Editorial: The Beacon lauds ASUP Elections Committee

By The Beacon | March 29, 2017 9:27pm

Elections Committee Members from left: senior Anthony Ng, junior Connor Burke, freshman Victoria Beccar Varela, senior Stephanie Tucker and junior Annie Rodriguez. Not pictured: sophomores Terrance Lewis and Kelsie McKee, junior Katie Bronk and senior Kevin Troung. 

Media Credit: Clare Duffy / The Beacon

Former ASUP Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates Tsikata Apenyo and Abby Sherman were disqualified from the ASUP election on Monday. The Elections Committee, comprised of nine students appointed by the Senate, completed an in-depth investigation which is available to the public in the form of a 20-page report.

The Beacon editorial board commends the Elections Committee for their extensive investigation into the campaign violations of ASUP presidential and vice presidential candidates. This demonstration of ethical fortitude goes a long way in holding our student body, especially our student leaders, to high standards.

“We spent all of (last) weekend deliberating on it,” said Victoria Beccar Varela, a freshman organizational communication major who chaired the committee.

It’s not an easy job to keep your coworkers, maybe even your friends, in check. It’s also sometimes easy to shirk responsibilities with no bylaws or set guidelines in student government. But 20 pages of details, screenshots and timestamps show a group of people who care in a world that so frequently feels apathetic.

Whether or not you agree with the decision to disqualify Apenyo and Sherman, this is a feat of ethics and accountability. While many UP students were partying in the UP neighborhood this weekend, a number of them were exercising their integrity and putting hours into this report.

The Beacon would like to especially commend Beccar Varela. As a new student not only to Senate, but to campus, Beccar Varela has shown tremendous bravery in her pursuit of the truth. As journalists with the same ultimate goal of pursuing truth and holding power to account, we applaud her efforts fervently.

Beccar Varela’s political adventure is far from over. There will certainly be critics (we understand that, too). Flack is always going to follow you when you have uncomfortable conversations about uncomfortable truths.

“It is not a happy decision to make, it’s not an easy one. It’s been really difficult and it has weighed on us emotionally,” committee member Stephanie Tucker said. “No one wants to be the one to make those decisions but we did our job to the best of our ability.”

Committee member Anthony Ng said the committee pursued this course of action because of potentially detrimental outcomes for ASUP in the future.

“We decided we had to take a stand at this election and let the student body know that this is not acceptable,” Ng said.

Perhaps, there were events and actions in this ASUP election that left room for ethical interpretation. It’s never easy to be the guardians of these interpretations.

Despite the fact that this responsibility was new to all of them, committee member and junior Annie Rodriguez says that they made it clear to all the candidates that they “wanted it to be a clean and ethical campaign.” Junior committee member Connor Burke explains that "even before the candidates start campaigning, we let them know what they can post on social media, what they can put around campus.”

Burke told The Beacon that the committee directly informed each candidate that they would be watching for misconduct.

The Committee also issued sanctions against former candidates Jimmy McLaughlin and Moises Lemus.

Since there is no set of bylaws for the committee to abide by, Rodriguez says they used the Elections Committee Oath, detailed in the report, as a “guiding force” in their investigation, which they led independently from either pair of candidates.

Beccar Varela says that when students ask committee member questions about the investigation and disqualification, “we’re going to answer them honestly and with transparency.”

Alex Peterson, chair of the Oversight Committee which approved the disqualification decision, commends Beccar Varela’s leadership: “It so clearly demonstrates the accountability and professionalism that we’ve been talking about building in Senate all year.”

Peterson held up the report and said, “This is accountability.” The Beacon editorial board agrees.