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CUSG presidential campaign deals with alleged violations

Clemson University Student Government (CUSG) started off their presidential elections on Jan. 29. With five different campaigns in the running, each set of candidates was ready to begin the cycle with dedication, to make their mark on campus and vie to be Wilson and Seidman’s successors.
But just hours before that, one of the campaigns received accusations of violations.
David Gundana and Abby Martin, a junior mechanical engineering major and a junior health science major respectively, were accused of violating the elections bylaws, totaling up to three alleged violations presented at their hearing.
Of the accusations, most were in relation to emails sent out by the Gundana/Martin campaign. Under Article III, Section D, Subsection 1, Paragraph d of the Student Body Elections bylaws, “… no candidate may send emails of any kind representing themselves as a candidate to potential voters prior to the mandatory candidate meeting.”
The allegations also accused the campaign of breaking Article III, Section D, Subsection 1, Paragraph o, which states that, “A person who attempts to solicit a vote for an election, prior to filing the necessary materials to be considered an official candidate, will immediately be assessed a violation …” among other allegations.
Violations are issued if a campaign has been found guilty of breaking one of the bylaws. If a campaign receives three violations prior to the start of the election season, they may be disqualified.
Gundana stated that he contacted the Elections Board throughout the planning of his campaign to make sure that he and Martin were following the rules.
“Abby and I started thinking about campaigning in November,” Gundana said. “We wanted to make sure that through the whole [elections] process, we asked for permission on everything and never for forgiveness… We thought we were doing everything by the books because we were in constant contact with the Elections Board.”
In regards to Gundana’s process, Elections Board Director Schafer stated that “if candidates have questions about what they may or may not do, they come to me.”
However, Schafer also stated that it is up to the other campaigns to make sure that they are appropriately informed of this information.
“I do not notify all candidates of every question that I am asked. If candidates have questions about what they can do, it is their responsibility to approach me,” she said.
So when Gundana said he received the accusations against him and Martin, he was shocked.
“[On Jan. 29], we were blindsided by the fact that someone filed these violations against us, because we were under the impression that we were doing this so straightforward.”
Gundana also stated that, “The people who filed the violations were most likely unaware that we were asking for permission for everything that we were doing.”
But according to Kyle Brady and Alexander Cullen, the two who made the complaint, they were already aware of Gundana’s decision to talk to the Elections Board for clarification at the potential candidates’ meeting. Brady, a junior political science major, is currently running with Becca Brantley, a junior biological sciences major.
“I can confirm that did happen,” Brady said. “That’s what really caused me to call [Cullen] and say ‘Look, [Elections Board Director Schafer] said that these were violations, [Gundana’s] doing them — you need to take screenshots right now. Justice needs to be served.”
Cullen, a sophomore genetics major and CUSG senator, became privy to the alleged violations after being placed on an email list that received the messages from Gundana and Martin.
“I was familiar to the [elections] rules, and began witnessing what I believe to be first one violation, then another and another,” Cullen said.
“I ran as a senator on transparency for CUSG and that’s always been a big thing at CUSG. It was my duty as a senator to present this information to the student body so that they can make an informed decision,” Cullen continued.
Brady then made a formal complaint to the Elections Board.
“[We made the complaint] on Jan. 27,” Brady said. “I meet with the Elections Director and we sat down for about 25 minutes, where I walked her through every single violation that I thought should be brought before the hearings board.”
Brady then said that a few days later, he reached out to Schafer, and later CUSG Atty. General Damian Williams regarding her decision.
“I had to talk to the Atty. General because it is up to his discretion to release any information.”
When violations are filed against a campaign, they go through the Elections Director, along with her Elections Board. After deciding which violations are to be deliberated over, they go to the hearing board if three or more are found. This board is comprised of Dr. Chris Miller, Dean of Students; the CUSG Atty. General; the asst. Atty. General and a senator.
The individuals then go through the list of allegations and decide what has officially been violated by a campaign.
At the end of deliberations, the Gundana/Martin campaign were found to be guilty of two out the three violation claims, each for sending an email representing themselves as candidates, resulting in a $125 fine.
“The two things [were] sending emails, which we thought we asked permission for. But we were wrong, it’s in the bylaws and we made a mistake. Abby and I were both found with one violation each. We accepted those violations, and saw the merit behind the board’s decision,” Gundana said.
Schafer confirmed, stating that “There were violations that occurred prior to my appointment as Elections Director … The bylaws state that the use of email to represent yourself as a candidate prior to the mandatory candidates meeting is a violation. Emails are allowed, provided their content is in accordance to the bylaws. This may have been where there was a misunderstanding.”
Both Brady and Cullen said that the reasoning behind making the statement was “justice.”
“We feel that he was held to a different slate of rules than the rest of the campagins were. We were told we weren’t allowed to do certain things. He did those things, went through the process and he was charged with $125 off of his campaign. That is far from justice,” Brady said.
Brady attributed the issue to the current process for filing election allegations.
“The big thing here is interpretation, Brady said. “I see each specific rule as they are listed by letter: if you break one of them, that’s a violation, if you break another, that’s another. The Elections Board sees it as if one person on the campaign breaks 10 rules, it’s one violation.”
Ultimately, when it comes to his campaign, Gundana stated that he believed he and Martin we following the rules.
“Abby and I are wholeheartedly dedicated to Clemson’s core values of honesty, integrity and respect. We hold those very dear to us and we would never do anything or run for a position where we thought we were going to not be upholding those values,” Gundana said.
“We would not run if we were doing something malicious, because that would be a disservice for Clemson. We both love Clemson so much and if we thought we would be bad leaders or were running unfairly, we would not be running for this position … We went through a fair process and hope to move past this,” he continued.
Similarly, Brady and Cullen believe that what they’re doing will bring about transparency and fairness within the campaign.
“This is not political, this is not to take down one candidate this is not to slander anybody. This is to show the people of Clemson how broken the system is, and to give myself and the other candidates the chance to run and have a fair chance to win. All of these violations were brought to the attention of the elections board and only three were submitted before the people presiding over the hearing.” Brady said.
“If I didn’t do what I was doing now, I wouldn’t be doing my job,” Cullen said. “Transparency is a huge issue. I hope all of the students look into all of the campaigns and make an informed vote.”
The CUSG elections will continue as follows, with a primary election coming up Feb. 22.

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