March 10, 2005

Election Challenges Released

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The Cornell Office of Assemblies released Student Assembly, University Assembly and University trustee election challenges yesterday, revealing behind-the-scenes motions that dispute both of the major tickets’ claims to office.

A total of 20 election challenges were made available — 14 against members of the Students First ticket and six against members of the SixPac ticket.

Many of the challenges allege improprieties involving illegal postering, campaigning in dormitories without escorts and campaigning during non-campaigning hours, each of which is a violation of S.A. electoral rules.

Each year, challenges are a part of the election cycle.

“Every single year there are always a ton of challenges,” said Student Trustee Jackie Koppell ’05, director of the elections committee.

In a complaint filed by Grayson Fahrner ’08 against current S.A. Vice President Tim Lim ’06, Fahrner alleged that Lim violated Article 1 of the election rules with an e-mail he sent out to pledges at his fraternity. In the e-mail, Lim allegedly wrote that Fahrner had called Lim and his fraternity derogatory terms and said that Fahrner had been ripping down Students First campaign posters.

In an interview with The Sun, Fahrner denied the charges stated in e-mail.

Lim told The Sun that “The e-mail Grayson submitted as evidence … was illegally obtained. Grayson admitted to going through somebody’s inbox and forwarding the e-mail to himself.”

Lim stepped down last week as president of the Cornell Democrats after members of the group’s executive board accused him of breaches of ethical conduct. He has denied the charges and said he stepped down because he was tired of fighting rumors.

A challenge filed by Grace Pusavat ’08, alleges that a Students First candidate offered sorority “room points” in return for political campaigning.

The complaint alleges Michelle Fernandes ’06, current S.A. vice president of public relations, used her position as a sorority sister to give herself an “unfair advantage.”

Pusavat ran against Fernandes for the S.A. human ecology representative seat.

“The rights of Grace were stamped upon by Michelle, and Michelle’s actions did not allow the election process to take place in an open and fair arena,” the complaint states.

“Michelle’s actions did not respect the rights and privileges of her pledges in her actions,” the complaint continues.

The complaint claims that Fernandes violated Article 1 of the S.A. election rules.

Pusavat’s challenge was also signed by a pledge of Fernandes’ sorority, Alpha Chi Omega. The person who signed the document supporting Pusavat’s claim told The Sun that she was “coerced into signing it.”

“I’m the only source whose name they were able to give, and I was told that it was anonymous,” she said.

Fernandes said the charges against her were false and “based on hearsay.”

“[The pledge] didn’t know what she was signing,” she said.

Fernandes also said Alpha Chi Omega neither gives room points nor hazes its pledges.

She said that she will file charges with the Judicial Administrator today, alleging that SixPAC supporters harassed her pledges in order to get them to sign the complaint. She says that several other pledges from her sorority were approached to sign the complaint but declined.

“The reason [the complaint] got me so mad is it defames my house and it was false,” Fernandes said.

Jenna Odett ’07, president of Alpha Chi Omega, said “The allegations that we gave room points for voting for Michelle are completely false.”

“Alpha Chi Omega had a chapter meeting on Sunday where Michelle Fernandes introduced herself and described the platform of the Students First ticket and asked for support from our new members,” she said.

“She asked permission from myself to do so; I supported her. We wish her the best of luck,” Odett added.

In a complaint filed by Fernandes against Pusavat, Fernandes said that the “Vote SixPAC” group was “slanderous” to her and her running mates.

In her complaint, she wrote that the group “compar[ed] Student’s First [sic] to Students Cursed.” Fernandes also claimed that the Facebook group said that the Students First ticket was a “legacy ticket” and that the Students First ticket “put the Class of 08 Last.”

Pusavat declined comment for this article.

In a challenge against Fernandes filed by Mazdak Asgary ’08, who is running on the SixPAC ticket, Fernandes is accused of neglecting her duties as vice president in regards to the S.A. elections.

The duties are cited from the S.A. charter and include editing an S.A. newsletter sent over e-mail to the entire undergraduate student body three times a semester, consulting “the Director of Elections regarding elections’ advertising” and arranging “all advertising, postering, bannering, etc.” “Perhaps Michelle did consult with the Director of Elections for elections’ advertising,” but she did not follow through with it,” the complaint reads. “There was not an advertisement in The Cornell Daily Sun, despite the fact that money was allotted for it. This was a responsibility that Michelle blatantly ignored. There was also no postering or advertising of any other type for the spring 2005 elections.”

The complaint alleged that, “Because Michelle turned her back on her responsibilities, the spring 2005 elections were not well advertised, and this resulted in many uncontested elections.”

In a complaint filed by Randy Lariar ’08, a member of the Students First ticket, against Joe Rudnick ’08, a member of the SixPAC ticket, Lariar alleges that Rudnick exceeded his campaign budget with the purchase of a vast quantity of condoms.

“Use of condoms far exceeds fair market value spending limits. If I had wanted to do the same thing,” the complaint states, “I would have been limited by spending requirements.

The complaint was accompanied by a print out from, which advertised 500 Trojan brand condoms for $100, including shipping. The complaint claimed that Rudnick received 450 condoms. The campaign spending limit, according to S.A. election rules, “may not exceed the $50 limit for out-of-pocket expenses and fair-market value of donations of materials, professional services, and/or money.”

“The beauty of the internet is that you can find basically anything,” Rudnick said. “One of those sites sells 1000 condoms for $79. That basically clears up any allegations that I overspent.”

Rudnick also said that he only used about 370 condoms during his campaign.

The elections committee is comprised of Koppell; Erica Kagan, S.A president ’05; Josh Bronstein ’05, vice president of S.A. finance; Toby Lewis ’05, minority liaison of the S.A.; and Chris Baxter ’05.

Koppell said that the committee had not finished hearing all the allegations last night and would reconvene at a later undecided date.

Archived article by Michael Morisy
Sun News Editor