Staff Editorial: More than a mistake
March 22, 2011
Because of current events, we have made the decision to abstain from endorsing a candidate for Student Assembly president and vice president.
Yesterday, Kaveh Sadeghian ’12 and Molly Bulman’s ’12 campaign for SA president and vice president was suspended for two days — from noon Tuesday until noon Thursday. This suspension is due to a discussion between Sadeghian and the Student Publications Council Chairwoman Meredith Howard ’11 about funding for a new publication, the Business Law Review. After an investigation of the events surrounding this suspension, we feel that although Sadeghian may have had good intentions in trying to help Howard obtain future funding for the council, he nevertheless acted inappropriately as a candidate for SA president. The mere mention of the presidential reserve fund to Howard was unwise considering the circumstances. While Sadeghian has said that he told Howard he was only acting in his vice presidential role when he was discussing possible funding solutions, the timing of this discussion in relation to the campaign was inopportune. We believe that Sadeghian could have prevented this situation from escalating by speaking against the emails in which Howard endorsed him. Because of the ambiguity of these circumstances, the sanction handed down by the election committee seems valid even if there was no intention of bribery.
As a student, Howard has every right to endorse whomever she feels is best for SA president and vice president. But in this instance and in her position as chairwoman of the Pub Council, there is a clear problem with the use of her position to endorse a candidate based on the possibility of future funding. Her endorsement of a candidate because of an alleged promise of increased funds could be interpreted as accepting bribery. As chairwoman of the Pub Council, Howard represents all campus publications that receive funding from the SA. She does not, however, represent each publication’s individual opinion. The publications on campus have their own editorial boards, and each publication has the right to endorse whomever they want. Our choice of a candidate should be based on campaign platforms, not on future funding decisions. The process must be impartial in order to maintain the integrity of our publications and of the College.
This brings us to another point about maintaining objectivity: the tenuous relationship between the Pub Council and the SA is the root cause of this issue. The SA is ultimately in charge of the funding for the Pub Council, although each publication’s content is independent of SA control. The Flat Hat takes pride in the fact that the Pub Council is overseen by students and receives no direct funding from the administration. However, as this incident demonstrates, the politicking of the SA can be seriously detrimental to even those organizations most devoted to objectivity: student newspapers.
Over the past few years, the SA has become a polarized body. The culture of the SA seems volatile, with political agendas catalyzing conflicts. The SA should support all publications and leave political views aside in order to allow the College’s publications to remain objective. They should not have to bend to every whim of the SA to retain their funding, nor should the Pub Council’s funding depend on an individual’s politics.
We believe that Sadeghian did not intentionally violate election policy, but that he and Howard both acted inappropriately. We believe political motives within the SA affecting funding decisions should be kept in check in order to prevent occurrences like this from happening in the future.
__Editor’s Note: Flat Hat Chief Staff Writer Ellie Kaufman recused herself from this editorial in order to remain neutral in her reporting.__