By Eric Ahlberg
A student candidate for the Board of Governors elections was disqualified last week because of a reply to a comment made on Facebook.com.
Jason Jagpal ran under the “Rye-Cycle” slate with Gaya Arasaratnam and Kevin Firko. He was disqualified for violating a rule stating that “canvassing, in any form, by anyone, cease at midnight preceding the proclaimed day(s) of election and/or voting.” In short, no one may campaign during voting days. But Jagpal said he did not violate any rules.
“I don’t see any campaigning,” he said. “I am appealing this. It’s not an issue of winning or losing the election. I want to keep my integrity intact.”
Jagpal has held a number of university positions and is currently an RSU business faculty director. Facebook is a social networking website organized through universities. It incorporates pictures, lists, groups, and personal message boards called “walls.” Sarah Turnbull, a graduating Interior Design student, wrote an election-themed message on her wall last Tuesday afternoon.
“Go Vote for the Board of Governors Elections on RAMSS and do it right now,” it read. “And vote for the right people. If you don’t know who that is, I’ll be glad to tell you!”
Jagpal responded with a post on her wall a few hours later, thanking her for her help — the reminder to go and vote. Later that day, RSU Vice-President Education Nora Loreto, who also ran in the elections, saw the posts and made a formal complaint.
The next day, Board of Governors elections Chief Returning Officer Catherine Redmond sent out e-mails containing evidence gathered by Loreto — including screen shots of Turnbull’s profile — to all 19 student candidates.
“I was upset (Loreto) took a picture of my whole profile,” Turnbull said. “It was very unprofessional. The only way I found out is because Gaya came and told me.” Turnbull did not run for the Board of Governors elections, held between Monday and Thursday of last week, nor did she campaign for any of the candidates.
She did run for the RSU executive earlier this year with Arasaratnam and three others, but points out she had no connection this time around. “If I had wrote ‘Vote Nora,’ would she be disqualified right now?” Turnbull asked. Loreto said her complaint was justified. “(Facebook) is not a private board,” she said, adding that her complaint was due to Jagpal’s response and that Turnbull had baited him into making it.
When she came across it, the evidence spoke for itself, Loreto said. She also said there are laws that can be taken as explicitly disallowing reminding your friends to vote. Jagpal has sent an e-mail protesting his disqualification, but a date for the hearing by a BOG appeal committee hasn’t been set yet.
“My accusers are putting too much on Sarah’s Facebook,” Jagpal said. “I think the Board of Governors will see it’s circumstantial evidence.”
Redmond said she could not comment on the situation until Jagpal’s hearing was over. Despite disagreement over the disqualification, candidates agreed that more emphasis on the bigger issues surrounding the Board of Governors would be beneficial.
“There was no coverage in the papers, students have to go online to see candidates and to vote, and it’s like, who cares anyway at the end of March?” Loreto asked.
Loreto, RSU president-elect Muhammad Ali Jabbar and Abe Snobar were elected to the board.