LETTER: After this election, rules regarding SGA elections must be revised

Courtesy Photo

This letter to the editor was written by Ryan Kelly. If you would like to write a letter to the Collegian, send us an email at letters@kstatecollegian.com or visit kstatecollegian.com/contact.

To my fellow students,

On the morning of Thursday, Feb. 21, the Kelly-Spencer Campaign was disqualified from the Student Body Presidential Election. Since then, we’ve been quiet. The drama surrounding our disqualification began to speak for itself. I’m writing this letter to put an end to the rumors, to explain what happened and to highlight the flaws of the SGA elections process.

Months ago, the foundation of this campaign began, built around the simple idea of positive change in SGA. I found the ideal running mate in Anna Spencer. From there, the pieces seemed to fall into place. Together, we built a campaign staff full of talented and passionate individuals.

When it came time to file our expense reports, we did not account for services provided to our campaign from our team and other volunteers. Let me be clear, this was not an oversight.

We did not file expense reports for the following individuals because they had willingly volunteered their services as members and supporters of our campaign. The expenses were not listed on the expense report because these individuals were not paid for their contributions. This is not an unorthodox practice for SGA campaigns; in fact, this has happened in previous elections without consequence.

This is the list of those individuals and their donated services:

● Zeb Wiley, cost of one video: $200

● Aryan Tayal, photography: $600

● Victor Valdez, website development: $1,200

If we had been billed by each of the students listed for the work they provided, our campaign would have spent $2,000. We had an operating budget of $840, which consisted entirely of donations. SGA elections are not meant to be an exclusive process. Any Kansas State student who believes they can make a positive change to our university can and should run. Yet, rules like these can price some students out of running for an SGA position.

Because we did not account for services that were volunteered, we had a string of violations raised against us. The first of these violations regarded the services of Zeb Wiley and Aryan Tayal. The elections board ruled that use of these services was impermissible and sanctioned that both Zeb’s and Aryan’s work must be deleted from our campaign pages. This decision crippled our campaign.

In response, we decided it would be best to file a violation against ourselves in the spirit of full transparency. This violation regarded all of our campaign members with professional experience, including Victor Valdez. This is where the incident with Patrick Hopfinger comes into play.

Patrick had previously filed a violation against our campaign regarding Zeb Wiley’s services. Because of this, we had the idea that this “self-reported” violation would look better coming from someone outside the campaign. Patrick was asked to look into our expense report and file a final violation, with the intent of making it public through a third party. For better or worse, a big focus of campaigning is how things look. It quickly became apparent just how wrong we were and we learned our lesson the hard way.

Our campaign ended because of the way the rules were interpreted by the elections board, which includes the Elections Commissioner and the Deputy Attorney General. The importance of these positions should not be underestimated — they are in charge of ensuring fair elections, and every decision they make has immense weight.

Unfortunately, like all of SGA, the turnover rate is high. This means that the yearly election this committee oversees is likely their first. Specifically, the decision to remove our campaign from the ballot was made by a group of students who were not here last year. This isn’t their fault. The problem lies within the rules of SGA.

A public revision of the rules this committee follows is absolutely necessary. Campaigns should not be at the whims of changing leadership. These rules need to be written so campaigns are held to the same, realistic and fair standards year after year.

There are institutional problems within Student Governing Association. That is a fact. I can promise you now that we will be fighting for this change. If you agree with this mission, please reach out.

Ryan Kelly is the speaker of the student senate and a junior in communication studies. His email is rekelly@ksu.edu. The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.