COLUMN: Election commissioner’s intentions raise questions
Published: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 01:04
Another UNC Student Senate election has come and gone, and chances are, you knew nothing about it.
Senate Administrative Assistant Ben Schiffelbein and Director of Legislative Affairs Jamie Britt recently filed a grievance against Election Commissioner Will Schiffelbein for possibly compromising elections in some positions and failing to fulfill his duties as commissioner.
I assume “compromising elections” refers to the unlikely happenstance that many of Will’s buddies — next year’s Student Senate Director of University Relations John Pherson, Student Body President Charlie Charbonneau, Student Trustee Levi Fuller and Director of Finance Oliver Bourne — ran unopposed.
This is especially curious considering at an earlier Senate meeting, Will said about 40 election packets had been distributed. Sure, some people will change their minds about running and some students will be unable to fulfill the petition requirements, but is a final number of 15 official candidates with the four aforementioned positions unopposed a coincidence? I really doubt it, but I’m notoriously cynical.
Next, Will’s implementation of basically a week of campaigning left much to be desired. It was time to vote before the ink had fully dried on most of the candidates’ campaign posters. The hastily thrown together and ill-advertised “debate” the week before elections saw a non-candidate turnout of about three.
Speaking of advertising, it was virtually non-existent. Other than the articles, endorsements and profiles The Mirror published, I did not see one piece in any capacity informing students of election times or encouraging them to vote. Will has always been unduly critical of The Mirror, which is ironic considering we managed to give elections more publicity than the man trying to run the show, the man who has been entrusted to provide sources of awareness to the fruition of effective student leadership.
“My goal is to increase voter turnout by at least one,” Will said during a Student Senate meeting earlier this year. An ambitious undertaking, no doubt, but one that ultimately fell short by about 250 voters.
The student judiciary isn’t off the hook, either. They agreed that Will neglected to fulfill his duties as election commissioner but said results will stand as-is.
Perhaps its reasoning is that there isn’t much time remaining in the semester to hold a special election. Considering both last year’s results and those of the 2010 special election were announced in late April, there could have been plenty of time for a special election if some haste had been emphasized.
Or, perhaps, their reasoning had to do with the fact that the student judiciary chief justice is Nick Atzenbeck, who is a member of Will’s fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi. Now there’s a conflict of interest if I’ve ever seen one.
The bottom line is if you’re going to find someone guilty of misconduct, you have to administer some sort of assuaging action.
As election commissioner, Will exponentially neglected his duties, and that’s just for the advertising portion of the job description. If indeed he did find ways to ensure his friends were given a red carpet to the front door, that would be disgusting on a level I will not expand upon without solid evidence. It says something, though, when your own brother is concerned about your integrity.
— Benjamin Welch is a senior journalism and criminal justice major and former editor-in-chief of The Mirror.