To the Editorial Board of the Michigan Daily:
Your editorial published on April 2, 2014 (From the Daily: Focus on the issues) is filled with inaccuracies, misguided judgments and ideas that threaten the foundations of student governance.
We’ll begin the inaccuracies. Your article reads, “Individual candidates who receive 10 or more demerits and entire parties that receive 28 or more demerits are automatically disqualified from the election.” False. Individual candidates who receive 5 or more demerits and entire parties that receive 10 or more demerits are automatically disqualified from the election. I would be curious where you came up with 28 demerits — one hopes it was a typo on your part and not actually the carelessness to not check the election code.
The very next sentence reads, “Alleged violations are reviewed by the Central Student Judiciary, which assigns any applicable demerits.” Again, wrong. Violations and demerits are determined by the University Elections Commission. Decisions made by the UEC can be appealed to the Central Student Judiciary.
Finally, your article asserts the executive candidates for FORUM last year “received a majority of votes” but were disqualified. Well, no. They received a plurality of votes. Does your editorial board own a dictionary?
These inaccuracies do not fundamentally undermine the rest of your assertions, but they do demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the system you critique. An embarrassment for a student paper that prides itself on accuracy, and it sheds doubt on whether you understand the electoral process for your critiques and suggestions to hold any merit. I contend they do not.
Let’s move on to the misguided judgments. You article asserts that because “four new complaints were filed” over the weekend, “CSG is obviously not capable of monitoring itself.” That is actually exactly what CSG is doing here. Parties failed to adhere to the election code written by the CSG Assembly. Other parties monitor the behavior of those parties and they hold each other accountable. In this case, three parties failed to submit receipts for their expenses — a clear violation of the election code. And an important one, I might add, otherwise parties could lie about their expenses and spend outside the campaign finance limits. These are hardly insignificant charges. Even then, finding the parties guilty of failing to file receipts has no impact on the results of the election — at most, each party could have received four demerits, far short of the 10-demerit disqualification threshold. Clearly, these were not submitted to disqualify a party, but rather to enforce the code and set a precedent for future elections.
Furthermore, the Make Michigan team withdrew another complaint regarding improper use of e-mail privileges. President-elect Bobby Dishell said he withdrew the complaint because it would have had marginal impact on the election. The parties are not only monitoring each other, but monitoring themselves.
Your article also calls the disqualification of last year’s FORUM candidates a “debacle.” Again, I would call this a very misguided judgment. You essentially endorse allowing candidates to act in flagrant violation of the election code without any consequence. These are not “petty scandals.” They are violations of the election code that could significantly impact the results of the election. In order to maintain the integrity of the elections, there needs to be consequences for violating the rules repeatedly.
Finally, your article lands on a suggestion that would threaten the foundation of student governance on this campus. You suggest that a judiciary made up of faculty representatives monitor each election. Presumably, parties would still monitor the behavior of one another and file complaints. Those complaints would just be heard by a board of faculty representatives, rather than a board of students. What exactly would this fix? The “petty scandals” would still have taken place, the charges would still be filed, and the cases would still be heard. But instead of a board of students hearing the cases regarding student elections, there would be a board of faculty members. This could allow for extensive faculty influence over the CSG electoral process, essentially destroying the self-governance of students.
The faculty, the administration and the students are three separate pieces of the shared governance of the University. The student voice has already shrunk enough over the last decade; do we really need to diminish it further by allowing the faculty to control the student leadership?
Most of all, though, your article ignores just how well the system worked in this election. Make Michigan candidates Bobby Dishell and Meagan Shokar won the election by more than 1100 votes and will take office in two weeks. No candidates were disqualified from the election. The parties who violated the code accepted responsibility for their mistakes and accepted the (inconsequential) demerits that came along with it.
I look forward to the continued work of CSG over the next year, and I hope you offer more informed critiques of their work than this article demonstrated.
Michael Proppe is a Business senior and Central Student Government preisdent.