Tensions from the USC presidential election earlier this year have spilled into the election of the student programs officer (SPO) on Sunday, with allegations of the incoming executive trying to influence the vote.
Earlier on Sunday, the Gazette received screenshots of Facebook messages between vice-president elect Landon Tulk and some councillors where Tulk either encourages councillors to not vote for candidate Harry Orbach-Miller or asked them to vote a certain way.
The SPO elections were filled with contention from the start when vice-president runner-up Orbach-Miller of Team DiBrina announced his candidacy.
Orbach-Miller ran as a member of president/vice-presidential slate Team DiBrina and lost to Team Tobi by almost 1,000 votes. After the election, Team DiBrina filed seven appeals against Team Tobi. The Appeals Board rejected all seven appeals, retaining Team Tobi as the winners.
Three councillors, on condition of anonymity in fear of repercussions and to keep a working relationship with the incoming executive, came forward to the Gazette with statements about the interference in the election.
Their statements are posted below.
In regards to the contentious SPO elections, comments and messages sent from the incoming executive set an alarming precedent for the upcoming year. The ethical implications of messaging uncertain incoming councillors the executives voting preferences is alarming. It is important to acknowledge the gravity of receiving a message from the executive when you're an inexperienced incoming councillor, and one who is not aware of the elections process. In what is supposed to be an impartial election, direct messaging their support or disdain for a specific candidate, whether out of nepotism or animosity, should be a concerning matter for the student body in regard to how council will be run past these elections.
It is unacceptable for the executive to go out of its way to disrupt and undermine the democratic SPO election by preying on councillors who are just beginning to understand their role, and the associated power dynamics within the USC.
As an incoming councillor, there has been much pressure from both outgoing and incoming USC executives and other USC associates/co-ordinators to vote a particular way. Although everything has been phrased passively (such as “I would highly encourage you to…”), it has made myself and several councillors uncomfortable in our roles. Especially for incoming councillors who do not quite know everything about their role yet, these people are trying to influence the vote with impressionable councillors. Whether it has been through pushing particular proxies for certain members who have two votes (outgoing/incoming), explicitly messaging councillors to rank a candidate LOWER, explicitly messaging councillors about how they will personally be ranking their ballots, or even passively asking a ton of councillors, “how they will be voting?,” only to then express why they will NOT be voting for a particular candidate, this entire election period has been full of nepotism and peer pressure; it’s really been unfortunate in the face of the democracy of our SPO elections.
Harry Orbach-Miller and the deputy returning officer have been reached for comment and this story will be updated with their responses as they come in.