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After nearly a month of controversy, the results of the University of Colorado Student Government elections look to be finally solidified. In a move that overturned the prior CUSG Appellate Court ruling, Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano last Thursday reinstated Colton Lyons and Marcus Fotenos of the Revolution party as two of the winning tri-executive candidates that will serve in the fall.
Revolution as a whole was charged with 25 infractions, or violations, against the election code rules in an initial April 13 hearing under the CUSG Election Commission; among the charges were bribery, tabling violations and underreporting of campaign expenditures.
Revolution appealed the ruling to the CUSG Appellate Court, which partially overturned the Election Commission ruling in refraining from charging the entire party, instead charging Lyons and Fotenos individually with 13 infractions each. Ten infraction points or more are grounds for disqualification.
But DiStefano, under his power to review CUSG actions under the laws set by CU’s board of regents, overturned that ruling on the grounds that CUSG’s court hearings were not properly conducted. In his emailed statement to the campus, he noted that the right to cross-examination for accused candidates, as well as the requirement that the Election Commission must make individual findings for each accusation against each candidate (an issue that the appellate ruling attempted to address), were not observed during the proceedings before the Election Commission. These are standards under the current CUSG election code.
The decision was made in conjunction with the vice chancellor for student affairs and the university’s legal counsel. DiStefano seemed careful to not appear to undermine CUSG’s power as a governing body in his statement.
“Nothing in my decision should be read as negating [standards] of conduct or the expectation that candidates will comply with them,” DiStefano said. “Nor should my decision be read as a determination that any of the student leaders who participated in the election process or the subsequent proceedings acted inappropriately.”
“None of the errors that I have identified should call into question the integrity of those who participated in the processes, as there is no evidence that they were biased or intentionally disregarded any requirement of the election code,” DiStefano said.
CUSG’s current tri-executives and CUSG Appellate Court’s chief justice are in support of the decision, as DiStefano’s statement noted. CUSG’s official emailed statement to students on the matter acknowledged flaws in the election code that the current tri-executives feel should be addressed going forward — DiStefano’s statement also encouraged the CUSG legislative body to work with the vice chancellor of student affairs to review the election code to “clearly define the expectations of [conduct] and to ensure that the electoral process produces fair and equitable results.”
“There are some minor but very important election code changes that need to be made,” said Joseph Soto, current president of external affairs for CUSG. “Better training needs to be given to the commission, appellate court, candidates — really anyone even tangentially involved in the election process.
Soto added that “putting the election code on the CUSG website and keeping it updated, and delineating [who holds which] responsibilities” are also priorities for the changes to come.
Had the appellate ruling stood, it would have been the first time in 110 years that any CUSG candidate had their votes disqualified and seats vacated. In the absence of DiStefano’s reversal, the president and vice president of the CUSG legislative council (CUSG’s body of nine legislative representatives) may have stood in for Lyons’ and Fotenos’ seats. Madalena DeAndrea, the winning Revolution tri-executive candidate who was not disqualified in the appellate ruling (she was charged with only five infractions) also could have chosen to stand as a single executive, according to Soto.
But as it stands, all three winning Revolution candidates for tri-executive positions — which include presidents of internal, external and student affairs — will serve in the fall.
Revolution also swept the elections for legislative seats, winning all four of the seats that were up for election this spring — the other five legislative seats will still be held by council members from the once-dominant Unite party, which did not run any candidates this semester.
CUSG runs an approximate budget of $23 million dollars each year, and is involved in managing funds and projects for the University Memorial Center (UMC) and the CU Rec Center. In the past, it has provided crucial funding for the CU Environmental Center, the Volunteer Resource Center and the Women’s Resource Center. CUSG funds come directly from student fees, which total $336.04 dollars per semester for all undergraduates taking seven or more credits in a semester.