After two voting delays, it appears that the no-confidence vote for College Council (CC) will finally take place. The increasingly confusing and contentious situation has been simmering since last year, when the signatures of 10 percent of the student body set in motion the no confidence process.
CC co-presidents Joe Masters and Sarah Barger begin the vote on Oct. 30, although the original petitioners have raised numerous objections about the voting process.
The situation started last year when CC revoked recognition of The Mad Cow, a campus humor magazine accused of making inappropriate remarks in its spring publication. The issue sparked fierce debate in CC and ultimately led to derecognition of The Mad Cow.
The backlash from the decision was severe, as Mad Cow editor Josh Ain, as well as a number of students not affiliated with the magazine, organized a petition calling for a vote of no confidence in CC. Ten percent of the campus signed the document, supporting the effort. Although CC has since re-recognized the Mad Cow, the no confidence vote is still going forward.
The no confidence vote must abide by certain guidelines established by the CC Constitution.
The Constitution calls for “two weeks of publicity through all available channels” prior to the vote in order to ensure that the student body is fully aware of the issue at hand. The Constitution also states that two-thirds of the student body must vote. Only a majority of voting students are needed to dissolve the current government.
Late last spring, Ain spoke with Masters and Barger about using JOSE for the vote. Masters and Barger agreed. In early September, Masters spoke with Garry Sanders and Ching Ho, the CC representatives in charge of elections.
Masters alerted the two to the upcoming vote. Upon receiving and verifying that the petition had enough signatures to start the no confidence process, Sanders and Ho contacted Ain to schedule a date for the vote.
According to Masters, a date for the vote was never established; the understanding between CC and the petition organizers was that once advertising started for the no confidence vote, a date could be set.
Because of the conflict of interest that would exist if CC advertised its own no confidence vote, Ain agreed to organize the advertising efforts. CC offered to pay for any advertisements Ain chose to present, under the condition that all publicity channels would be used. Ho offered Ain $60 in funding, which is the same amount given to candidates running for CC president.
On Oct. 1, Ain sent Dan Houck, the manager for the Daily Advisor (DA), a message to go into the DA. However, as of Oct. 4, Ain noticed that the message was still not in the DA. Ain alerted Masters, CC Secretary Craig Tomamoto and Sanders to the problem. Masters promised to correct the situation, said Ain, although subsequently “no action was taken.” Sanders, Ho, and Ain also agreed to set a firm date of Oct. 19 for the vote, given that advertising was to start in the DA the next day, leaving exactly two weeks until the vote.
Independent verification of whether or not the ads actually printed in the DA after the Oct. 4 conversation between Ain and CC is almost impossible because the management of the DA does not keep back copies.
Houck said that he is almost positive that the message was printed between Oct. 4 and Oct. 19, but Ain claims that he never saw the ad. Ain also readily admitted that he did not get a chance to look at the DA every day to make sure the message was being run.
Both parties agree that the DA ads were not run between Oct. 1 and Oct. 4. However, after Oct. 4, Ain claims that CC purposely blocked messages from being printed, an accusation that Masters and Barger vehemently deny. In reality, Masters said, CC has no affiliation with the DA beyond paying Houck to manage the publication.
Ain said that between the Oct. 4 meeting and the planned Oct. 19 vote, in addition to the DA, posters were put up around campus, an all-campus email was sent just before the vote, and reminders about the vote were placed in the Daily Messages. All of these actions were taken in order to meet the Constitution’s advertising requirement.
However, Masters and Barger said they saw little evidence of the advertisements, nor did the rest of CC. Posters have been displayed around campus, although it is uncertain when they were first put up. Ain posted Daily Messages on Oct. 17 and 18, just before the vote was scheduled to take place, but they ended up being placed too late to affect the CC meeting on Oct. 17, at which CC voted to delay the no confidence vote.
To fulfill the Constitution’s requirement, a full-fledged advertising campaign would have had to start on Oct. 5.
