Grow-Vicens slate successfully challenges one of three campaign strikes

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After receiving three strikes, the Grow-Vicens campaign successfully appealed to the Associate Student Government Rules Committee on Friday and saw one strike called off, keeping the slate on the ballot.

In an ASG election, three strikes against a campaign, meaning violations of campaign regulations, usually results in disqualification, but lists can appeal any sanction imposed. ASG’s rules committee launched one of these strikes – for “mutual disrespect” – against both the Grow-Vicens campaign and its opponent, the Hegelmeyer-Cusick campaign. The decision followed a guideline established by both the ASG Code and the Code of Conduct for Student Organizations and Activities.

Electoral commission chairman Jo Scaletty said the commission launched the mutual respect strike because of a general lack of respect seen on social media from both lists.

“The commission is certainly very aware of how vitriolic this has become. It’s disheartening to see all of this happen,” Scaletty said. “We want to make sure that all students are treated with respect.”

Affected parties can first report violations to the Elections Committee, which makes the initial decision whether to call a strike, but candidates can appeal such decisions to the Rules Committee. The committee then makes a final decision on the violation in consultation with the election code, as well as the ASG code and constitution.

The Grow-Vicens campaign also received a campaign strike ahead of the campaign period on Sunday, which resulted in a 12-hour suspension, in addition to a libel strike over public posts on vice-presidential candidate Camila Vicens’ Instagram account.

The Grow-Vicens campaign appealed to both pre-campaign strikes and mutual disrespect. After deliberations on Friday afternoon, the rules committee upheld the pre-campaign strike, but not the mutual disrespect strike.

“Me and David are really excited to move forward with a fair and kind race,” Vicens said. “We really want to thank everyone involved in the election committee for being communicative and accepting our appeal.”

Vicens wrote in the post — which has since been taken down — that the opposing slate harassed her because of her identity. The Equity Office contacted her about the cyberbullying directed at her, Vicens wrote, though the Elections Commission determined Thursday that the evidence of harassment provided by Vicens did not violate election policy.

Presidential candidate David Grow also reposted Vicens’ message alleging harassment from the Hegelmeyer-Cusick list regarding his Latin identity. In a later post, Vicens said she was not referring to any comments that Jason Hegelmeyer and Donovan Cusick — presidential and vice-presidential candidate, respectively — had personally posted.

“I don’t mean hate towards Jason or Donovan,” Vicens wrote. “Although they made what I consider to be rude tweets, they did not address my ethnicity.”

The rules committee wrote in its ruling that the post did not contain any “threatening or dangerous comments” and did not violate Northwestern’s guidelines on civility and guidelines.

Violations listed in those guidelines include angry outbursts, intimidating comments or verbal abuse, the ruling said.

“While Vicens issued a speedy apology condemning the disrespect to her opponents and clarifying her intentions, she took responsibility for the impact of her actions in a respectful manner,” the ruling reads.

The Elections Commission initially ruled that the same post did not constitute a defamation case, but the Hegelmeyer-Cusick campaign appealed that decision to the Rules Commission. The committee later reversed that decision, determining that the message was a libel of the Hegelmeyer-Cusick slate and therefore a violation of the policy.

Rules committee chair Dalia Segal-Miller said handling complaints had been difficult because social media did not play as much of a role in the campaign when the code and constitution were originally drafted.

“The rules around (social media) may not be completely up to date, especially since the pandemic,” she said, “but ultimately we look at what specific candidates post on their accounts. Instagram, on the campaign’s Instagram account. … and whether these comply with the electoral code.

Voting for the presidential election opened on Wildcat Connection at 7 p.m. Thursday and closes at 7 p.m. Saturday.

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