Candidates speak out about allegations lodged at opponents
overnment candidates whose campaign manager has filed a suit with the USG Judiciary challenging the legitimacy of their opponents' ticket spoke out about the case, saying they aren't happy with the direction it's headed.
Kevin Alvarez, a senator who filed a case last Thursday alleging student body president candidate Carlyle Bethel and his running mate David Rifkin-who both currently serve as USG senators-violated the organization's elections policies by accruing absences from meetings that are deemed mandatory in USG bylaws.
The judiciary will likely hear the case later this week, and results from the campus-wide vote will be withheld until a decision is made. If Bethel and Rifkin are found guilty of the charges, they will likely face disqualification from the race.
Alvarez serves as the campaign manager for presidential candidate Mark Sargent, a senator and External Affairs Committee chair, and his running mate Claire Price, the current USG comptroller. But Sargent and Price made comments Friday suggesting they were not involved in building the case against Bethel and Rifkin.
"It's hard to say we don't support Kevin (Alvarez) because he is affiliated with our campaign, but at the same time I don't necessarily agree with his actions as of right now," Price said. "We're not really happy with the turn of events, we want to focus primarily on putting our strengths forward and focus on winning on those strengths and not the weaknesses of others."
Price said she and Sargent first heard about the allegations after Alvarez had already filed the case with the judiciary.
"I think a lot of people initially thought that the case was connected to our campaign. I just wanted to clarify that Claire and I had nothing to do with this case at all," Sargent said. "We didn't come here to win because of a case. I was part of an election last year where we won, but got disqualified."
Sargent is referring to his run for USG vice president last year alongside presidential candidate Shiv Gandhi-the current speaker of the senate-who was disqualified after the judiciary found his campaign team guilty of violating canvassing policies outlined in the USG elections packet.
Bethel also stated that he does not want the election to end in a disqualification. In an interview last Friday, he said, "It has been a culture in USG to strip the student body of its voice and strip this campus of democracy by taking every election to the court and allowing five people to decide the outcome of the elections, and we hope to avoid that this election.
"I don't have perfect attendance, as most senators don't, but David (Rifkin) and I have been very dedicated to student government and have served to the best of our abilities," Bethel said.
But Sargent and Price said they do not plan to intervene in the case in any way, and they do plan to keep Alvarez on as campaign manager.
"All of these people came to us to volunteer for us and said, 'We want to help you because this is an issue that's important to us,'" Sargent said. "We didn't think this (case) was going to happen. We support the idea that senators should be held accountable for their basic duties as members of this organization (...) Going forward, we plan to focus on the campaign and letting every student know what we're about."
Price added that she agreeswith the sentiment behind Alvarez's case, but regretted that the timing and targeting of the case made it seem like a political ruse.
"If Kevin feels something isn't right, he's going to stand up for it. I value that in him," Price said. "But at the same time, we're trying to protect the value of the election because it does seem very political.
"There was nothing we could have done," she said, referring to the filing of the case.
The USG Senate recently approved changes to its elections policies that may affect the case. In December, the Elections Oversight Committee proposed implementing a new sanctioning system for candidates who are found guilty in judiciary proceedings. While candidates previously faced disqualification for any policy violation, the amended rules allow the judiciary to issue warnings and disallow use of USG resources during the campaign.
However, that same round of amendments included a clause stipulating all judiciary hearings must take place outside of the voting phase, which ends today at 5 p.m. This means ceasing USG resources for the campaign will not be a viable sanction, as the hearing will not likely be until Thursday when campaigning will be long over.
But the case submitted by Alvarez invokes not only campaign violations, but violations of USG's bylaws as well.
The USG Elections and Campaign Policies state: "A candidate currently serving in the Undergraduate Student Government is required to fulfill all responsibilities required of his or her current office, including attendance at any meeting of the Undergraduate Student Government that he or she is required to attend."
The bylaws also state that missing more than two senate meetings are grounds for dismissal from the organization at the discretion of the speaker. The case submitted by Alvarez last week alleges both Bethel and Rifkin "have been absent unexcused from at least three meetings of the Undergraduate Student Government (this semester)."
Official meeting minutes obtained by The Daily Campus can confirm two absences from formal senate meetings by Rifkin and one by Bethel.
Speaker Gandhi would not comment on the case, but said removing senators for absences is not currently a priority of his. In October last year, Gandhi did remove three senators from their posts after each accrued more than two absences, but no senators have been ousted since.
Price said had Rifkin and Bethel been in this position in October last year, "they would have been removed. There's no doubt about it."
Voting for USG president, vice president, senate seats and ratification of proposed amendments to the organization's constitution can be completed at vote.uconn.edu until 5 p.m. today.
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