What Actually Happened in the Beren Student Elections? The Former Candidates Speak Up
The Commentator recently reported that both candidates in the running for Stern College for Women Student Council (SCWSC) President, Shanee Markovitz (SCW ‘20) and Talya Saban (SCW ‘20), were disqualified from the election. However, multiple ambiguities regarding the process of the final decision to disqualify both candidates still remain. The Commentator spoke to both candidates in an effort to piece together the events leading up to the final decision.
Thursday, May 2: The First Election
Saban was notified that she was disqualified after the first round of allegations before the first election. But after explaining her position to the committee, they reconsidered and decided to hold a re-vote.
Saban was accused of violating three campaign rules before the first election. She distributed lollipops at her campaign speech, which broke the rule against giving items away to students. She also violated the rule on the 8 ½ by 11 inch signs with her over 15 foot sign in the lobby of 245 Lexington reading “Vote Talya 4 Prez.” Finally, more than one of Saban’s signs were left up past the deadline to have them down, including the large one in the 245 lobby, which was taken down almost 24 hours past the deadline.
“Being that I ran for student council last year, and ran my campaign the exact same way and I was not notified of any rules I broke, I was confused as to which rules I could have broken.”
Saban explained that the lollipops she distributed were for the purposes of being thrown at her during her presentation, which was Bat Mitzvah themed. In regards to the oversized sign, she argued that freestanding letters, of which composed the sign in question, should not have constituted a sign.
The results of initial election were cancelled. The Canvassing Committee cited “a lack of clarity in campaign policy,” and candidates were set for a new vote on Monday, May 6. The email announcing the new vote cited multiple allegations of “rule ambiguities and rule breaking” for both candidates.
“The committee then said that we would hold a reelection, and did not give students any specifics as to what happened, making it seem like we broke the same rules,” Markovitz stated, who after inquiring, was told by the Canvassing Committee that she violated two rules.
One of her signs was found in a school building on Thursday past the required removal time. She was also penalized for leaving small slips of paper under voters’ doors the night before the election, an action that the committee claimed was an “ambiguity in the rule” against having campaign posters up at that time.
“I took down all of 60 posters except for one that was accidentally left,” remarked Markovitz, noting that it may have been possible that she forgot other posters after thoroughly checking. “Meanwhile, it appeared that Talya had not taken down a single one, including the ones in elevators, staircases and around the rest of the entire school.”
In regards to her leaving up flyers past the deadline to remove them, Saban argued that she was being held to a higher standard than the other competitors.
“The allegations made against me were unjustly accepted at face value, and what further infuriated me was that the same rules were violated by nearly every candidate running in all three councils,” Saban stated. “I felt it completely inappropriate that this rule was being enforced just for me.”
She added that she did not believe that the spirit of the rule was violated.
New rules for the new election were now set in place. Candidates were not allowed to campaign, according to an email sent to students.
The announcement of a new election was met by confusion among the student body. “I would have liked to have been informed about what each candidate did wrong,” said Sarah Graff (SCW ‘19). “I felt like there was no transparency regarding the re-election.”
Markovitz requested for the Canvassing Committee to be transparent with students and explain each specific violation. The committee did not comply.
Friday, May 3
Markovitz was told by a committee member via email on Friday, May 3 that “the committee has decided that no further printed nor media campaigning will be allowed at this time.”
Due to prior commitments and jobs, Saban was not on campus to take down her posters before Shabbat. As a result, her campaigning material remained up over the weekend. The committee was aware of this and told her she had until 9:30 a.m. Monday to take it down.
“Talya not only had her materials up throughout May 2 when everyone was voting, but also did not even have to take it down before Shabbat when tons of people were in the building and I could not campaign in this time,” remarked Markovitz.
Monday, May 6
The re-election took place on Monday, May 6. “In the morning I went around the buildings to triple check that none of my things were up, and it appeared that Talya had still not taken a single thing down,” related Markovitz. Saban awoke early that day to take down multiple posters as well.
A few hours after the ballots were mailed out on Monday morning, Saban was informed that she was disqualified for the second time for leaving up her posters. Two of her roommates then went dorm to dorm finding promotional material from Markovitz, photos of which were then emailed to the Canvassing Committee.
“While I do not believe that her overlooking these promotional materials would affect the outcome of the election, I felt that the rule must be applied equally,” explained Saban.
She added, “This bloodbath was not something I was proud of, but I also did not want to be taken advantage of.”
Both candidates were disqualified shortly after.
When Markovitz asked the Canvassing Committee to explain her violation this time, a member told her over the phone that some of the smaller papers she left under people’s doors in the dorms were found in the hallway of a dorm. This was extended to violate the rule on campaigning past the deadline, the member explained.
Students were notified after the polls had closed that both candidates were disqualified and that a new election would take place in the fall. The committee did not provide specific details of violations to students other than “multiple posters and promotional materials” being up in the school building and the dorms after allowed.
The Canvassing Committee refused to answer any further questions to The Commentator about the process of the decision to disqualify both candidates and regarding details of the specific allegations. They also declined to give further details on the future of the position of president of SCWSC, which is currently ambiguous.
“Ruining reputations, prolonging this experience and corrupting the system is horrible,” Markovitz remarked.
“In the second election, more than the first, I admit I should have been far more careful to take down my campaign material,” admitted Saban. But, she argued, “With violations by both parties, I feel as though ignoring the violations on both parts and counting the votes would have been a better decision for the student body as a whole.”
In their email to students, the committee cited a “Constitution Committee that has been working diligently to try and update, reform, and refine the Beren Campus Constitution,” which will likely delineate a Student Court to deal with matters like this in the future.
“I am one of the five people to write this very constitution, and have been committed to a fair and open election the entire time,” said Markovitz.
The Office of Student Life, which will oversee elections in the fall, did not return a request for comment.
“I believe that the Canvassing Committee was put in a very difficult and frustrating position,” said Saban. “They are fellow students and were forced to make a tough call without extensive training or clear delineation of their roles and power. I don’t believe that was fair to them, myself or my opponent.”
Photo Caption: Beren Campus
Photo Credit: Shira Levitt for The Commentator