Student Court reinstates senator accused of over-spending

After the Student Association election earlier this month, all of the undergraduate senate seats belonged to students who ran on one slate: the Student Union.

Junior Matt Cohen was the lone non-slate member who was elected, but less than a week after the election, the oversight body revoked Cohen’s victory for spending too much money during the campaign.

Last week Cohen (SoB-U) regained his “senator-elect” status following a unanimous decision by the SA Student Court overturning the Joint Elections Committee’s initial decision to out him.

“In a nutshell, justice was served,” Cohen said. “I hold no hard feelings against (the JEC).”

According to the opinion, released by junior Chief Judge Ryan Sullivan, the Court said the JEC ruled in an “arbitrary, capricious and irrational” manner when the election governance body disqualified Cohen after he was elected. The Court cited Ferguson v. JEC, which allows the Court to “overturn decisions using the arbitrary and capricious standard.”

The JEC disqualified Cohen, the only undergraduate independent who won in the senate election in early March, for surpassing the $500 senatorial campaign-spending limit on a school bus rental, according to the JEC report. Cohen said that he split the $360 bus rental fee equally among four other candidates, including SA Executive Vice President-Elect Brand Kroeger.

The Court opinion indicated that the JEC had a misunderstanding with respect to who paid for the bus and mistakenly pinned the entire charge of the bus on Cohen, which put him past his spending threshold. Kroeger and Wilkinson filed their reports incorrectly and Cohen filed his correctly.

“With all of this evidence, it is clear to the Court that it was Mr. Cohen who filed his financial report correctly, rather than Mr. Kroeger and Mr. Wilkinson,” stated the Court opinion. “The JEC’s action of ignoring Mr. Kroeger’s and Mr. Wilkinson’s testimony saying that they incorrectly filed their financial forms and actually did split the costs with Mr. Cohen is such an arbitrary and capricious decision that it caused them to abuse their sanctioning power.”

Jeff Goodman, the JEC investigator who represented the JEC before the court, said the JEC did not act in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner and acted within its boundaries.

The Court overstepped its boundaries,” said Goodman, a senior. “The Court showed a true ignorance to what its true purpose is. The court is not supposed to act as a higher JEC.”

Cohen said that the JEC “deserves credit” for its work during the election, but was restricted by a lack of knowledge in financial reporting.

Cohen and Goodman both agreed that changes must be made to the JEC to prevent similar problems next year.

Kroeger, the chairman of the Senate, said that he will work with next year’s Senate to make these changes.

“We are going to take a different look at these elections,” said Kroeger, who also won the election as an independent.

After Cohen’s reinstatement, he once again became the only independent in a Senate dominated by former Student Union slate members.

“It is a good thing to have an independent in the SA and something to be pushed for,” Cohen said. “The slate tactics can get people elected, but it’s a political machine on campus.”

With its decision made, the Court has lifted its injunction on the certification of the election results for the School of Business SA Senate race. Cohen and SA Senator Nathan Brill (SoB-U), a junior, will both receive seats to represent the School of Business in the SA.

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