SGA Elections Committee issues second demerit to Suchira + Paulina


The Student Government Association Elections Committee issued the campaign of Suchira Sharma and Paulina Ruiz, left, a demerit Thursday and dropped charges from two grievance hearings against the campaign of Alex Bender and Jake Grondin./Photos courtesy the Suchira + Paulina: “Believe in More” and ReNUal campaigns

By Alejandro Serrano, deputy campus editor

The Student Government Association (SGA) Elections Committee gave the Suchira + Paulina slate its second demerit point Thursday for libelous comments made by its campaign manager, despite both campaigns urging the committee to consider non-demerit sanctions.

Elections Committee Chair Alexander Carlin said the final vote on the matter was confidential because the committee deliberated in an executive session. The Elections Committee found campaign manager Collin Walter violated the SGA Direct Elections Manual (DEM) with his comments made at a previous grievance hearing because they were deemed to be negative—a repeated offense from the slate, which received its first demerit point Sunday for slanderous comments made by a then-campaign staffer on social media.

“That’s where we get the basis for the decision,” Carlin said.

At the end of Sunday’s grievance hearing, Walter alleged that Suchira Sharma’s and Paulina Ruiz’s campaign, Suchira + Paulina: Believe in More, stands with sexual assault survivors and that Alex Bender and Jake Grondin’s campaign, ReNUal, does not, according to opening statements at Thursday’s hearing.

ReNUal campaign manager Nathan Hostert filed the grievance against Suchira + Paulina on Tuesday.

“This comment by the opposing slate’s campaign manager is verifiably false, as Alex Bender and Jake Grondin have devoted themselves to standing with survivors of Title IX violations,” Hostert said during Thursday’s hearing at the Curry Student Center.

Hostert said Walter contacted him six hours after the comment and said that the comments were misrepresentative of the campaign.

In her opening statement, Sharma apologized for the comment, but said that Walter’s intent was not to supply false information and that he “genuinely felt” the statement was true at the moment.

Bender asked the committee to drop the evening’s second grievance hearing against Sharma and Ruiz’s campaign after the first hearing resulted in its second demerit point.

In an interview Friday morning, Bender said the campaign filed the grievance reports because ReNUal suspected the DEM had been broken and wanted further investigation for a fair election, but did not intend to disqualify the other slate. A slate is automatically disqualified if issued three demerit points, according to the DEM.

“Don’t get me wrong, we really want to win this election and we feel as if we have the best candidates,” Bender said. “But we didn’t want to win this way. We didn’t want to give the opportunity for a disqualification.”

Despite Bender’s request, Carlin proceeded with the second hearing, which addressed whether the Suchira + Paulina campaign disclosed, with a “paid by…” label, that promotional rack cards were bought with money from the Student Activity Fund.

Although the slate had not made the disclosure on the cards they used for two days, they said they tried to fix the issue once notified of wrongdoing. However, the campaign said at the hearing that they were unsure of how to fix the problem due to unclear wording in the DEM and lack of communication surrounding the issue.

“We were going along with past precedent, there was a lot of confusion,” Ruiz said at the hearing. It was never explained explicitly to us what needed to be done.”

Neither campaign introduced any witnesses or asked any questions during the cross-examination period. In closing statements, Bender said the slate stood by its opening sentiment not to pursue the grievance. Bender also called for SGA to come together to improve the DEM in order to prevent misunderstandings and issues from recurring.

The Elections Committee dismissed the charges brought up against the Suchira + Paulina slate, during that hearing, citing that although the campaign did violate the DEM, there was a lack of communication and confusion.

Sharma declined to comment further on the hearings.

“Everything was captured by our statements on the proceedings,” she wrote to The News.

The committee also deliberated to dismiss charges brought up against ReNUal in two other hearings Thursday. One was for an e-mail sent by an assistant dean to College of Engineering students notifying them of the SGA elections and another about e-mails sent by resident assistants to their residents notifying them of the election and promoting the ReNUal campaign, but signed by Bender.

All four hearings took place in the Curry Student Center, consecutively.