University shouldn’t tolerate UIUC Divest rule-breaking


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Ike is a popular choice for University Housing residents because it has a dining hall, A La Carte store, and coffee shop.

By Hayley Nagelberg, Columnist

Editor’s note: The following column contains student emails sent to the Campus Student Election Commission regarding UIUC Divest’s violations of the commission’s bylaws. The names, pictures and contact information for those implicated have been redacted for their personal safety and privacy.

Every year, there are two Massmails that University students can expect — the seasonal ballots. 

The ballot gives us the opportunity to convey a message directly to the administration.  Often, the questions we answer on that ballot relate to student fees we will be paying alongside our tuition. 

In addition to those, for the first time this week, the ballot will give the entire student population the opportunity to elect our student body president.  And this week, students will be asked to vote on whether or not the University should divest from companies who invest in Israel.

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There is a governing body that oversees these ballots called the Campus Student Election Commission.  Its spring informational guide and bylaws are online for all students to access.  This year, the legal guidelines of this committee haven’t been followed, and it is crucial that students be aware of this matter.

At the end of January, a Massmail went out inviting students to join the commission.  Since I’ve attended this University, I have been interested in how all the various governance bodies work here, so I applied to this commission.

All new members were then asked to read all the legal documents that govern this body.  There is a timeline for when all candidates running for office must turn in their paperwork, and for when all referendum questions must be submitted and approved.  And there are explicit rules the committee must follow to ensure that this process is legal.

Each proposed question needs to have an explanatory statement.  The commission must ensure the question is following all the campus election and state rules, regulations and policies.  After the commission votes to approve the question, non-fee questions need to complete a petition with signatures of at least 5 percent of the student body.

If a question is incomplete, as is the case of this year’s divestment petition which did not have a finalized explanatory statement, “the petition form shall expressly state the nature of the situation, require signatories to confirm their understanding of the incomplete information.”

I reread my application answer Monday when asked why I wanted to join the commission.  I wrote: “It has come to my attention that at times groups attempt to introduce legislation when they feel they are not being monitored.  I would like to help ensure all legal rules are followed in this manner.”

I meant that I was afraid students may break the rules. 

I learned that our administration also breaks the rules.  And this is beyond unacceptable.

Campaigning for signatures has to occur from individuals, not groups, and yet there were public campaigning events hosted on Facebook from organizations.  There can be no encouragement of defamatory remarks made about other individuals or perspectives on a question, but Facebook posts and messages on other social media platforms about candidates were shared hundreds of times. 

There can be no campaigning in residence halls or classrooms.  Faculty and employees cannot vote.  And no campaigning can happen near a University Computer Lab. The commission needs to vote on matters such as approving a question to be petitioned for or put on the ballot in addition to certifying the entire spring election packet.

Each of these rules were broken, and the individuals in charge of chairing the Campus Student Election Commission did not abide by their own rules.  They either did not respond to formal complaints submitted by students about this referendum, or left them with open-ended messages implying there would be a future follow-up that has yet to happen.  They never formally voted to send this question to be petitioned or put on the ballot.

This election commission is overseen by Renee Romano, the vice chancellor of student affairs. Members of this commission include the assistant to the vice chancellor, the associate dean of dtudents and individuals employed by the Offices of Minority Student Affairs and Dean of Students. 

Our professors are expected to educate us on facts. Our advisers are supposed to steer us on the proper path.  Our supervisors are here to help us accomplish our dreams.  And our administrators are required to keep us all in check and make sure we each have the safety and security to get the most out of our time here.

In the Student Code, under the section “Basis for Chancellor’s Emergency Powers,” it says, “The Chancellor, in consultation with the President, will place into effect regulations, procedures, or measures deemed necessary or appropriate to meet an emergency, to safeguard persons and property, and to maintain educational activities.”

If the administrators already involved do not feel they can intervene, or do not wish to, then it is the responsibility of the Chancellor to step in.  This referendum has created a toxic environment on our campus that warrants intervention.

Setting aside the moral issues that students may have with anything on the ballot, and even setting aside the hate and vitriol that the divestment referendum has brought to this campus — the fact that the legal procedure in place this spring was not followed should be addressed immediately. Protocol this flawed should disqualify all questions put forth on this ballot.

Hayley is a sophomore in ACES.

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