SA candidates fend off criticism as polls close on tense finish to election season

Media Credit: Grace Hromin | Senior Photo Editor

With allegations and rumors spreading about SA candidates on anonymous social media accounts through mid-week, candidates said the SA campaign had neared an ending with tensions running high.

The winners of this year’s Student Association elections will be announced Thursday evening, concluding a low-profile campaign season that ended with last-minute twists by the time polls closed Wednesday evening.

The Joint Elections Commission plans to announce the election results Thursday at 5 p.m., the maximum amount of time permitted by the JEC bylaws and a shift from past years when results were announced the night polls closed. The head of the JEC said the buffer would prevent mistakes, pointing to an error in preliminary results for a senate election last year, which was the first under new ranked-choice voting procedures.

An unusually low number of candidates has made the voting system less likely to be applicable this year. The campaign season had been low profile, with a record-low number of students participating in postering day and many student organizations not endorsing candidates until the day before the election.

Some student leaders had acknowledged the decrease in participation but rejected the premise that the change was negative at Sunday night’s debate.

But with allegations and rumors spreading about SA candidates on anonymous social media accounts through mid-week, candidates said the SA campaign had neared an ending with tensions running high.

Hours before the polls opened on Tuesday, last-minute candidate Andrew An launched a write-in campaign, saying he wanted to provide students with an alternative to the two candidates by avoiding the “scandals” and “drama” of the campaign.

SA presidential candidate Dasia Bandy released a statement on Instagram early Wednesday morning as students were casting their votes, apologizing for not addressing student concerns of sexual assault on campus but shutting down allegations of “falsehoods” against her character.

Student organizations have called on officials to call for Title IX reform, like participating in silent protests and hanging a clothesline project to signify students’ stories of sexual assault on campus.

Bandy pointed to the Instagram satire account, “gwheadlines,” which posted allegations of homophobia and racism against her. The allegations are attributed to anonymous messages submitted to the account, which appeared to be taken down as of Wednesday evening.

The owner of the account has not made their name public.

The account endorsed An, but he said on Wednesday that some members of the SA spread a “false rumor” that he was the account’s owner, which led to verbal and racially charged harassment from students. He said he’s communicating with officials about hate crimes that he has faced because of the rumors about him.

“I truly believe that I am being targeted for my race, and this rumor seems to be an outlet for that hate,” he said in a statement to The Hatchet.

Bandy denied the anonymous allegations against her in an interview Wednesday, saying they were a smear targeting her to bring down her campaign.

She said the posts pushed her to release the statement on Instagram, which she posted at about 4 a.m. Wednesday.

“It’s been very hard, but I try my best to not let it take over my entire experience because I do know that it is a bump in the road,” she said.

But Bandy did acknowledge the frustrations voiced by student activists campaigning against sexual assault in her statement.

Bandy said the four candidates running for president and vice president headed to Kogan Plaza Tuesday after a student had called on them to do so to discuss her concerns. Bandy said after the meeting, a student confronted the candidates about the lack of sexual assault issues on their platforms.

“I would like to apologize to any student who feels like they have been overlooked,” Bandy’s statement read. “Specifically, victims of assault.”

JEC Commissioner Trip Johnson said the group of candidates is “qualified” to lead the student government body.

“Criticisms have been made citing poor candidate turnout, and while the number of candidates running is lower this year compared to last, the quality of candidates did not decrease,” Johnson said. “We have seen first-hand, through campaigning and the debate, that these candidates are qualified to lead the next installment of the Student Association.”

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