunteer but pushed forward because she said someone was needed to represent the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Council. During voting she received volunteer assistance from senators.
SGA’s leadership announcement was made during the concluding minutes of an open senator’s meeting. Elections were held April 15-18. The results were scheduled for release at 5:15 p.m. April 19. But the public announcement was delayed seven days to investigate a complaint.
Faubion said that it was her duty as elections commissioner to oversee a fair election. She opened the senator’s meeting by reviewing a complaint filed by Holliday against SGA adviser Jolene Des Roches.
During the course of the meeting, senators concluded that no infraction had occurred. While the original complaint was directed at SGA’s adviser, the association’s parliamentarian said the accusation was inaccurate and took the blame for breaking campaign rules.
The meeting was attended by senators representing the university’s three schools. Other student leaders attended, as well as staff members, including Melissa Mahan, vice president for student affairs.
Commissioner addresses complaints
The association’s campaign procedures and policies state that candidates “may not use any school budgets,” which includes office supplies such as paper clips or staples to make campaign posters or other self-promotional items.
Campaign guidelines stipulate that president and vice president candidates cannot spend more than $100. Those in the running are expected to fund their own campaigns and keep receipts for record-keeping.
In his complaint, Holliday cited the regulations complaining that Des Roches printed color flyers for other candidates to hand out. “It made it look like she was favoring one candidate over the other,” he wrote.
According to the complaint form, Holliday took issue with his competing candidates’ who he accused of breaking campaign rules.
Holliday also claimed misuse of supplies on the day of a public debate. Rules such as handing out flyers in specified areas were “neglected by the other candidates,” he wrote.
During the meeting, Quintanilla and Lopez were given three minutes to respond to the complaint.
Leaders resolve issue
Quintanilla and Lopez argued they had no direct involvement with the printed flyers Holliday referenced. Instead, they relied on social media outlets, including SGA’s Facebook page.
A brief discussion period followed. Senators listened as the association’s parliamentarian, Patricia Lopez, said she was the individual responsible for breaking campaign rules, not Des Roches.
She said she was unaware of the policy restricting school supply use for campaigning when she used school supplies to make promotional flyers.
Patricia Lopez, mother of then vice-presidential candidate Priscilla Lopez, said stress and excitement were reasons for creating promotional materials. The elder Lopez reminded the association that there is a mother-daughter relationship on SGA.
Candidates were asked to leave the room and senators were given five minutes to discuss and vote on whether an infraction took place. Both senators, Edward Rios and Brenda Garcia, voted no.
Faubion announced the senators’ conclusion, and that a new election was not necessary.
In an interview following the meeting, Holliday said he holds nothing against Quintanilla and foresees her leading the organization a long way. On the heels of that meeting he said he would take the opportunity to appeal the ruling.
Reached Monday, Holliday said he has since spoken with Quintanilla and although he stands by his complaints, the two agreed the organization should focus on the year ahead rather than on an appeals process.
Holliday’s running mate, Jeff Schnoor, was not present at the senator’s meeting due to a schedule conflict.
In a phone interview, Schnoor said he was just as dissatisfied with the election process as his running mate Holliday.
Schnoor said candidates were not allowed to disseminate campaign material, other than through social media, until 2:30 p.m. April 18, the day of the debate. He said, more than anything, “Everything was rushed. We should’ve had more time.”
Schnoor, who said he has served on other local student government associations, said he is accustomed to a longer campaigning period, between 15 to 30 days prior to elections.
Those who were present at Friday’s senator meeting said the meeting adjourned amicably. Following the decision, most of the discussion focused on how to improve elections procedures.
SGA adviser Jolene Des Roches said both SGA and campus activities board members are scheduled to hold a leadership training retreat this summer focused on organizational bylaws and developing best practices and standards.
For now, Des Roches said SGA’s primary goal is to re-establish its presence on campus and strengthen its foundation among the student body.
In an interview Monday, Faubion said she will resign as elections commissioner because she will be in advanced individual training in the Army Reserve for 19 weeks and five days.
“I want someone who will be following SGA all the way through,” she said.
Faubion said she was happy with the outcome overall and she hopes that SGA will have a great year with more forums.