Student groups Circle K and Moneythink file complaints about inaccurate Bruins United endorsements
May 10, 2012 1:19 a.m.
Student groups came forward on Wednesday about misrepresentations in their endorsements in this year’s undergraduate student government elections.
Representatives from two student groups, UCLA Circle K and Moneythink UCLA, have filed complaints with the Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board about inaccurate endorsements of the Bruins United slate.
Members of Bruins United, a political slate, submitted candidate endorsements for the student groups without their authorization.
The groups are listed as supporters of Bruins United by signboards on campus and on the election ballot on MyUCLA. They were also listed as supporters of Bruins United in an advertisement that ran in the Daily Bruin on May 7 and May 8. The advertisement was paid for by the Election Board, which also handles and processes endorsements.
The issue appears to stem from the practice of sending designated representatives on behalf of groups to a meeting where student groups give their endorsements for candidates, election officials say.
That meeting, which is mandatory for groups that wish to endorse candidates, took place on May 2.
At the meeting, paperwork was signed and submitted on behalf of both Circle K and Moneythink UCLA, said Eena Singh, chair of the Election Board and a third-year anthropology student.
But UCLA Circle K did not attend the meeting, nor did the group intend to, president and second-year biology student Alex Pham told the Daily Bruin on Wednesday.
The endorsement documents, however, included the names of two students who had written on an official document that they were members of Circle K.
These students, called “proxies,” were assigned by Bruins United representatives to vote on behalf of specific student groups.
Pham said he was never told that there would be proxies sent to the meeting for his organization.
“I think the proxy system is a big flaw,” Pham said. “I gave no authorization. This was all without my knowledge.”
Connie Lam, a second-year psychology student and member of Circle K, said she was first approached about endorsement by Bruins United facilities commissioner candidate Stephen Kraman. Lam said Kraman asked if the organization would be interested in endorsing him and the Bruins United slate this year.
She said she told Kraman that Circle K would likely endorse him as a candidate but added that the group would have to listen to the slate’s platform at a club meeting. Lam gave Kraman contact information for herself and Pham.
Bruins United did not present at a club meeting, Pham said.
Kraman declined a request for comment.
In an April 18 email reviewed by the Daily Bruin, a Bruins United representative notified Pham that Circle K was listed as an endorser of the slate. Pham said he replied to the email the same day stating that he did not remember endorsing Bruins United. The representative did not reply to the email, Pham said.
Proxies have traditionally been sent on behalf of organizations that are not able to attend the meeting, said Kris Kaupalolo, Election Board adviser. These representatives are not required to be part of the organization and the Election Board’s only verification on whether the representatives are designated by the student group is documentation from the student group, he added.
Pham said the people listed in the document were not authorized to represent the organization. Circle K had intended to remain nonpartisan, he said.
Lam characterized the situation as a miscommunication.
“We thought we were listening, they thought we were endorsing,” Lam said of the talks with Bruins United.
Upon hearing about similar incidents with other groups, Lam said she began to question whether the incident with Circle K was isolated.
Moneythink UCLA, a student group that teaches high school students about personal financing and budgeting, also filed a complaint about the issue. Representatives of Moneythink UCLA declined to comment on Wednesday.
The complaints came two days after a representative from Theta Xi fraternity said its endorsement in the Daily Bruin advertisement was inaccurate.
For the position of financial supports commissioner, the fraternity was listed as endorsing Bruins United candidate Sahil Seth instead of independent candidate Taylor Bazley, who is a member of Theta Xi.
The fraternity representative and members of Bruins United also characterized the incident as a miscommunication.
Theta Xi did not file a formal complaint. Investigations for the incidents with Circle K and Moneythink are underway, Singh said.
Kaupalolo said the complaints have spurred a review of the endorsement process. The review will take place after elections and will be directed at ensuring accountability and fair representation in endorsements.