SGA holds run-off elections following student backlash Saturday, Apr 23 2022 

By Joe Wilson — 

Run-off elections for Student Government Association (SGA) have begun. Voting opened April 21 at 12 a.m. and will run through April 24 at 12 a.m. The ballot was sent to all students via email. 

On the ballot, students will be able to vote for candidates running for student body president and academic vice president. 

The election for student body president will be between candidates Sydney Finley and Dorian Brown. The run-off comes weeks after the SGA Supreme Court handed down a controversial decision that changed the unofficial results of the election. In the first round of voting, which took place March 7-9, the unofficial results showed Brown in first with 844 votes and Finley in second with 791 votes. However, after post-election lawsuits that alleged campaign rule violations, the Court implemented a three percent vote sanction per alleged violation that reduced Brown’s vote total to 421 and Finley’s to 670. The Court did not change its initial decision, but chose to move the election to a run-off following the significant backlash from the student body. 

The run-off for academic vice president will be between candidates Bryson Sebastian and Kendall Tubbs. In the first round of voting, Sebastian came in first with 579 votes and Tubbs came in second with 535 votes. With neither candidate receiving the 40 percent plurality threshold mandated by the SGA General Election Rules, the race automatically moved to a run-off.

There was also a run-off planned for the position of executive vice president that was set to be between Katie Hayden and Valerie Tran. However, Tran has since announced that she did not want the position, leaving Hayden as the next executive vice president. 

After the unofficial results are tallied on April 25, campaigns will have until April 28 to file any lawsuits regarding the election results.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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SGA Supreme Court Chief Justice recuses herself from upcoming decision Thursday, Apr 14 2022 

By Madelin Shelton and Joe Wilson — 

SGA Supreme Court Chief Justice Jacquelyn Gesser has recused herself from the Finley/Brooks v. Brown/Hayden election lawsuit ahead of the Court’s anticipated decision. According to an email obtained by The Louisville Cardinal, the Court will be handing down an opinion later this week in response to a Petition to Reconsider filed by the Brown/Hayden ticket.

Liam Gallagher, a sophomore U of L student who is acting as the counsel for Brown/Hayden during the proceedings, issued a statement in response to Gesser’s decision to recuse. “We are glad that she will not be ruling on our current case, but it is sad that we had to wait until after I submitted a request to force her to recuse herself that she actually did it. She should have known to do it in the first place.”

The Petition to Reconsider asked the Court to throw out its April 8 decision that overturned the unofficial results for SGA student body president and moved the executive vice president election to a run-off.

Originally, Dorian Brown finished first in the race for student body president with 844 votes, Sydney Finley finished second with 791 votes and Afi Tagnedji finished third with 380 votes. Following a lawsuit and election hearings held by the SGA Supreme Court, it issued election violation sanctions that deducted three percent from an individual’s vote count for each alleged violation of the SGA General Election Rules. This action changed Finley’s vote count to 670 and Brown’s to 421, making Finley the presumed student body president-elect. Tagnedji’s vote total did not change.

These sanctions also resulted in a deduction of executive vice president candidate Katie Hayden’s first place finish from 856 votes to 441 votes. Third place finisher Paighton Brooks was also deducted from 460 votes to 341. Valerie Tran’s vote total remained the same at 497. This deduction technically placed Tran in the first place spot, but no candidate with the new totals achieved a 40 percent plurality, forcing the election to a run-off per the SGA General Election Rules.

The Brown/Hayden’s petition lists several claims that the Court acted inappropriately in reaching their original decision. The claims include:

  • The Court gave Brown/Hayden two days to prepare for the pretrial conference and oral argument. The SGA Constitution requires 14 days notice for respondents to appear before the Court. 
  • The Court failed to keep a file of previous court decisions, hindering Brown/Hayden’s ability to cite relevant precedent in oral argument.
  • The Court used outside evidence that was not presented by the Finley/Brooks ticket during the election hearings for five of the seven election violations sanctioned against Brown/Hayden.
  • The Court violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by punishing Brown/Hayden for receiving endorsements from people representing private organizations. SGA is bound to follow the U.S. Constitution by Section 1.2 of the SGA Constitution.

Uproar relating to the Court’s original decision intensified after the Louisville Political Review, an undergraduate-run online magazine, published an article that alleged corruption among the current SGA Top 4 and the Supreme Court.

