By Anthony Navarrete, Staff Writer
The Student Government Association election will conclude today as planned despite a formal complaint filed this week by one of the presidential tickets against the other, which ended on Wednesday with a review committee investigation.
On Monday afternoon, SGA presidential candidate Thao Nguyen and running mate Emily Larkin filed a formal complaint against presidential candidate Jordan Ojile and his campaign for slander and defamation with Dean of Students Christine Schneikart-Luebbe and said they wanted the Ojile-Liu campaign to forfeit its candidacy.
Their complaints focused on Snapchat posts made after the debate by Ojile and his would-be treasurer Caleb Limes that said Nguyen and Larkin believed that commuter students do not matter.
Nguyen and Larkin said in their complaint that the posts were untrue and violated Newman’s official election code of conduct.
But a seven-person committee made up of faculty, staff and students said in a statement that while it believed the Ojile-Liu campaign violated one election code of conduct regulation by “electioneering or campaigning either for or against any individual, either verbally or in printed form,” the comments made “did not meet the threshold of defamation or slander.”
They recommended no action be taken.
The disagreement started on Monday, when Ojile posted on his Snapchat story a screenshot of a picture of Nguyen and Larkin with a caption that said, “If you’re a commuter apparently you don’t matter (laughing emoji) vote Ojile and Liu.” Limes made a similar post.
In an emailed statement, Ojile said that after the debate, he heard from commuter students who said they felt “marginalized” by comments made by Nguyen during the debate.
Ojile appears to be referring to an exchange in which he advocated for moving on-campus events to earlier in the day to increase commuter involvement on campus. Nguyen responded by saying he disagreed and thought that moving events would not be fair to athletes who might have practice at those times.
Ojile said that he immediately took the Snapchat story he posted after the debate down at the suggestion of Schneikart-Lubbe.
He said that Schneikart-Lubbe offered the two campaigns the option to sit down and talk it out, which he was willing to do, but that Nguyen and Larkin declined and opted to have the committee investigate.
“I was under the impression that this would be the end of the complaint, so I was dismayed but not surprised when they decided to pursue it,” he said in the statement.
Ojile also said that he considered Nguyen and Larkin to be his friends.
“I believe this statement was said out of nerves and the high tension of the debate,” he said. “I know Mr. Nguyen values commuters.
In the initial complaint, Nguyen and Larkin said they were afraid the Snapchat posts could affect how Newman students voted.
Nguyen released a statement on Monday night stressing that he himself is a commuter student.
“As a first-generation college student with three siblings, I have not had the financial resources to live on campus the past three years. I have always wanted to live on campus and have that experience but since I can’t, I want to be able to make living on-campus the best experience for those who are able to,” the statement said.
On Wednesday evening, Nguyen responded to the committee’s findings.
“My ticket and I are glad the election’s committee reviewed the complaint. For us, it was most important that both tickets carried themselves with class and mutual respect throughout the election process,” he said.
Schneikart-Luebbe said a top priority for next year is to “create a more robust set of election rules and regulations from which to work in the future.”
Today is the last day of voting in the election, and polls will close at 5 p.m. The winner will be announced at 8:55 a.m. on Friday at Jet Friday.
PHOTO: THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE was held on Monday at noon in the Mabee Dining Center. Courtesy photo, Newman Advancement