By Our Staff
The Student Association (SA) is a student government body founded in 1973 at Binghamton University following the dissolution of a joint student-faculty association meant to oversee student organizations. It is the primary organization responsible for funding hundreds of clubs and associations on campus, while simultaneously providing legal protection to student organizations. Despite regulating many student organizations, the SA is not a part of the University; on their website, they disclose that they are an independent association. Nevertheless, Binghamton University has maintained its relationship with the SA for nearly fifty years. As one would expect, the presence of such a group means that students are able to become actively involved through elections by the student population into important positions in the SA, such as through positions on the Eboard, the SA Congress, and the Judicial Board. Recently, an election was held to determine which students would fill these positions for the upcoming academic year. However, in correspondence with several anonymous witnesses, it would appear that there were certain oversights made by the SA and the Election Committee in regards to the most recent election, including the breaking of SA policy during the election and the filing of grievance reports afterward.
The start of this controversy occurred on March 6th, at the start of the SA election. During this early campaign period, many candidates promoted themselves on various social media platforms, such as Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, as well as placing flyers advertising their position. This is a perfectly acceptable practice; according to SA Management Policies, candidates are afforded $54 of SA funds to get the necessary materials for their campaign, such as posters, promotional materials, and flyers. However, it is important that such promotions, be it online or physical posters, are solely of the candidate. If a current member of the student government, such as a person on the Executive Board, were to appear on promotional material for a candidate, this would be an endorsement of the particular candidate. Policy IV, Section 13 of the Management Policies document for SA states, “As bodies themselves the Student Association, the Executive Board, Congress, its committees, and the Judicial Board cannot support a particular candidate.” This policy was put in place to prevent conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, this policy appears to have been broken during the most recent election; Presidential candidate David Hatami and Executive Vice Presidential candidate Sakib Choudoury appear to have cross-endorsed in multiple posters and social media posts. This, however, presents a conflict of interest, as David Hatami was already a member of the Executive Board (as Vice President of Multicultural Affairs) and Sakib Choudoury was the Chief of Staff for VPMA as well Vice Speaker of Congress. According to reports, there are also emails sent to various clubs using the specific titles of their acceptance of the cross-endorsement despite the conflict of interest, violating Policy IX, Section 3 of Management Policies. An anonymous source claims that a grievance report has been filed in conjunction to these possible violations of SA Management Policy. It should be noted, however, that whatever issues may or may not have occurred, SA Congress has nonetheless certified the results of the E-Board election.
Further compounding these issues was how the campaigns were handled towards the end of the election cycle. According to an anonymous source, the SA Judicial Board and Election Committee had not responded to a filed grievance report following the above incident, only calling for an official meeting after the Dean of Student Affairs was notified. This resulted in a Student Congress being called, lasting a total of 3 hours. Additional grievance reports have also been filed to the Judicial Board in regard to a sudden policy change preventing students from campaigning, both in-person and online, on the last day before the election. Sources report that this change was made in response to the pandemic. An anonymous BU Council candidate labeled this change as arbitrary, and told us that such a change is unprecedented. In response to this, Speaker Ross Mesnick stated that although many had disagreed with this sudden change in rules, the Election Committee was autonomous in providing their own interpretation of election rules due to the pandemic. We reached out to both the Chief Justice of the Judicial Board, Emily Xu, and Chair of the Elections and Judicial Committee, Megan Fey, regarding the elections, but they declined to comment at the time of writing.
Binghamton Review respects the anonymity of its sources and will maintain the confidentiality of these people. Students have a right to know what is going on with their student government and deserve a clear and transparent SA. We hope that the SA will be able to clarify the concerns provided by the anonymous sources.