Gesser’s recusal comes after the Louisville Political Review published a separate article with screenshots of text messages sent to academic vice president candidate Julia Mattingly. The Louisville Political Review alleged that Gesser and current academic vice president Alexa Meza worked together to remove votes from candidate Kendall Tubbs in order to move the academic vice president election to a run-off.

The allegations of corruption surrounding the academic vice president run-off elections prompted a separate announcement from SGA Supreme Court Associate Justice Jacob Frakes. In an email sent to the academic vice president candidates, Frakes wrote: “Justices Bhutto, Atkins, Gupta, Lamar, and I have decided to delay this run-off for the time being. Taking into consideration the current state of the student body, we think this decision is for the best. I can assure you we are working diligently and will certainly have more information by the weeks end.”

According to Gallagher, the Brown/Hayden ticket also questioned Gesser’s involvement in the lawsuit because of her close friendship with current SGA Student Body President Ugonna Okorie, who acted as an eyewitness for Finley/Brooks. 

In prior communications with The Louisville Cardinal, Gesser indicated that the chief justice serves as a non-voting member of the Court.

In addition to the Court’s forthcoming decision, a special meeting of the SGA Student Senate to address the controversy is planned for Apr. 15 at the PNC Horn Auditorium in the College of Business. The meeting is open to the entire student body. 

Finley and the SGA Supreme Court did not respond to a request for comment. 

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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SGA Supreme Court hands down controversial election decision Sunday, Apr 10 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

The SGA Supreme Court will soon announce the results of the election-related hearings surrounding the Top 4 elections. The Court’s decision, which has not been made public but has been obtained by The Louisville Cardinal, overturned the unofficial results for student body president and declared that the elections for executive vice president and academic vice president will move to run-off elections.

SGA elections originally took place March 7-9, but lawsuits filed claiming election violations against various candidates delayed the announcement of official results overseen by the SGA Supreme Court.

The unofficial results for the race of student body president had Dorian Brown in first place with 844 votes, Sydney Finley in second place with 791 votes and Afi Tagnedji in third place with 380 votes. The Court’s opinion in response to the hearings, and the coinciding subtraction of votes based on the merit of the election violations, changed the vote totals to the following: Finley with 670 votes, Brown with 421 votes and Tagnedji with 380 votes. This means that despite the original vote totals, Finley has been declared student body president-elect by the SGA Supreme Court.

For executive vice president, Katie Hayden finished first with 856 votes, Valerie Tran finished second with 497 votes, Paighton Brooks finished third with 460 votes and Makayla Streater finished fourth with 162 votes. The Court’s opinion changed these vote totals to Tran with 497 votes, Hayden with 441 votes, Brooks with 341 votes and Streater with 162 votes. No candidate in the executive vice president race achieved a plurality of 40 percent based on these new vote totals. Therefore, in accordance with Section 10.1.1 of the SGA Constitution, the race automatically must move forward to a run-off election between Tran and Hayden. The date, time and manner of run-off elections are for the SGA Supreme Court to decide.

The academic vice president race finished with Bryson Sebastian in first with 579 votes, Kendall Tubbs in second with 535 votes, Julia Mattingly in third with 521 votes and Lucas Threlfall in fourth place with 340 votes. With no candidate achieving a 40 percent plurality, the election for this position will also move to a run-off election between Sebastian and Tubbs.

Only the election for services vice president was won decisively, with Alex Reynolds finishing in first place with 1,052 votes and Ruby Young finishing in second place with 893 votes.

On March 21, plaintiffs Finley and Brooks, who ran together on a ticket, filed a violation notification form with the SGA Supreme Court alleging six election violations against Brown and Hayden, who also ran together on one ticket. In response to this lawsuit, Brown/Hayden countered with 15 alleged election violations committed by Finley/Brooks. The SGA Supreme Court then held private election-related hearings to evaluate the claims of both the plaintiffs and respondents. The only people present in the hearings were the Supreme Court justices, the plaintiffs and their counsel, the defendants and their counsel and witnesses.

The Court dismissed four out of six claims alleged by the Finley/Brooks campaign. According to the opinion issued by the court, “The Court has found that the Brown/Hayden slate violated SGAGER Chapter 203.3c seven times over the course of the campaign by posting seven different Instagram posts that included students with official positions within the University giving endorsements that must remain personal.”

SGAGER stands for SGA General Election Rules.