CC entered its Oct. 17 meeting with uncertainty as to whether or not the vote was going to be taking place on Oct. 19 or not. Masters said he alerted Ain that in light of the apparent lack of visible advertising, CC was going to discuss postponing the vote in order to fulfill the Constitutional requirement.
Ain did not attend the Oct. 17 meeting, but his CC house representative from Currier, Zach Kung ’03, did introduce a resolution calling for the use of JOSE on Oct. 19; in essence, the resolution was a reaffirmation of the agreement already established between the petitioners and CC, assuming the Oct. 5 start of the two-week advertising period.
Kung’s resolution met strong resistance from other CC members, who argued that “all available” advertising channels had not been used. Kung’s resolution failed, with only two votes in support and 23 against. CC then passed a resolution calling for an all-campus email to explain the voting delay.
Barger, Masters, and Sanders sent out an all-campus email on Oct. 19. In the message, they affirmed CC’s right to halt the vote due to a lack of advertising. They also tentatively scheduled another vote for Oct. 30, while reinforcing the fact that responsibility for advertising was still largely in the hands of Ain and the rest of the petitioners. “We have confidence that those who initiated and signed the petition will publicize for the next two weeks,” they said.
While Barger and Masters see justification for the delay in the apparent lack of advertising, Ain has a much different opinion. “CC is not and should not be running a vote of no confidence on itself,” Ain said, explaining that the Constitutional requirements were met, or at least attempted, by Ain and his fellow petitioners.
The basic argument between the petitioners and CC now is where CC found the authority to delay the election on JOSE, which Ain views as an entity largely independent of CC. Barger and Masters agree to an extent with Ain.
“JOSE itself was written for CC and the original intent was to have a set of guidelines passed by CC to govern its usage,” Masters said. “However, [the guidelines] were never done.” Masters also said that no formal complaint has been lodged with CC by either Ain or anyone else questioning the validity of having JOSE run by CC representatives.
Ain believes having CC run its own no confidence vote is a conflict of interest, and Barger and Masters almost wholeheartedly agree.
“We’re trying to minimize the degree to which we get criticized for this,” Barger said. She said it was obvious to CC that the vote could not have taken place on Oct. 19, but CC was not going to aid in the breaking of the Constitution.
By taking on the responsibility of advertising for two weeks, Barger said, “Ain risked not having enough publicity; the lack of non-CC support for Kung’s resolution only reinforced CC’s assumption that not enough advertising had been done.”
“Getting out information for two weeks is a hard thing to do,” Barger said. “And we’ve offered to help [Ain] with advertising.”
Last spring, CC agreed to pay for any advertising Ain wanted have in support of the no confidence vote.
Ain maintains his position that CC is not responsible for the vote. “[Sanders, Masters, and Barger’s] email to the campus [explaining the vote delay] was inappropriate,” Ain said.
“CC wasn’t running the vote of no confidence, the people who signed the petition were.” Ain claims that the voting process has been so skewed by CC that he no longer has interest trying to have the vote take place; that responsibility now rests with CC, which has decided to run neutral ads that simply announce the upcoming vote. Barger and Masters agree that CC advertising a vote of no-confidence is definitely a conflict of interest, but see no other way to properly follow the Constitution given Ain’s position.
Late last year, CC was criticized for advertising its MinCo amendment in a biased fashion. Barger and Masters both say they want to avoid a repeat of last year’s accusations. Ain said that if the no confidence vote does, in fact, take place, he will vote.
If CC is not dissolved, however, he is looking into alternate options for voicing his discontent with the voting process.
“If CC won’t follow the Constitution, the only action I can encourage students to take is to withdraw their student tax to CC,” Ain said.
He has already been in contact with Stephen Sneed, Associate Dean of the College, about the mechanics of letting a student withdraw their CC student tax, which is automatically included in every student’s tuition.
While the vote will continue without Ain, Barger says she agrees with some of his opinions.
“While I think Josh’s claims [against CC this time] are fake. . .they do have some validity [in that] there should be better policies in place [to avoid a similar situation,]” Barger said.