Oversight Committee Investigates Negative Campaigning in Junior-Class Senate Election

Aleida Fernandez

Earlier this week, the ASWC Oversight Committee investigated a complaint regarding negative campaigning within the junior-class Senate election for the 2015-2016 academic year. The complaint arose from another Senatorial candidate as a result of a Facebook post under the heading “Continuity.” The post read that, “unlike two other [candidate] options, I am planning on serving for both semesters, so you can be sure to get fair representation for both semesters.”

The Oversight Committee, led by senior Oversight Chair Molly Olmstead, held a lengthy two-day discussion regarding the post and determined on Thursday, April 16, that it was clear from the language used in the Facebook post that a comparison was drawn between the candidate in question and his opponents. Oversight ruled that only one of the candidate’s statements (“The two options that are running on a split ticket will not give you fair representation because they will each be serving on ASWC for only one semester.”) could be constituted as negative campaigning. Therefore, the candidate would not be disqualified from the Senate race and Oversight would not pursue an investigation.

During their discussion, Oversight also reached an explicit definition of negative campaigning. They defined it as “any explicit attack against another candidate or defining feature of another candidate’s platform… [in order to] advance the attacker’s position over another candidate’s.” In the case at hand, Oversight ruled that the specific candidate seemed to use this comparison to advocate for his own candidacy, however, the candidate did not explicitly criticize those running on split tickets.

In a statement to the student body, Olmstead reminded that negative campaigning or any other cases of unethical conduct may result in disqualification from future elections.

“Attacks that are implicit in nature, though they cannot disqualify a candidate on the basis of negative campaigning, may still be held to the standard of ethical conduct within an election. The Oversight Committee rules that the particular comment in question is not unethical conduct,” wrote Olmstead.

The junior class senators for the 2015-2016 school year will be: Dana Casterella/Tom Howe, Mitch Cutter, Gordon Kochman, and Teagan Coleman.