Endorsements from any university entity, department or affiliate are strictly prohibited for SGA candidates. Chapter 203.3 declares that SGA candidates are responsible for all online posts endorsing their candidacy, giving merit to this alleged claim in the Court’s eyes.

The Court dismissed 13 out of 15 counterclaims brought forth by the Brown/Hayden ticket. As for the remaining counterclaims brought forth by Brown/Hayden, “The Court finds that the Finley/Brooks campaign violated SGAGER Chapter 203.3b twice when two official University department Instagram pages engaged in supportive measures on the Finley/Brooks campaign Instagram account.”

In response, the Court implemented a 3 percent vote sanction per violation for both the plaintiffs and the respondents. SGAGER Chapter 602 allows the Court to “determine the form, manner, and severity of any sanction in its sole discretion.” For the Top 4 positions, this is conducted by subtracting from the total number of votes cast in the candidate’s race. The 3 percent number is not prescribed in the SGAGER but was decided upon by this Court in this specific lawsuit. “This percentage was deliberated on between the Justices as being a fair and equitable penalty,” the Court said in its opinion.

The Court’s decision resulted in a total of 423 votes deducted from Brown’s total and 415 votes from Hayden’s total. This sanction also reduced Finley’s vote total by 121 votes and Brooks’ vote total by 119 votes.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal 

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SGA lawsuits delay announcement of official results Monday, Apr 4 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

Some positions in the Student Government Association have not been finalized nearly a month after elections ended on March 9. The announcement of the student body president, executive vice president and academic vice president are pending election-related hearings being presented before the SGA Supreme Court.

Jacquelyn Glesser, the chief justice of the SGA Supreme Court, which is responsible for drafting the SGA election rules and conducting elections, spoke with The Louisville Cardinal about the situation.

She said the academic vice president position is likely to turn into a runoff election after the closure of the election hearings.

The unofficial results for student body president came in with Dorian Brown finishing in first place with 844 votes, Sydney Finley in second place with 791 votes and Afi Tagnedji finishing third with 380 votes.

For executive vice president, Katie Hayden came in first with 856 votes, Valerie Tran came in second with 497 votes, Paighton Brooks finished third with 460 votes and Makayla Streater finished fourth with 162 votes.

For academic vice president, Bryson Sebastian finished first with 579 votes, Kendall Tubbs finished second  with 535 votes, Julia Mattingly came in third with 521 votes and Lucas Threlfall came in fourth with 340 votes.

Services vice president, which is the only Top 4 position to have been officially announced, finished with Alex Reynolds in first place with 1,052 votes and Ruby Young in second place with 893 votes.

The unofficial results are being contested by some of the SGA candidates, resulting in the election-related hearings. “We offer all candidates an opportunity after the unofficial results have been given, or even beforehand, to draft what’s known as the violation notification form. These forms will allege certain claims against the other candidates, usually in their own race,” Glesser said.

“They’re offered that time to draw up claims against them based on the SGA GER as well as the SGA Constitution and then the court will decide whether those are frivolous claims or not, and if they are not, then it’s moved to pretrial hearings and moving forward from that point,” she said.

The specific allegations SGA candidates are bringing up against each other is private and not available to the student body at-large. Glesser said this is because of the personal nature of the evidence and the standard practice of holding private hearings, which she said contributes to a fair evaluation of the evidence. For the hearings related to this SGA election cycle, only witnesses, counsel, the petitioners and respondents have been allowed in the room.

The SGA Supreme Court, which consists of six justices including Chief Justice Glesser, will evaluate the evidence and hand down a decision regarding the hearings. As the chief justice, however, Glesser will not be a voting member of the court’s decision. The majority decision of the other five justices will determine the outcome.

The SGA Supreme Court met yesterday to reach an opinion, which will be given to the respective counsel either Tuesday or Wednesday. From there, the SGA Supreme Court decision will potentially become public to the student body by the end of this week.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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SGA holds forum to meet this year’s running candidates Monday, Mar 1 2021 

By Madelin Shelton — 

Candidates for the University of Louisville Student Government Association’s Top 4 positions participated in a forum last week about their platforms. The positions for Top 4 include Student Body President, Executive Vice President, Academic Vice President and Services Vice President.

The SGA election will take place from March 1 to March 3. Ballots will be sent to U of L students through their email.

Student Body President / Executive VP:

Candidates: – Ugonna Okorie (President) and Sydney Finley (EVP)

The candidates for both Student Body President and Executive VP are running unopposed as one ticket.

