SGA Supreme Court opinion raises allegations of corruption Tuesday, Apr 12 2022 

By Madelin Shelton and Joe Wilson — 

The Student Government Association at U of L is facing backlash after the SGA Supreme Court handed down a decision overturning the unofficial results of this year’s elections.

The Court’s opinion changed the outcome of the student body president election, in which candidate Dorian Brown originally came in first. Due to alleged election violation sanctions issued after election-related hearings, Brown has been declared by the Court to have come in second behind candidate Sydney Finley. The opinion also declared that the race for executive vice president will move to a run-off.

Of the controversy as a whole, Liam Gallagher, a sophomore political science student who served as the counsel for the Brown/Hayden ticket during the hearings said, “This election will go down in the history of U of L as one of the worst displays of executive overreach we’ve ever seen.” He continued, “If the university refuses to take action, we will take action outside of the university.”

Finley also gave her take on the situation. “A lot of the information circulating around only presents partial evidence or information that is being used to support false assumptions.” She continued, “It’s unfortunate that people are sending threats and hate messages over something that truly did not happen. There is much more at play here, and I am hoping that with the release of the suit packets by LPR, students will begin to see this whole thing is a concerted effort to confuse students from the truth.”

A bombshell article from the Louisville Political Review, a nonpartisan, undergraduate-run, online magazine, alleged claims of corruption among the current SGA Top 4 and Supreme Court, along with deliberately breaking the SGA Constitution during the election hearing proceedings. The Louisville Cardinal has investigated these and other claims to evaluate their merit. Below are the findings: 

From an email obtained by The Louisville Cardinal, Brown and his running mate, Katie Hayden, were notified by the SGA Supreme Court on March 21 that Finley filed an election Violation Notification Form, alleging six election violations against Brown/Hayden. SGA Supreme Court Chief Justice Jacquelyn Gesser requested Brown and Hayden be present two days later, on March 23, for a pretrial hearing.

However,  Section 5.7.6 of the SGA Constitution states that, “The Supreme Court may order all parties to appear before it no less than fourteen (14) days from the time of service for a pretrial conference.” This points to a violation of the SGA Constitution by the Supreme Court.

In its opinion, the Court decided that each election violation would result in a three percent deduction, or sanction, from a candidate’s original vote total.

The original Court’s decision found the Brown/Hayden ticket to be guilty of two out of the original six claims brought by Finley/Brooks. However, the Court cited seven election-related violations against Brown/Hayden. In addition to two sanctions for claims listed in Finley’s original suit, the SGA Supreme Court conducted its own search and cited five other election violations allegedly committed by Brown/Hayden. The Court did not issue sanctions on Finley/Brooks for any allegations outside of those brought forth by Brown/Hayden. 

Traditional courts typically do not bring in outside evidence. Standard practice calls for the counsel of both the plaintiffs and the respondents to provide evidence, then the courts evaluate only the evidence brought before them. 

Gallagher said his clients were unaware of these five allegations until the Court’s opinion was handed down April 8. Therefore, the Brown/Hayden ticket was not presented with an opportunity to provide a defense against these five allegations during the election hearings. 

When asked if there was SGA Supreme Court precedent of the justices bringing in outside evidence, Gallagher said, “We don’t have precedent. So I requested on three different occasions the precedent of the Court. All three times they said either we’re working on it or we can’t find it.” 

In Section 5.7.8 of the SGA Constitution, it says, “A compilation of all decisions of the Supreme Court shall be kept in the SGA office and online and made available to all students.” However, The Louisville Cardinal was unable to locate any records of Supreme Court precedent on the SGA website. 

Despite a lack of public records, Finley’s original suit against Brown/Hayden references SGA Supreme Court precedent.

Finley spoke with The Louisville Cardinal about the situation and said that the reference didn’t come from possession of a physical copy of such precedent. “This is because the information on the previous precedent was learned through communication with past SGA officers from previous years who have encountered similar situations pertaining to the claims we filed,” she said. 

The Louisville Political Review’s article claims Finley, as the executive vice president in the current Top 4 administration, is “constitutionally responsible” for the upkeep of SGA Supreme Court precedent records according to the SGA Constitution.

