How 15 minutes became 12 hours: Eavesdropping on the aftermath of the CSG elections

Alden Reiss/Daily
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By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
and Andrew Schulman, Daily Staff Reporter
and Austen Hufford, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 27, 2012

Last Wednesday, midnight: The online polls for Central Student Government president, vice president, assembly representatives and Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee are activated. There are six parties running for CSG president.

Do you think Parikh and Hashwi should have been disqualified from CSG elections?


Later that day School of Social Work student Victor Andrews, the president of the School of Social Work Student Union, sends out an e-mail to 21 listservs in support of Business junior Manish Parikh and LSA sophomore Omar Hashwi, independent candidates running for CSG president and vice president.

LSA senior Katy Tylus of youMICH and LSA junior Robert Bowen of OurMichigan both file complaints with the University Elections Commission that allege Andrews’s e-mail breaches the CSG election code because Andrews doesn’t own the listservs that received the e-mail. The two grievances are combined into a joint complaint against Parikh.

Later, Andrews tells us he had no idea his e-mail would launch the longest night in the history of the UEC.

“I'll never send an e-mail that'll do anything like that ever again,” Andrews says.

Thursday, 7:30 p.m. The hearing against Parikh and Hashwi is scheduled to start.

7:32 p.m. Parikh arrives two minutes late to the CSG offices on the third floor of the Michigan Union.

Shortly after 7:32 p.m. Andrews arrives to testify. According to Andrews, Parikh said he would only need to be there for less than a half-hour.

“Man, 15 to 20 minutes turned into 12 hours,” Andrews tells us later.

9:49 p.m. First-year Law student Betsy Fisher, a friend of CSG election director Peter Borock, also a Law student, is studying at the Law Quadrangle when she gets a call from Borock asking her to defend Parikh and Hashwi in a hearing.

“I was vaguely aware that the CSG stood for Central Student Government,” Fisher tells us. “I’d never seen the CSG elections, certainly never the composite code with all the election rules.”

But Borock pleads with her over the phone, swearing that the hearing could not continue without her. Fisher relents.

9:55 p.m. Fisher’s at the Michigan Union now, racing to the third floor, where Parikh and a few members of his team are leaning over a table strategizing.

Borock, shuttling between hearings, hands Fisher a copy of the election code with the provisions in question highlighted.

“Read this,” Fisher recalls Borock telling her. “I’ll get back to you and tell you when we’re ready to start.”

10 p.m. The UEC, composed of Borock and Law student Ezra Geggel, LSA senior Anne Laverty, Business senior Matt Eral and Rackham student Elson Liu, goes into the first of two closed-door deliberations to decide the extent of coordination between Parikh and Andrews.

11:30 p.m. LSA sophomore Chris Mays, a member of MForward and a candidate in the LSA-SG elections, arrives at the proceedings to support Hashwi.

“It was kind of like a theater,” he says, referring to how crowded the squat, square hearing room was.

11:45 p.m. When the UEC returns from its closed-door deliberations, it becomes clear that the election results will not come out at midnight.

11:48 p.m. A full public hearing commences. Andrews is called back to testify.

The commission asks for definitions and personal accounts. It scrutinizes Parikh and Andrews's relationship. It questions Andrews’s authority to use the listservs in question.

Friday, 12:18 a.m. Questions and testimonies are repeatedly pored over, as the UEC looks for for any detail that could have been missed.

Andrews later told us the memory that most stuck with him was the way he was treated during the hearing.

“They tried to belittle my name,” Andrews said. “I didn't like that.”

1:45 a.m. The hearing is still in full force.

CSG program manager Anika Awai-Williams announces that the hearing will need to move to LSA-SG’s offices in Mason Hall because the Union closes at 2 a.m.

1:47 a.m. With a brief respite for chatter, UEC, Parikh and the prosecution pack up. In the hallway outside the hearing room, Parikh, Fisher and their team swipe gray T-shirts from a box on the floor and don them for the walk over to Mason Hall.

