SA Court finds Odyssey guilty of allegations but does not disqualify slate

By Carolina Bolado

The Student Administration (SA) Court decided yesterday against disqualifying the Odyssey slate in the Student Government (SG) elections, despite allegations from Solidarity that they illegally campaigned door to door. The Assembly certified the results last night and formally accepted Ben Aderson, Laura Hepokoski, and Frances Lim as the SG executive slate for the upcoming school year.

The Court did find Odyssey guilty of door to door campaigning, but felt that the charges were insufficient to warrant disqualification. The Court is ordering that Odyssey publicly acknowledge and apologize for its transgressions in writing. This letter, sent to the Housing Office, will be distributed to all Housing residents. The slate was also instructed to publish the same apology in the Maroon and the Chicago Weekly News no later than May 29, 2001.

“Odyssey showed every form of prudence in gaining proper permission for other forms of campaigning — which makes it even harder to accept that asking about solicitation was completely outside their reasoning,” said Chief Justice Jeremy Posadas in the Court’s decision. “That Odyssey acted completely outside common sense is certain; that they fulfilled the merest letter of the law — as it was known to them and to all candidates — is also certain.”

Although Odyssey did not deny the allegations that they had violated housing policy, they claimed that they had no knowledge of the policy because it was buried in a manual distributed only to housing staff such as resident heads and assistant resident heads.

“It was a management issue, not a disciplinary matter,” said Cheryl Gutman, director of the University House System. “I wouldn’t call a management issue a violation. Something is happening that shouldn’t be happening. If they continue, then it becomes a disciplinary matter.”

Adam MacNally, a first-year in the College, was the lead counsel for the Solidarity slate. He said that it was not unreasonable to expect that Odyssey know about this housing policy, and that Odyssey’s 372-vote margin was a direct result of the illegal door to door campaigning.

“They went door to door coercing voters to vote for them. Had they not done this, they undoubtedly would not have received 680 votes,” MacNally said.

Solidarity accused Odyssey of knocking on over 1,800 students’ doors before and during the election. While the plaintiffs had some difficulty citing where and when this specificially occurred, after sorting through the evidence, they concluded that Odyssey was in Shoreland Hall on Monday, April 30, and in Maclean on Tuesday, May 1.

“They came to my door, though it was open and I had a resident in my room,” said Ted Pollari, assistant resident head at Maclean. “I simply warned them that door to door solicitation was not allowed according to my understanding of housing policy. I do not know whether they left after that or not, but I received no reports of disturbance on that evening.”

Douglas Diamond, a resident of Shoreland, also testified that his vote had been solicited by a staff member for Odyssey, Enrique Gomez. Diamond claimed that he voted for the Odyssey party, but had he known of this housing policy, he would not have voted that way.

Odyssey Chief Counsel Ryan Nelson pointed out in the cross-examination that Gomez lives on the same floor as Diamond and is his fraternity pledge brother.

Jonathan Voegele of Burton-Judson’s Linn House also testified for Solidarity. He claimed to have been visited by a member of the Odyssey slate. He too said that had he been able to vote again, he would not have voted for Odyssey.

“I kind of felt it to be invasive,” Voegele said.

Solidarity also referred to a Chicago Weekly News article printed on April 30, 1998, that stated that door to door soliciting was against housing policy.

Nelson subsequently pointed out that Aderson matriculated in September of 1998 and Hepokoski and Lim both entered the school in September of 1999, and they could not have been expected to know of this article.

“The evidence offered by Solidarity actually shows how going in some cases door to door hurt Odyssey more than helped them,” Posadas wrote in the decision. “In weighing the actual evidence presented to the Court, we cannot see a clear indication of the advantage Odyssey gained by campaigning door to door.”

The SA Court also ruled that it will not be acceptable for a candidate to claim ignorance of this law in the future. Future SG candidates will be expected to consult with appropriate University offices before engaging in an activity that has questionable legality.

In addition, the Election and Rules Committee will be forced to research University policy extensively and present all of this information to each candidate in future elections.