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CSG, RSG tussle over ballot question in upcoming election

By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published November 25, 2012

With the November Central Student Government election fast approaching, CSG officials filed a preliminary injunction with the Central Student Judiciary to keep a survey question off the ballot designed to gauge graduate student interest in Rackham Student Government seceding from CSG.

Officially filed Wednesday — just six days before the start of the election, which runs online from Tuesday to Thursday — the injunction argues that RSG has violated parts of its own bylaws and CSG's governing documents in its attempt to put the question on the ballot, in addition to other more general violations.

The non-binding ballot question asks if graduate students would like RSG and other graduate student organizations to look into the possibility of seceding from CSG. However, if such a vote does occur, it’s unlikely the results will immediately be made public.

CSG represents every student on campus, and individual schools and colleges have their own student governments. In September, RSG voted to create an exploratory committee to investigate student interest in graduate student secession from CSG.

At the time, RSG president Michael Benson said an all-graduate student government, which would split the representation of more than 40,000 students on campus into two major student governments, could also result in the splitting of the $7.19 student fee that students pays each semester. Secession could result in CSG losing hundreds of thousands of dollars it typically receives annually.

CSG alleges in its suit that RSG — which submitted the question on Nov. 15, 12 days before the start of the election — did not follow its own rules or CSG's rules for when a ballot question needs to be submitted for inclusion on the ballot.

According to the CSG Compiled Code segments cited in the suit, ballot questions must be submitted 25 days prior to the election and the RSG bylaws cited in the suit state that ballot questions must be sent 14 days prior to an election.

“Twelve days is simply not enough time for adequate campaigning to take place,” the suit states. “Furthermore, this smoke and mirrors approach by the RSG board to place the language on the ballot on its first read, while violating the deadlines, almost amounts to election fraud.”

CSJ chief justice Ryan Gersovitz, a University Law School student, said in an interview Saturday that discussion of the injunction is speculative at this point, but if CSJ isn’t able to render a decision by the time the election commences, the results of the poll could be withheld pending CSJ’s decision.

“We’ll probably talk with the parties and figure out the best thing to do,” Gersovitz said. “I can only speculate, but maybe that would just mean that instead of enjoining (the question) being on the ballot, we would enjoin the release of the results until after so that way we could have the hearing on Tuesday or Wednesday for instance, which would give Rackham a little more time to prepare.”

Gersovitz said withholding the results of a vote would ensure that if CSJ sides with RSG, midterm ballot results would still include responses to the ballot question, rather than removing the question entirely and delaying a vote until next semester. He added that if CSJ sided with CSG, it would most likely state that the question wasn’t “properly” put on the ballot, and RSG would likely alter the question for next semester’s ballot.

Still, Gersovitz stressed that this case has no bearing on whether or not graduate students will able to secede.

“None of these claims are saying that Rackham can’t secede,” Gersovitz said.

CSJ is only scheduled to have a closed-door meeting on Monday, but Gersovitz said the group isn’t planning on scheduling the hearings at that time.

“Part of it will be (dependent on) how prepared the Rackham Student Government is,” Gersovitz said.