Nine of the winners of the recent student government election at the University of Illinois at Chicago have been disqualified because of issues related to a recent ice cream giveaway.
After a nine-hour hearing last week, the student-run Election Planning Committee voted to disqualify all nine candidates on the Students for Better Government slate, says Joel Ebert, who was part of the slate and was to become the student trustee to the university’s the Board of Trustees.
The disqualification was based on complaints about how the group campaigned at an election rally two weeks ago. The group set up tables with campaign materials and freebies, including ice cream and Red Bull enegy drinks.
Zachariah Wiedeman, a senior who was also running in the election, alleges that the election-day ice cream event amounted to electioneering. Students allegedly got free snacks after voting at nearby booths set up by Students for Better Government, he says.
“My concerns were that the election rules and university policies were being broken,” Wiedeman says.
In particular, the student group supplied its own ice cream and drinks and did not get them from Sodexho, UIC’s food service provider, Wiedeman says. In addition, Wiedeman said that when the group filled out a form to register for the rally, it suggested the event would be nonpartisan.
Ebert, on the Students for Better Government slate, said the rally was open to all competitors.
“They were out there promoting the Students for Better Government candidates, but also there were some competitors … that got up on the microphone and spoke about their candidacy,” Ebert says. “Nobody was really discouraged from really being involved in the event, candidates for SBG or not.”
The Students for Better Government slate has appealed the ruling disqualifying their wins, arguing that the disqualification decision wasn’t conducted openly. Ebert says he doesn’t know when the student-run appeals board will make its decision.
If the disqualifications stand, the runners up in three races – undergraduate president, vice president and student trustee on the university’s board of trustees – would assume those posts. The other six candidates ran uncontested for seats in the 40-member student assembly.
Some candidates might be offered seats on the assembly anyway because the races were uncontested and the seats would otherwise remain empty, says Wiedeman, who currently sits on the assembly.
“My hope would be that we can extend the olive branch and the invitation to some of the disqualified individuals,” Wiedeman says.
Sean Murray, who won the race for undergraduate vice president as part of the SBG slate, says his group ran a “great campaign,” even given the complaints against it.
Murray says he’s hopeful about the group’s appeal. “As far as appeals go, I believe ours is definitely strong.”
Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.