The graduate student government election coordinators sanctioned a candidate for using an online mailing list to campaign.
The Graduate Students Association election board banned candidate Jean Paul (JP) Santos, a doctoral student in electrical engineering, from campaigning for 48 hours beginning April 11 for violating article 6.8.5 of GSA code, which states “Candidates must not use departmental list serves for campaigning purposes.”
Santos is running for vice president of external affairs against Noreen Ahmed, a graduate student at the Luskin School of Public Affairs.
Santos wrote a message to students, which was sent to a nonvoluntary departmental mailing list by an administrator who owned the list.
In an April 1 email, elections commissioner Richard Tran reminded all GSA candidates about guidelines for mass communications, including mailing lists.
“Owners of non-voluntary lists are allowed to use those lists to communicate support for a candidate in an appropriate manner,” Tran said in the email. Tran was not immediately available to clarify what qualified as “an appropriate manner” with regard to mailing list use.
Santos said he believed Tran’s message meant candidates could reach out to mailing list owners to send students messages about their campaigns. Because the owners of the mailing lists approve and ultimately send out messages, Santos said he thinks asking an administrator to send his message did not violate article 6.8.5.
“I really believe I did not violate the codes, but like I told (Tran), I throw myself to the mercies of the election board because ultimately they decide,” Santos said.
In an email announcing the sanction to all GSA candidates, Tran said the election board determined the violation was likely an honest mistake, but must be treated seriously to avoid future incidents.
In addition to Santos’ sanction, Tran announced that any candidate who uses departmental mailing lists moving forward will be disqualified.
Ahmed said she thinks the code violation had potential to significantly affect the election outcome.
“JP reached 746 students that I could not access through the same direct avenue on the first day of the election,” Ahmed said.
She added she believes the 48-hour ban did not sufficiently address Santos’ violation, but does not think Santos should be penalized for acting on inaccurate information.
After meeting with Santos, Ahmed said she thinks the best solution is for her campaign to email 746 students, the same number Santos reached with his violation, from a GSA-provided mailing list.
“I am satisfied with this outcome and will accept whatever results come out this week,” Ahmed said.
Santos said he was unsure if the violation or the sanction will make a significant impact on the outcome of the election.
“For the most part, not many people know GSA elections are happening,” he said.