Mar 242005
Authors: Lila Hickey, Joanna Larez

The Elections Committee decided to extend the deadline for declaring ASCSU candidacy since some senate seats were uncontested, or had no candidates at all. Elections Manager Brian Hardouin will conditionally accept new applications from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday, although ASCSU's Supreme Court must ok the extension. Interested students can pick up applications in the ASCSU office.

March madness isn't just for basketball: It's for student government. Only four days into a 17-day election campaign, the Associated Students of CSU have seen accusations of bias among the Elections Committee, unreported campaign spending, a second extension of deadlines for election applications and more than 10 official complaints against the two presidential campaigns.

For most students, the candidates' absolute focus on the election seems silly, but current ASCSU President Katie Clausen understands.

"It really doesn't seem ridiculous to you. It seems like life or death," she said. "If you're not waking, living, breathing that, either as the candidate or someone that's highly involved in that campaign – you think it's crazy."

Wednesday night's senate meeting revealed the tensions that result when people who work together every day square off in separate campaign camps. Director of Information Technology Jason Huitt protested vehemently against suggestions the Elections Committee, which oversees campaigning, was biased, and Director of Finance Thomas Glenn voiced disapproval of comments by presidential/vice presidential candidates Chris Hutchinson and Nicholette Andrews that implied criticism of Jill Lysengen, ASCSU's director of public relations.

The questions of bias in the Elections Committee were raised partially because Hardouin is also the director of RamRide, where Andrews is an assistant director. Another RamRide assistant director, Emily Levi, is also a member of the Elections Committee. A third troubling connection for some observers is Hardouin's indirect relationship to the Hutchinson/Andrews campaign. As a junior, Hardouin worked for the Dustin (Zvonek) and Kyle (McCarthy) campaign; this year, Zvonek and McCarthy are campaigning for Hutchinson and Andrews.

"A lot of it is old connections," said Crystal Plant, finance manager for Courtney Stephens and Jon Muller. "It almost seems like paybacks – vengeance for the fact that (Dustin and Kyle) lost last year."

But Stephens disagreed, saying she is firmly convinced of the committee's impartiality.

"We disagreed with some of their rulings," she said, "but it wasn't because of bias. We don't feel that they're being biased whatsoever."

Hardouin assured students that he is capable of unbiased decision making – as a senior, he has no bridges to burn.

"I'm happy to leave in a blaze of glory with everyone pissed off at me," he said with a laugh.

But Plant still questions the fairness of some committee rulings. After a volunteer for the Hutchinson/Andrews campaign violated election rules seven separate times by using RamRide to advocate their ticket, Hutchinson and Andrews received only one fine. But when two pieces of campaign material for Stephens and Muller were incorrectly posted, the ticket received two separate fines.

The growing tension prompted Hardouin to suggest the first 20 minutes of Thursday's Elections Committee meeting be closed to the candidates so the committee could discuss issues of fairness and impartiality. Committee members reaffirmed the need for professionalism and consistent behavior when dealing with the two presidential campaigns.

Prior to the meeting, it was a tough day for ASCSU. In an informal meeting with a member of the election committee, a Collegian editor was told the committee was planning a closed-door meeting.

Hardouin had a later discussion with different editors from the Collegian and said that he was hoping to close the meeting for the first 15 minutes. He was very receptive to allowing members of the press to attend the first portion of the meeting.

According to Article I, Section 108 of ASCSU's constitution, "All meetings of Senate, Cabinet, Supreme Court, and all ASCSU committees shall be open to the public. Exceptions shall be made for confidential discussions involving personnel or ongoing legal matters."

Hardouin stepped up to the pressure from the Collegian and sought advice before officially closing the meeting, according to Mari Strombom, ASCSU's adviser. She said Hardouin asked if he was allowed to keep the first portion closed. Strombom said Hardouin accepted the answer of no and changed his plans.

In a follow-up interview he clarified that the meeting was open, but the presidential candidates were discouraged from attending the first portion so the committee could finish its business faster without interruptions and tension from the presidential tickets.

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