Executive ticket challenges alleged bias within Elections Committee, decides not to pursue $100,000 lawsuit
Adam Hatefi, a third-year political science major, and Shreya Deshpande, a third-year cognitive science major, were running mates on The Golden Slate’s executive ticket for the positions of ASUCD president and vice president ticket. Deshpande and Hatefi have been disqualified from the Winter Elections.
On Feb. 9, the pair was notified by the Elections Committee that they had been disqualified from running in the Winter Elections due to Deshpande’s absence from a mandatory Candidate Workshop held by the committee on Saturday, Feb. 3. Absence from the mandatory workshop is not considered a violation point but an immediate disqualification from the race.
“We weren’t notified that there was an investigation or that the Elections Committee was even discussing it — which, by the Bylaws, we were required to be discussing it and we weren’t before the decision was made,” Hatefi said. “We were supposed to be interviewed before the decision was made, none of those things happened.”
Hatefi and Deshpande appealed their disqualification to the Judicial Council, providing a doctor’s note from Deshpande explaining her absence from the workshop. The Elections Committee, however, believes Deshpande to be at a dance competition at the time of her doctor’s note.
“Adam and Shreya were disqualified for violating ASUCD Bylaws Section 403(A)(a)(iv), attendance at the mandatory candidate workshop,” said Elections Committee Chair Naeema Kaleem said via email. “Only Adam was in attendance, and due to Shreya’s absence, their ticket was automatically disqualified as a whole. Shreya attended a dance competition in Atlanta, Georgia, when her medical note to the Elections Committee stated she would be returning home (Fremont, CA) for a reevaluation. There was no investigation needed, as this case was an automatic disqualification as specified in the Bylaws.”
Hatefi, however, disagreed.
“There is no evidence that Shreya was not at the doctor as she was supposed to be at time of the workshop,” Hatefi said. “There is no link between the dance competition at night and a workshop in the morning.”
Hatefi emailed Elections Committee Chair Naeema Kaleem a day before the appeals hearing, notifying her that he would be filing a lawsuit against her for $100,000. The grounds of the lawsuit were relating to an an alleged failure by Kaleem and the committee to follow ASUCD Bylaws during the process of the executive ticket’s disqualification.
The appeals hearing was scheduled for Tuesday, Feb 13. It was announced as a closed hearing and, in response, several students — including ASUCD Senate candidate Ben McDougall, a second-year undeclared major, and ASUCD Senator Andreas Godderis — organized outside of the hearing’s proceedings in the Moss Room of the MU calling for transparency.
“They shouldn’t have put [Hatefi] on the brink,” McDougall said.
McDougall referred to perceived biases from the Elections Committee toward other candidates — particularly candidates of the Unite! slate who have relationships with students already working within ASUCD. McDougall said the committee is trying to keep Hatefi out because he is an “outsider.”
The organized group of students outside of the appeals hearing began as a sit-in but escalated to chanting when Kaleem exited the Moss Room for a 10-minute break. A group of around 10 students demanded transparency from the Judicial Council. Current ASUCD Vice President Adilla Jamaludin approached the protestors, reprimanding them for their presence and instructed them to cease chanting and file any complaints they had.
The hearing concluded as it began, privately. A final decision to affirm their decision of disqualification was decided later that same day, citing Deshpande’s doctor’s note as an insufficient excuse of absence. Deshpande was placed in Atlanta, Ga. at the time of the meeting on Feb. 3 by the Judicial Council in their rejection of the appeal and upholding of the disqualification.
“A doctor’s note was submitted to the Elections Committee; however, none of the dates that the Petitioners claimed Deshpande to have seen her doctor aligned with the date of the mandatory candidate workshop, and testimony given by the Petitioners affirms that Deshpande was in Atlanta, GA during the workshop,” the ruling states.
Hatefi later notified Kaleem via email that he would be dropping the $100,000 lawsuit, even though, he said, “what you did during the last couple of months was enough for us to win in court without much effort.”
Hatefi will be appealing further to the Judicial Council Oversight Committee.
In response to allegations of bias toward Unite! slate candidates, Elections Committee chair Kaleem said via email, “The Elections Committee has acted in accordance with all ASUCD governing documents. Any speculation of conflicting interests can only result from slates and their penalizations for violating the ASUCD Bylaws, which is a more accurate depiction of the slate as a whole, rather than the Elections Committee. Questions of personal bias from the Elections Committee Chair are untrue and irrelevant rumors, as no personal relationships nor friendships have affected any decisions made by the Chair or Committee.”
Judicial Council Chair Ryan Gardiner defended the council’s impartiality in their decisions, pointing out how no frustrations about alleged biases have been brought forward as an official complaint.
“Complaining about bias after a decision has been made, and never seeking to utilize the mechanisms in place to deal with alleged bias, seems to me like someone is grasping at excuses because they didn’t like a particular ruling,” Gardiner said via email.
Unite! slate executive candidates Gofman and Branson responded to claims which allege they have received biased support from the Elections Committee and Judicial Council during their campaign. In their response, they addressed the disqualification of Unite! senatorial candidate Colin Heurlin and violation points distributed to other Unite! candidates as a rebuttal of said insinuations. Heurlin was disqualified because he was not physically able to attend the mandatory workshop, as he is currently partaking in the UCDC program.
“This is all to say that there cannot be any conflict of interest between the Elections Committee, the Judicial Council, and our slate,” the joint statement from Branson and Gofman said via email. “Any claim that states otherwise, we believe is being done so for personal and/or political advantage and it is extremely disheartening that these allegations are being put forth let alone that they exist at all.”
Written by: Elizabeth Mercado — firstname.lastname@example.org