“There was a box of free t-shirts outside on the third floor, and about half the crew just grabbed one and changed because we were all so hot and sweaty,” Fisher said. “It was funny — by the end of the night about half the room was in the same t-shirt.”

2 a.m. The trial resumes, with Andrews offering testimony and Bowen and his counsel escalating their aggression toward him. Mays recalls feeling secure that the trial would end within an hour or two.

“We got into the LSA-SG and I was assuming, ‘OK, they’re going to wrap this up, closing arguments and stuff, and then we’ll be out of here by the end of the hour,’ ” Mays said. “I was certain about it.”

3:30 a.m. An hour and a half later, the UEC recesses to private deliberations. The time compounds the onlookers’ exhaustion.

After the UEC members excuse themselves, people begin sleeping — on couches, on the floor and on the tables. Someone orders a pizza, and the room empties the box within a half-hour.

In the midst of sleeping bodies strewn on the floor, futile attempts at late-night studying and tired musings on the elections, the word “clusterfuck” is added to the lexicon to describe the night.

LSA junior Sean Walser, the MForward chairman, was one of the interested parties attending the proceedings.

“I heard (clusterfuck) a lot of times … Nobody really knew what was going on,” Walser said. “It was mass chaos.”

4:30 a.m. Food is passed around. First Swedish Fish, then Doritos. “Call Me Maybe” plays in the background. The theme song of “The West Wing” starts before someone plugs their headphones into their laptop.

5 a.m. The UEC is still in deliberations, and Mays and the rest of the room find their patience disappearing.

“It just went on for so long that people started getting cranky,” Mays said. “People were like, ‘I have an exam at 10. Why don’t you just tell us the election results?’ People were getting frustrated. I was getting frustrated because I was thinking, ‘They could’ve done this tomorrow or something like that. They could’ve done that later on.’ ”

6:35 a.m. “They’re coming!” someone shouts. “... in 15 minutes.”

6:50 a.m. Mays and Hashwi announce the UEC has ended its deliberations. Within seconds, Mays recalls, the room wakes up.

6:51 a.m. The commission marches in — bloodshot eyes, somber faces.

Borock starts to speak. He begins by telling Parikh the court is “not very happy with your actions.”

Soon after, the court unanimously votes that Parikh had committed a “major violation” of CSG code when he authorized Andrews to send out e-mails to the School of Social Work.

In a 5-1 decision, the court rules that the punishment would be two demerits per e-mail – 1,068 demerits in all.

Five demerits disqualify an individual candidate from running in an election.

7:10 a.m. Borock mentions that the UEC could also assess different numbers of demerits based on extenuating situations, such as “mitigating factors, extreme circumstances, or a lack of intent.”

The participants in the room await the decision with bated breath.

7:11 a.m. In a 3-2 vote, the commission awards Parikh four demerits due to “mitigating factors.”

Borock says that the UEC finds Parikh's actions to be in a sliver between the rules told to him the rules written in the code.

“We found a violation ... just on that border,” he says.

7:12 a.m. Parikh and Hashwi slowly digest what is said. They are not being disqualified.

But 10 and a half hours after the polls closed, the election results are still unknown.

10:30 a.m. Borock sends out an e-mail to the CSG presidential candidates announcing Parikh and Hashwi's victory by a margin of 146 votes. Business junior Shreya Singh of youMICH comes in second.

The commission, unknowingly, has decided the CSG presidency by a 3-2 margin.

More than 8,000 students voted for CSG president, but only one vote decides the final verdict.

Parikh and Hashwi slump back in their chairs and look to the ceiling. Parikh said he feared that everything — the campaigning, the speaking, and this "movement which was returning the student government to the students" — could disappear.

"It felt terrifying that all of that could be washed away with the vote of one human being, one election commissioner," Parikh said. "We're both extremely relieved."