This time last month, it looked like a slate of reform-oriented candidates in student government elections at the University of Illinois at Chicago had swept the elections, taking three executive posts and six seats in the student assembly.
Then a few days later, all nine were disqualified after some students complained about an ice cream giveaway hosted on election day by the slate, called Students for Better Government.
Now, following an appeal and a review, the six students on the slate who won assembly seats have been reinstated. But the three executive council candidates remain disqualified and student leaders on both sides of the issue are expressing similar concerns about the review process.
“For me to feel that I’ve been given due process, the fact that this is being done behind closed doors … They don’t have any explanation of their determination, so it’s just really kind of questionable at best,” says Joel Ebert, one of the organizers of Students for Better Government.
Ebert ran for the student trustee position on UIC’s Board of Trustees, but was disqualified.
Bernard Mariano, who ran for undergraduate president, and Sean Murray, who ran for vice president, were also disqualified in the final ruling. The runners up in each of those three races will gain those seats.
Zachariah Wiedeman, who filed some of the complaints against Students for Better Government, and who ran in the election but did not win a seat, was also dissatisfied about the final outcome of the appeal.
“At first glance it seems a little inconsistent that they were giving different rulings to different people who were all involved in the same issue,” Wiedeman says.
Wiedeman and another student complained that Students for Better Government hosted a rally with ice cream and Red Bull giveaways for students who voted in favor of the slate while excluding competing candidates. Ebert has said the rally was open to anyone who wanted to participate.
The first hearing on the complaints lasted more than seven hours, until past 2 a.m. shortly after the election. The election commission, which is comprised of students, disqualified all nine Students for Better Government candidates with little explanation.
After hearing Ebert’s appeal, an appeals board passed the issue back to the commission and told the commission to reconsider its decision. But there was not a second hearing, and the commission again gave little reasoning behind its ruling.
Ebert and Wiedeman agree that the process wasn’t transparent enough.
“Now that there are a lot of problems, it has brought the process under scrutiny,” Wiedeman says.
He’s hopeful the next student government will tackle an overhaul of the election process.
And Ebert says he’ll stay involved, even if he doesn’t have a seat in student government.
“I don’t regret doing this,” he says. “I’m certainly glad we went through this process. I wish the results were different but I think everybody is working to make the university a better place.
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.