USG Senator alleges presidential candidates violated bylaws
With student elections only days away, a formal case - which challenges the legitimacy of the Carlyle Bethel/David Rifkin Presidential campaign - is in the beginning stages of filing with the judiciary committee.
The sole petitioner in the case is Kevin Alvarez, a 4th-semester political science major and two-time USG senator, alleges the senators violated the organization's bylaws by having unexcused absences from USG meetings. He has begun the process of filing a case by submitting a letter outlining evidence and accusations of wrongdoing to the Judiciary Committee. He alleges that both Rifkin and Bethel have violated Sections 2 and 3 of the Undergraduate Student Government Election and Campaign Policies.
The policies state, "A candidate's personal conduct shall preserve the spirit and integrity of the Undergraduate Student Government."
The policies also stipulate that, "A candidate currently serving in the Undergraduate Student Government is required to fulfill all duties and 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," as well as "All campaign conduct shall preserve the spirit and integrity of the Undergraduate Student Government."
The letter goes on to detail what Alvarez - who is serving as campaign manager for the sole opponent to Rifkin and Bethal, the Sargent/Price campaign - said he believes to be "egregious" violations of the aforementioned rules. Alvarez said he accused Bethel and Rifkin of unexcused absences, "from at least three meetings of the Undergraduate Student Government."
Senator Bethel, who serves on the Student Services Committee, is accused of absence from committee meetings on both Jan. 30, 2014 and Feb. 27, 2014. Bethel is also charged with missing a 2014 Senate Special Session, in addition to a caucus the same night. Alvarez claims that the Feb. 27 absence particularly violates campaign rules because the meeting was held in order to prepare for debates. Finally, Alvarez critiqued Bethel for his first semester attendance record while he served on the External Affairs Committee. Alvarez said Senator Bethel was present at only two External Affairs meetings.
Alvarez then turned his attention to Rifkin. He said Senator Rifkin violated USG rules by virtue of his absence at a Feb. 7 meeting of the External Affairs Committee, a Feb. 12 USG senate meeting, a Feb. 19 Senate Special Session as well as a caucus that same night. Alvarez quoted Bylaw One of Membership Responsibility, section 2 part A, which stipulates: "Senators shall not be absent and unexcused from more than two Undergraduate Student Senate meetings per academic semester."
"Their actions spit in the face of the student body," Alvarez said. "And say 'I can't be bothered to do my job now, but give me a promotion.' It is an insult to both the students which they represent as well as the senators who put in countless hours trying to make this school better for everyone."
Vice Presidential candidate Rifkin, a 4th-semester business management major, said he is no stranger to this type of campaign controversy. Last year, while working for the Shiv Ghandi/Mark Sargent ticket, he was part of the team that was disqualified for campaign violations.
Rifkin said this new case filed by Alvarez was no shock, and that recent USG presidential elections have often come down to a judiciary committee decision on disqualification.
"I think it's horrible that this happens," Rifkin said. "Student government should come first. I have never missed a senate in my life. Since coming to UConn I have not once missed a senate, and the same cannot be said for any other senator. In the case of caucuses, I missed one in my life, last week, due to an exam. While I worked for External Affairs I showed up consistently, and I hold showing up to USG events and the organization in the highest regard."
Rifkin then spoke about his opponents.
"I consider Mark [Sargent] and Clair [Price] to be good friends of mine, and I've made it crucial to maintain connections with everyone in student government," Rifkin said. "If we were to become aware of campaign violations committed by Mark or Clair, we would go to them first and talk it out before making any decisions. I find it absolutely ridiculous that people are filing cases at this point. We will not be doing the same to them, and it is bad for the organization [USG] to file cases over nothing. I think certain members of Mark and Clair's campaign team are trying to bring us down. This is not a product of them, this is a product of Kevin Alvarez."
Carlyle Bethel - Rifkin's running mate, presidential candidate and 6th-semester finance major - dismissed the letter, and said that both his and Rifkin's attendance were solid and that he was surprised by the allegations.
"I think it's just rash behavior at the height of election," Rifkin said. "Passions get flared...it is shocking that that would be filed. I didn't expect it, but I wouldn't worry about it. I think David has missed only one senate in his whole two year tenure."
6th-semester political science and economics major Mark Sargent said he would not like to make any comments regarding the case.
"The plaintiff in the case had no correlation or coordination with the campaign in any way," Sargent said.
Claire Price, Sargent's running mate and a 6th-semester pathobiology major, spoke along the same lines.
"As of right now the case isn't official," Price said. "It didn't come from me or Mark, and I was unaware of it being filed. Kevin [Alvarez] told me after he filed it. Mark and I are focused on running the campaign from our strong points, and we are not spending time worrying about our opponents."
Shawn Pilares, chief justice of the USG Judiciary Committee and an 8th-semester international relations major said he is not willing to discuss cases prior to hearing them.
"I will not speculate on any information prior to the case," Pilares said. "To do so would immediately corrupt my impartiality and therefore force me to recuse myself from the case. I base all of my opinions on the evidence and merits of a case and its corresponding arguments."
Alvarez reached out to the Daily Campus with information about the case. He said in an interview Tuesday that he thinks UConn students need to be made aware of the mistakes of other candidates, even if they appear to be technicalities.
"After last year, I am extremely wary of filing cases and would never file one just to try to win or out of pettiness, but the student body deserves to know just how little both members of the Bethel/Rifkin ticket actually care about doing the job they've been elected to," Alvarez said.
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