Okorie focused on her three initiatives of reshaping SGA culture to allow for greater accountability, pushing for progress and anti-racism initiatives.

For reshaping SGA, Okorie wants to begin Senate recaps, monthly updates and regularly updating the SGA website.

She hopes to push for progress by advocating against unnecessary fees and tuition costs and amplify student voices in university administration.

When asked about how she would stand up for students in her role and make sure their values were represented, Okorie detailed her desire to make Senate meetings advertised more openly so that more student voices can be heard during those meetings. She also pointed to a broader desire to get a more diverse set of students involved in SGA as a whole to ensure different perspectives are being heard.

Finley focused on advancing diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, emphasizing campus safety and increasing student accessibility to student resources. Findley also detailed her plan to stay in touch with student organizations.

“One of the main things I plan to do should I be elected Executive Vice President is reaching out to different student organizations on campus,” she said. “Specifically, RSOs that represent stakeholders in really important campus issues that are at the forefront of student discussions and making sure that I’m getting information from those students.”

Academic Vice President:

Candidates:  – Alexa Meza

– Jacob Schagene

Meza’s campaign for Academic VP is about questioning current methods of grading, evaluating and teaching and introducing accessible and inclusive methods that help students succeed while at U of L.

Meza also echoed the importance of having adequate faculty representation when asked about how she would work to increase diversity in this area.

“I think that when faculty members look like us and have experiences similar to us, that’s when students really thrive,” she said.

Schagene has centered his campaign on building back trust between students and faculty, and between faculty and the administration that, he believes, has deteriorated in relation to the circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m going to fight to make online learning more accessible and also to make online learning less discriminatory,” he said.

Addressing the same question about faculty representation as Meza, Schagene said, “Faculty come and go but it’s not something that we can change overnight in regards to the representation of faculty members,” he said. “I think it’s important that we analyze faculty departments where there’s not been a lot of change in the faculty and how we can help them to better promote the ideas of representation and what positions we could put in place there in order to allow students to have some sort of representation in this area.”

Services Vice President:

Candidates: – Grayson Stinger

– Eli Cooper

The candidates for Services VP are Grayson Stinger and Eli Cooper.

Cooper’s candidacy for SVP is centered around being a voice for divestment and an agent for change in all meetings with the administration. He discussed how his platform of divestment could help the university reach its goal of being anti-racist.

“Specifically, for Services Vice President, as my responsibility as a candidate, I think divestment in all instances of the world, divestment from fossil fuels, divestment from Aramark, divestment from ULPD, everything,” he said. “I think that is one of the biggest impacts we can have to move towards being an anti-racist institution.”

Stinger is focusing his candidacy on student health, student inclusion and student advancement. When asked about the university’s anti-racism initiatives, Stinger echoed the other candidates in saying the university isn’t doing enough and said it was a top-down issue.

“One of the things I want to start if I become elected as Services Vice President is mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all staff and faculty on campus,” he said.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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SGA Elections should be your priority this week Monday, Feb 24 2020 

By Maggie Vancampen —

Student Government Association elections are underway and should be on everyone’s radar.

Even though people question what SGA actually does, it really is quite simple. SGA advocates for students at the administrative level and protects student rights.

Our current Student President Jasper Noble, and every president before him, serves on the Board of Trustees. The Board of Trustees runs the university and Noble serves as a voice for students in making final decisions on issues such as raising tuition.

The current Academic Vice President Sabrina Collins said her position sits on faculty senate and the executive board of faculty senate, committees regarding the Cardinal Core and implementation committees for President Neeli Bendapudi’s strategic plan.

Collins said Executive Vice President Kayla Payne is designed to run the student senate, promote diversity and works with athletics.

Service Vice President Lydia Burns is on committees that have to do with housing, parking and sustainability Collins said.

These are powerful committees that have student voices. They can make a difference.

However, SGA needs to know what students want. And the best way students can have their voices be heard is by voting.

Voter turnout has been historically low; the 2018-2019 school year election only had a 15 percent response rate with 3, 125 participants. Over 3,800 voted the previous year.

SGA hosted a forum for all candidates Feb. 19 so they could talk about what they wanted to improve within the University of Louisville community.

When this story is published, U of L will be in the midst of voting. Voting will end Feb. 26.

Photo by Anthony Riley // The Louisville Cardinal

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