March 25, 2014

Haven Elections Postponed Due to Community Unrest

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By NOAH RANKIN

Executive Board elections for Haven, the LGBTQ Student Union, were cut short Tuesday after arguments erupted over presidential candidates, in an environment that several students described as “unsafe.”

Tensions arose after one student — Adam Jaani ’14 — was ushered out of the Willard Straight Memorial Room by Haven advisors after breaching the “community norms” set at the beginning of the elections.

“The election process was poorly organized, leaving students feeling unheard,” Jaani said.

The presidential elections, which drew over 100 students, were structured so that each of the three candidates — Bailey Dineen ’15, Haven vice president, Mo Cliffstone ’15, facilitator for Peer Educators for Gender and Sexuality, and James Dominic ’16 — had the opportunity to speak about their platform, followed by a question-answer period and a “community conversation” with a strict five-minute time limit for each candidate. Students, however, continued to speak out after the time limit, causing at least one student to be asked to leave by advisors. The elections were officially postponed after the presidential vote ended in a tie and unrest continued.“The elections got to a point where it wasn’t about the candidates.” — Jadey Huray ’14

“There was an escalation in the lobby between the candidates, and then there was more escalation in the memorial room while the e-board was in conversation [after the vote],” said Carol James, an advisor to Haven. “Candidates were being put on the spot and put in a position where they were pressured into making a decision right there, which was not fair or just.”

The tie had occurred between Dineen and Dominic, according to James. Dineen, who had been in the race for several weeks, called for Dominic to resign on account of only joining the race the day prior, citing a lack of experience.

Dominic, on the other hand, was endorsed by current Haven president Jadey Huray ’14 for bringing a platform that she said would provide “unity” for the organization. According to Huray, the other candidates and some of their supporters represented an ongoing “fragmentation” of the community.

“The elections got to the point where it wasn’t about the candidates as much about who you came to support and what political ideologies you had. I think that’s where it became exceedingly problematic,” Huray said. “I think what happened and how it blew up just demonstrates the sheer fragmentation of the community.”

Other students said they were bothered by the way the elections were handled by Huray and the advisors.

“I think situations like these show a fundamental flaw in election structures that invite students to come vote. While ideally it portends to be democratic, in reality it ends up being a popularity contest that I think is biased,” Anthony Santa Maria ’14 said. “I hope that in the future there is a more in-depth selection process that is more comprehensive of applicants’ skills and experiences.”

A main point of contention was the short amount of time for discussion of each candidate, which some students felt was “silencing.”

“The way that they were allowing certain people to speak and certain people to not speak necessitates that some people to vocalize, if they’re not gonna be granted a mic,” Tyler Lurie-Spicer ’15 said. “In one instance, a person went up to [the advisors] and asked to speak at the microphone because he had a personal issue, and they said no, so he asked me to speak out. I think the way that the space works is that it is further marginalizing those who don’t have access to the mic.”

Huray defended the rules that were set for the elections, saying that the community norms balanced “efficiency and effectiveness with providing dialogue.”

“I tried to stress the importance of integrity and the importance of leaving biases at the door, regardless of who you came with,” Huray said. “But it clearly turned out that people ignored that, and that they came in with their own biases and prejudices and perpetuated them. I think there was a lot of contention that people were being silenced — but it’s not as much silence as due process, as much as the fact that we tried to be conscious of time.”

James agreed, though mentioned that the uproar may have been inevitable.

“The community rules and asking people to abide by those was definitely part of that structure that we wanted to keep people safe, both emotionally and physically,” James said. “Given the reality of the three candidates running for president, I don’t know that there’s anything we could have done differently that would have changed this particular outcome. We did our best to create an environment where people could vote and speak and move Haven forward.”

Betrearon Tezera ’14, however, said he thought the fact that a student was ushered out by advisors, with police officers stationed outside of the memorial room, was not evidence of a safe environment.

“I am personally offended and I feel personally violated. What happened here is akin to police brutality. We were policed not only by our voices, but by our bodies,” Tezera said. “I completely respect community rules, but I hold as a primary community rule that nobody should touch another person’s body without permission. That is a violation, and that is what happened. And I am incredibly embarrassed by the way things were handled.”

James defended her decision asking Jaani to leave and said he was never physically touched or pushed.

“We asked people to live by the community norms, and I said that people would be asked to leave if they didn’t,” James said. “And he was not living by community norms, so we asked him to leave.”

Juray said she was “appalled” at the way the elections ended, calling divisions among the Haven community “toxic.”

“Today, all people have seen is their own ego, their own entitlement [and] their own beliefs about what their community should be,” Huray said. “Instead, it should be a conversation. It should be a dialogue, and I feel that people were such hypocrites today, and that truly disappoints me and hurts me. Honestly at this point, I don’t feel safe moving forward.”

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