Controversy is swirling around the re-election of Temple Student Government president T.J. Baker in the first-ever victory for a write-in candidate in a TSG election.
Baker, who ran on the slate “Team Temple,” received 765 votes. “Making it Better,” led by out-going vice president of Academic Affairs Nicole Viscomi, received 567 votes. “Unity University” finished third with 356 votes.
Team Temple’s vice presidential candidates were Dekwuan Postell, for the Student Affairs position, and Alex Norman, for the Academic Affairs position.
The newly elected candidates were sworn in at Monday’s TSG meeting, along with the administrating officers that were elected at that meeting by the General Assembly.
Viscomi has leveled several allegations of unfair play by both the TSG election commission and the Team Temple campaign.
Chief among the allegations is the decision by the election commission to allow Team Temple to run after the commission rejected their initial petition packet.
Dean of Students James Fitzsimmons said that he could not state the reason for the packet’s rejection because it pertained to privileged information about Baker. However, it appears that the rejection had to do with Baker’s uncertain academic standing for the fall semester.
Baker, who was expected to graduate this May, said that he is completing his minor in Spanish next semester.
The commission approved Team Temple as a write-in slate on April 11. Viscomi said that her slate was never notified that Team Temple would be allowed to campaign and that the decision to allow them to campaign violated the election code.
Elections Commissioner Denica Beaton and Parliamentarian Alleya Bess defended their decision to allow Team Temple to campaign at Monday’s meeting. They said the election code must be approved by the General Assembly. once approved, the parliamentarian and election commissioner can interpret its rules.
Beaton added that although they did not send written notification of Team Temple’s eligibility to Making it Better and Unity University, they had been informed. Viscomi called this “a lie.”
The rule about election code decisions is stated in Section 1, Part B of the election code. In the same section, it also says that the TSG General Assembly, the body that meets every Monday, must approve these decisions. The approval of Team Temple’s eligibility to campaign was not put before the General Assembly at any of the meetings since April 11.
“It all seems fishy,” Viscomi said.
Such circumvention of the General Assembly has been an issue in the past. At a debate held last week, Viscomi said executive orders that bypassed the General Assembly had been used too often by the Baker administration, of which she was a part.
There was also a controversy last November when the chair of the TSG Graduate Students’ Committee, Robert T. O’Brien, resigned his position, calling the organization an oligarchy, referring to the use of executive orders, especially the $51,000 Baker allotted for Homecoming events.
The other allegations made by Viscomi involve the manner in which Team Temple conducted its campaign. Posters without approval stamps were posted in dormitories, including White Hall, 1940, and Johnson and Hardwick in violation of University Housing policy.
Also, e-mail messages were posted to University Listservs, including the Broadcast, Telecommunications and Mass Media, and TSG International lists.
The e-mails were similar and all urged recipients to vote for Team Temple as a write-in. The e-mails alleged that Team Temple was unable to get on the ballot because of an “unfair political game that was played on us by [Team Temple’s] opponents.”
Posting campaign messages to Listservs is a violation of Listserv policy, which states they can only be used for messages related to the Listserv’s affiliation.
Baker said that neither he nor his running mates posted these messages to the Listservs. However, the elections commission decided that the people who did were considered affiliated with Team Temple’s campaign.
One of the messages came from Anthony Gallegos, who was vice president of Student Affairs with Baker’s former administration. Amit Kalarikade, who was appointed to a TSG marketing and promotions position under Baker in the old administration, posted another of the messages.
“We’re not responsible for the actions of our supporters,” Norman said. He added that they had campaigned “clean and hard” to win the election.
The message posted to the BTMM Listserv is signed “Team Temple.” The actual sender of the email could not be confirmed.
Temple Police will investigate the violation of Listserv policy and anyone found in violation will go before the University Disciplinary Committee. The penalty for the violation is either a fine or community service for the candidates found in violation of the rule.
Viscomi said she would fight the election, saying that she had “watched [Baker] ruin this University.” The election, which was ratified by the General Assembly at Monday’s meeting, cannot be overturned unless gross violations of the elections code are found, such as vote fraud.
Baker said that he has “bigger and better things” in store for Temple next year. He also said that he had learned “a lot [in his first term as president] and is looking forward to another term.”
Baker said that he wants a greater integration between the Tyler and Main campuses, which he said is a concern of Tyler students.
Brian White can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org