A candidate for the Weber State University student body presidential election filed a grievance that exposed larger questions regarding the election process. The WSU Supreme Court heard an appeal yesterday regarding the grievance and is still deliberating before it reaches a decision.
Presidential candidate Julia Saxton said she feels she has been treated unfairly during the election process.
Saxton filed a grievance against candidate David Wilson concerning his use of Costa Vida coupons on the back of his campaign cards. The Saxton campaign originally wanted to use Chick-fil-A coupons, but the Elections Committee said the value of sandwiches would be counted as a donation and couldn’t be used.
Members of the Saxton campaign said they have been treated unfairly in regards to the Election Committee’s decision to allow Wilson’s campaign request to be granted and theirs denied, and said Wilson’s coupons created an unfair advantage against all the other candidates.
The Elections Committee, consisting of co-chairs Kimberly Tribe and Mathew Glover, said Saxton’s request for Chick-fil-A coupons was unclear and the committee didn’t understand that she was asking to use coupons.
The committee responded to her grievance by stating no sanctions would be applied to Wilson because they gave him permission to campaign with coupons, and they determined the coupons’ value to be the cost of printing them.
According to Saxton, Wilson’s Costa Vida coupon’s fair market value exceeds the budget each candidate has to stay within bounds of, which is rounded to be about $1,500, or 40 percent of the tuition waiver the new president will receive.
Saxton appealed th decision to the WSU Supreme Court. Wilson testified that he went through all the “right channels,” thus his request was approved.
“It was something that was available to any candidate that asked,” Wilson said. “I think it’s also important to know that same coupon is available in the bookstore to every student every day.”
During the hearing, Saxton’s brother, Chase Saxton, also pointed out that the Elections Committee, according to the WSUSA bylaws, is supposed to consist of at least five students: four members and one chair. Tribe and Glover are currently the only members appointed to sit on the committee.
“We just want more clarity,” Chase Saxton said. “So many different rules are being broken right now. We just want clarification and want to know why we are still in the bounds of the rules, and no recourse has taken place.”
According to Tribe, she and Glover became aware their committee is too small on Wednesday.
“In regards to four members, it hasn’t just been the three of us running, just us,” Glover said. “We’ve included Aaron (Newman), Tara (Caputo) and Allison (Dunn) in our decision-making process. So, in the long run, there has been at least four people involved.”
Title V Section C: Elections Committee in the bylaws of the WSUSA constitution states: “The Elections Committee shall consist of at least four students in addition to the Chair who are not seeking candidacy for any elected office or supporting a candidate. The Elections Chair shall be responsible for appointing additional membership to the Elections Committee.”
“This was brought to our attention; it was something that was overlooked — oversight,” Tribe said. “And so we became aware of it yesterday, and we have been on the hunt to find people who are not explicitly supporting a candidate right now who would be willing to join.”
Brady Harris, president of the student senate, said it’s hard to find students who are completely unbiased to serve in the Elections Committee position. He also said that, in the past three years, the Elections Committee has never been fully staffed.
“Anybody could have caught it,” Harris said, “but then, it hasn’t been such a big deal in the past, so nobody thought much about it.”
Andrew Gardiner, the current student body president, said it was unfortunate that this happened. He said that, as students, this is a learning opportunity because these positions prepare students for the job force.
“We’re here to get experience; we’re learning,” Gardiner said. “We have advisers. Advisers overlooked it completely.”
Gardiner said that mistakes happen, and even Newman, the adviser for the Elections Committee, missed that there weren’t enough committee members. Newman is out of the office due to surgery and couldn’t be reached for comment.
“They will be fair,” Gardiner said. “The supreme court will make a ruling, and they interpret the constitution, and it will be fair. That’s why we have them.”
The WSU Supreme Court is actively deliberating the appeals filed on the grievances brought before the Elections Committee, and decisions will be posted on the windows of the Student Involvement and Leadership Office.
Sarah Kortkamp, an associate justice who sits on the WSU Supreme Court, said the court can’t make a decision and take action on the issue of the Elections Committee functioning understaffed unless a formal appeal is filed with the court.
“We are aware of other grievances,” Kortkamp said. “We will (address it) as soon as we get something formal asking us to address that.”
Saxton also said a Facebook page created Monday titled “Wildcats Say NO To Hulia Stache-ton for President” has hurt her campaign. Although the page has four likes, Saxton said she has received numerous calls and texts concerning it.
Saxton said the page included racial slurs and a picture of a troll doll that appeared to be Hispanic.
“I can’t accuse anybody, but I don’t know what justice, if any, or what recourse, if any, can be taken on that,” Saxton said, “because it has hurt my campaign at some point and my integrity as a candidate, and there’s nothing that I can do about it.”