Postponement seems to be the name of the game for the Undergraduate Assembly this semester.
The announcement of UA elections winners was postponed today after a total of four charges were filed with the Nominations and Elections Committee against College junior Gabe Delaney and UA vice presidential candidate and College sophomore Julie Bittar.
The charges alleged violations of the Fair Practices Code, which regulates UA and Class Boards elections. They will be deliberated at a Fair Practices Code Hearing on Sunday, during which prosecutors will present their charges and the candidates will have a chance to refute the allegations. Once all charges have been debated, the NEC will deliberate and decide upon the candidates’ guilt and how the race will proceed.
College senior and former Daily Pennsylvanian board member Ernest Owens filed a joint charge against Delaney and Bittar for allegedly purchasing "illicit of Facebook likes." Owens’ complaint claims that surrogates – individuals who work on behalf of a candidate – purchased Facebook likes for the page "Team Gabe Delaney & Julie Bittar: UA President and Vice President" in order to "[bolster] the credibility of the campaign," and that these costs are not accounted for in Delaney and Bittar’s spending forms. Candidates can only spend $50 on the race and must report all expenditures to the NEC, according to the Fair Practices Code.
College junior and UA vice presidential candidate Joshua Chilcote filed three separate charges against Delaney and Bittar, saying they purchased and presented campaign materials to possible endorsers before the start of the monetary campaigning period, when candidates can spend money on the race. He filed a second charge related to spending limit violations, alleging that Delaney and Bittar did not report spending on flyers slipped under students' dorm room doors. Finally, echoing Owen's allegations, he alleged that Delaney and Bittar did not report money they allegedly spent on Facebook likes.
Chilcote’s charge also proposes that although surrogates organized the alleged illegal campaign actions, the candidates allegedly each neglected to take action to undo the violations.
“I think the best thing in this situation is to let the student body ... make sure all is fair,” Chilcote said.
Delaney discounted the merit of the charges against the allegedly purchased Facebook likes.
“I had no idea that could actually happen. I was not involved and no one I know was involved,” Delaney said.
Bittar expressed similar noninvolvement in the accruement of Facebook likes.
“I went to bed and there were 200 Facebook likes, and I woke up and there were 500,” Bittar said, noting that they all appeared between the hours of 3 a.m. and 9 a.m.
“I don’t feel sorry for this because I gave them a heads up,” Owens said. "Basically, if it’s your campaign, it’s your name. You’re responsible for your behavior."
"A lot of these followers are not even real people — they have weird profile pictures and distorted names," he added.
Chilcote’s other joint charge claims that Delaney and Bittar's campaign website was purchased prior to the start of the monetary campaigning period, which begins after 7 a.m. the day after the Candidates’ Meeting which took place on Monday, March 17. Chilcote alleges that the website was shown to possible endorsers before the monetary campaigning period began.
Delaney asserted that he had a 10-day free trial of the Squarespace website before the monetary campaigning period and did not pay for the website until after the monetary period began.
He sent the Daily Pennsylvanian receipts verifying that his 10-day free trial of the Squarespace began on Monday, March 17 and he paid for the full service on Tuesday March 18, after monetrary campaigning began.
Delaney also addressed the accusations regarding flyers, saying he had accounted for them on his monetary spending form.
Although allegations were made by Chilcote against both Delaney and Bittar, Chilcote’s running mate and UA presidential candidate Joyce Kim’s name appeared neither as a complainant nor as an accused violator. Chilcote is unsure whether or not Kim agrees with his charges.
Earlier this week, responding to rumors that charges were going to be filed, all four candidates, including Chilcote, told The Daily Pennsylvanian they did not plan on filing any charges.“The number of people that approached me with issues was very frustrating to me, to the point where I really thought there needed to be some light shed on the process,” Chilcote said.
Both Delaney and Bittar expressed displeasure, saying Chilcote and Owens were playing politics.
“At the end of the day, as much as they have said that they’d like to take out the "House of Cards" [behavior from the UA], they’re doing it,” Delaney said. “It makes the UA look like a bunch of kids who don’t know what to do with the small amount of power that they have.”
“I didn’t sign up for dirty political things to happen ... There are many people running for spots and it’s not right for them to hold off everyone else,” Bittar said of the charges.
The charges will be debated on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Fair Practices Code Hearing, which will take place in Huntsman 245. Results of unaffected elections will be announced at the conclusion of the hearing. If the NEC determines that repolling is necessary, there will likely be one week of additional polling for affected races, said Engineering junior and NEC Vice Chair for Elections Frederick Ding. If the NEC decides to disqualify a candidate based on the FPC violation charges, that candidate will not be allowed to participate in repolling.
Campus News Editor Fiona Glisson contributed reporting.