Elections Board: Our Resignation Letter
The SGA Elections Board is a committee of students, faculty and non-voting administrative staff who volunteer in an effort to regulate and to safeguard the integrity of the SGA election process. The Elections Board undertakes this task with the utmost seriousness, and its sole focus is on fairly upholding the provisions of the Elections Manual each year. The core purpose of the Elections Board is to enforce the rules and regulations in place in order to ensure a fair, transparent and legitimate election. To the extent that anyone – faculty, staff, students, or alumni – fails to respect these rules and this committee, we set a poor example for our University, and undermine its ideals. Even more seriously, we fall into the danger of making a mockery of the democratic process itself.
Unfortunately, the Spring 2017 election cycle presented an unprecedented degree of precisely this kind of dangerous disrespect. In particular, the Elections Board was confronted with a number of significant complaints concerning the SGA presidential race, especially concerning Jared Hunter’s conduct throughout the campaign. These complaints included, among others, violations associated with his failure to complete community service obligations by their assigned deadline, and his public acknowledgment of his endorsement by Theta Nu Epsilon, a.k.a. “The Machine.” The Board investigated these matters diligently, deliberated over them thoroughly, often for hours on end, and considered a full range of sanctions. But due to the significance and volume of these matters, especially in conjunction with other violations, and consistent with Article IV of the Elections Manual, the Elections Board ruled to refer all issues to the Office of Student Conduct (OSC) for a full investigation. A detailed account of our deliberations can be found on the UA Student Government Association Facebook page.
During the summer months, OSC reviewed all evidence gathered by the Elections Board, as well as additional evidence gathered by the OSC itself. Mr. Hunter was given due process, and was given the chance to accept responsibility for his actions. OSC has now completed its investigation, and under the provisions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), its rulings must remain confidential.
Put simply, the matter is this: With all due respect to Hunter, and also to our administration, we are dismayed at the blatant disregard and disrespect for the rules during our last election cycle. Hunter’s violations were numerous and serious, and for that reason the Elections board in the end voted unanimously that the sanction of disqualification be applied. But given the gravity of that decision, the Board was persuaded to defer the case to OSC for review. Unfortunately, Hunter seems ultimately not to have faced any real repercussions. If the conduct and the violations at issue in this cycle can be allowed to stand without any meaningful consequences, why then do we have an elections manual, or indeed an Elections Board at all?
The lack of respect for fair elections is particularly frustrating given the many long hours that our predecessors and we have put into ensuring a fair process. This is to say nothing of the University's vigorous and public embrace of the Capstone Creed: “As a member of The University of Alabama community, I will pursue knowledge, act with fairness, integrity and respect; promote equity and inclusion; foster individual and civic responsibility; and strive for excellence in all I do.” These are noble ideals, and we should all live up to them. A new class of freshmen this year will memorize the Creed, but sadly, they will also learn of the great distance between its ideals and the conduct of our most recent SGA elections.
We want to be very clear: We have the utmost respect for the ideals of our administration, our Greek system, our Student Government Association and our faculty, staff and students generally. We also want to point out that our University and SGA have the tradition, the visibility, and the power to set an example for excellence. Precisely for that reason, the Elections Board has worked hard to uphold a strong, transparent and ethically sound elections process. And precisely for that reason, we must point out the failures of our community in this egregious case. Moreover, we must charge our community – current office holders, future candidates, the university administration, and alumni alike – to recommit to these ideals. Concretely, we call on our students, in and beyond the Greek system, to denounce corruption when they see it. We also call on our community to hold its current SGA president accountable, and we challenge him to account – voluntarily, but fully and also publicly – for his actions. Finally, we challenge Theta Nu Epsilon to follow its own candidate's lead, and to end its charade of secrecy.
We believe there is no place for corruption, coercion or secrecy in democratic elections, and that our student leaders must be given a fair chance, through fair and legitimate elections, to create change on this campus. Sadly, our experience as a Board has caused us to lose faith in the possibility of that fair chance. We do not believe the Elections Board, in the current climate, to be a viable entity for ensuring genuinely fair elections.
For that reason, as our last official act, and in protest of the injustices allowed to stand during the Spring 2017 election, we the 2016-2017 Elections Board unanimously resign, effective immediately.