Campus Beat Reporter
The ball is back in Elections Board’s court in the case of voting incentives offered by the University of California, Santa Barbara Inter-Fraternity Council last month. The latest recommendation by the Associated Students Senate compels the nonpartisan board to formally investigate the elections case.
A.S. President Jimmy Villarreal, Executive Director Marisela Marquez and UCSB Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Margaret Klawunn attended the senate meeting on Wednesday, May 4 to recommend both the senate and Elections Board pursue such action. Last week, the senate directed the trio to seek professional legal counsel regarding allegations that the IFC overstepped its bounds in offering rewards to one group of students over others.
In turn, that counsel recommended formal and speedy investigation into what Villarreal called “alleged voter irregularities,” which could encompass “everything that goes against A.S. Legal Code.”
Elections Board announced April 26 that IFC had offered philanthropic grants to fraternities in exchange for improved voter turnout in the previous week’s A.S. elections. Such exclusive monetary incentives could skew voter demographics to favor certain student interests more than others, according to the board’s initial assessment.
According to Marquez, UCSB’s Audit and Advisory Services — which breaks down individual campaign spending for each A.S. elections cycle — can perform the formal investigation if Elections Board authorizes it to do so. Alternatively, Elections Board has the option to outsource the investigation, though either plan would be funded through an A.S. consultation fund.
“For your consideration, what we all heard last week was concerns from the community about whether there had been any problem with your electoral code and the way that it was followed,” Klawunn said. “I think that for the integrity of A.S. and the confidence of the campus, this is a good way forward.”
While no deadline has been set for a formal Elections Board investigation, Villarreal stated that he would prefer it done as soon as possible in order to swear in next year’s executive officers and senate.
Some students commented on the IFC case during public forum. Third-year history of public policy major Stevan Abdalmalik, a 2016 candidate for external vice president for statewide affairs (EVPSA), expressed his personal concerns about ties between Campus United and the IFC.
“Why would an independent OSL group expend thousands of their own money on something that does not directly benefit them [on] voter turnout?” Abdalmalik said.
Some students have previously alleged that IFC offered philanthropic incentives in previous elections, and that the practice is written into the IFC’s constitution. However, Abdalmalik said previous IFC presidents had told him they did not know of such a practice in writing or past elections.
Later in the meeting, the senate passed the 2016-2017 A.S. budget. Next year’s budget includes capped honoraria — or quarterly pay — for students acting as chairs for A.S. boards, commissions and units (BCUs), as well as all fee increases approved by students in the latest spring elections. Most tweaks to the $11.5 million budget consisted of reallocating funds within the budgets of certain organizations.
Off-Campus Senators Jerel Constantino and Akshaya Natarajan lowered senators’ quarterly rewards to $350 from $400 apiece. When reviewing the 2016-2017 senate budget, the two passed a motion to reduce how much funding senate had to pay in honoraria, from $30,000 to $27,000 per year.
“We can’t have two standards,” Constantino said, referring to the BCU honoraria caps approved in March. “It’s one thing to have a rule to implement for everyone, and another thing to have a rule and stick by it, go to all these lengths and have a different rule for yourself.”
The Senate set aside an additional $750 for the year to parcel out to senators who go above and beyond, and moved the cut senate honoraria funds to Zero Waste Committee, the Student Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee (SIRRC) and the Office of the Student Advocate, for its hiring of additional student workers next year. A final budget will be sent out later this week.