The Louisville Cardinal finds this to be incorrect, as Finley is responsible for compiling and maintaining records for the Executive Branch of SGA. The Supreme Court makes up the Judicial Branch of SGA. 

During the post-election campaign lawsuits, Eli Cooper, the current services vice president and a fellow member of Top 4 alongside Finley, acted as counsel for the Finley/Brooks campaign. Gallagher said this represents a clear conflict of interest. In response to this claim, Finley said in a statement, “It can be argued that some of the witnesses (from both parties) listed in the now public suit packet are ‘conflicts of interest.’ In a situation like this, you must use your best judgment as to when to separate professional opinions or actions from external leadership endeavors. Eli never once utilized his position as SVP to aid in this case in any way.” 

It should be noted that Gallagher is involved in SGA as a senator and was recently elected as the next College of A&S president.

Similarly, current SGA President Ugonna Okorie acted as an eyewitness for Finley/Brooks, which Gallagher also says represents a conflict of interest. In response, Finley pointed to the fact that the Court did not rule in favor of any of the Finley/Brooks claims in which Okorie served as an eyewitness. She also said that in these hearings, the Court judges whether the parties involved are acting in good faith. Under that standard, the Court determined that Okorie’s involvement in the hearing was permissible. 

The allegations against the current Top 4 and the Supreme Court has resulted in widespread backlash across campus. The U of L College Republicans and Young Democrats released the following joint statement:

“The U of L College Republicans and Young Democrats wholeheartedly condemn the undemocratic actions of the SGA Supreme Court and the current Executive Branch regarding the outcome of the most recent SGA election. These individuals have directly hindered the democratic process at U of L and proper actions should be taken immediately to reverse this wrongdoing.” 

In addition, a petition titled “Protect democracy at the University of Louisville before it’s too late” is circulating online with over 250 signatures. It asks signees to protect democracy by showing support for the Louisville Political Review’s article and calls for accountability over the elections. 

SGA Supreme Court Justice Jacquelyn Gesser did not respond to a request for comment.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal 

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University of Louisville should offer students free tuition in vaccination prize drawing Monday, Aug 30 2021 

By Catherine Brown–

University of Louisville’s Division of Student Affairs recently announced that vaccinated students have the opportunity to win prizes by enrolling in a contest.

The contest, which will take place in a series of rounds over the fall semester, gives students the chance to win a number of prizes for being vaccinated. Prizes range from a U of L T-shirt or a throw blanket to more expensive items such as daily free Starbucks for 1 year and 4 Blue parking passes for the rest of the fall semester.

But how can we really get students involved? Free tuition for students.

After all, U of L made more than enough money after furloughing staff and raising fees last year that they can afford to put forth free tuition for several students.

According to U of L’s annual budget report for the 2020-21 academic year, U of L operated with a revenue of ~$1.2 billion. In the 2022 fiscal year, U of L plans to operate with a budget of ~$1.3 billion.

Part of this revenue came from raising student tuition, which the university increased by 2% in the 2020-21 academic year at the undergraduate level (with further tuition increases for graduate and professional programs). U of L also raised housing rates by ~2-5% in most complexes, with the most significant change being a 20% increase in Billy Minardi Hall’s 1 bed, 1 bath unit.

In the 2021-22 academic year, housing rates will remain the same as they were the previous year, save for the new housing complex –Belknap Residence Hall– replacing Threlkeld Hall. But with an influx of students on campus this semester, housing can more than make up any revenue lost due to the pandemic in the 2020-21 academic year.

 At approximately $22 million, Student Affairs operates on a budget that is nowhere near the size of the university as a whole.

This is why the university can certainly afford to open up its pockets to allow students the opportunity to win free tuition for a semester should students choose to get vaccinated.

After all, the university has not yet decided to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students, faculty, or staff. As of an email sent out on August 20, 54% of U of L students are fully vaccinated.

Student Body President Ugonna Okorie said that the SGA is helping Student Affairs come up with ideas for prizes.

“I’m excited to see what prizes will be offered in the future and I think any prizes that [relieves] students from financial pressure would be extremely beneficial, especially with the ongoing pandemic,” said Okorie.

Let’s hope one such prize includes free tuition for students.

 

The post University of Louisville should offer students free tuition in vaccination prize drawing appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

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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