Hearing Board keeps election punishment decisions under wraps
Published: Thursday, March 7, 2013
Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 19:03
Campaign grievances are nothing new to the Associated Students of Utah State University; 11 were filed in each of the last two student government elections. What the Hearing Board at USU does with those grievances is a bit of a mystery to those outside the closed doors of the senate chambers.
There is no paper trail available to the public regarding Hearing Board election grievance meetings — a matter involving nearly $70,000 in public scholarship money at USU.
“They make sure all details, everything that was said in the grievance meeting is all confidential,” said Doug Fiefia, who was elected ASUSU president despite a number of grievances filed against his campaign. “They shred all of the papers.”
Fiefia said he never personally saw any grievance notes shredded and was told not to publicly discuss the grievance process.
Fiefia will be awarded $6,000 in his newly elected position. Between the students elected to the various positions of leadership in ASUSU, a combined $69,400 in scholarship and stipend money will be awarded for the 2013-14 school year, according to the official elections packet given to candidates.
Members of the Hearing Board — seven students drawn from a Hearing Board Pool selected by the ASUSU President — can also be called to serve on the Honor Board to hear issues of academic integrity violations and discipline ASUSU officers.
Eric Olsen, associate vice president for student services, said he doesn’t see a difference in between the two types of hearings in terms of how accessible they should be to the public eye.
“Just the nature of what they’re doing in my mind falls under how we handle other grievances at the university,” Olsen said. “Whether it’s an employee grievance or an academic citing grievance, all of those things are closed and private. The outcomes are not, and in this case, the outcome — a disqualification — is public. But how (the Hearing Board) got to that, currently we do not believe is public.”
Krysten Deschamps oversees the Hearing Board as part of her responsibilities as
student conduct coordinator and assessment specialist. Deschamps said she trains the Hearing Board members to make sanction decisions based on the ASUSU elections bylaws.
“The bylaws do not state if X violation occurs, then Y sanction will be applied,” Deschamps said. “The Hearing Board has discretion to determine if a violation was committed, and if so, what the sanction will be.”
During this year’s elections, the Hearing Board fined Science Senator candidate Kellie Erickson $50 after a grievance was filed against her for campaigning in a campus classroom.
“It was because I stood up in class and said ‘Hey, elections are going on, you can read platforms and bios online, but I can’t really say much more than that so you guys should all vote,’” Erickson said. “I thought I was being pretty neutral when I did it, but I was found to have broken an election rule by campaigning in the classroom.”
Erickson ran against Zach Anderson, who said two grievances were filed against his campaign to become Science Senator. One grievance was filed because one of Anderson’s advisers sent an email that said Anderson was running and encouraged students to vote. The second was for announcing his candidacy much like Erickson said she did. Anderson was disqualified from the race.
“When the opportunity presented itself to get up in front of a classroom, I didn’t think twice about it,” Anderson said. “I thought (the Hearing Board would) be a little more understanding, but they weren’t. They obviously disqualified me. I thought at most I’d have a few votes taken away because it was an honest human mistake, but they treated it much more seriously than I had.”
Fiefia however, was elected ASUSU President despite a number of grievances filed against his campaign — he said he thought there were four or five.
“I lost 30 votes in one of them and I couldn’t use an electronic device during one of the days of campaigning,” Fiefia said. “Other ones were dismissed and that was the only one I was penalized for.”
Luke Ensign, who ran against Fiefia, said his campaign filed a single grievance against Fiefia early in the race because of concerns about handing out fliers off campus.