Updated, May 2, 3:52 p.m.
After allegations of vote-stacking at the Columbia University College Republicans executive board elections surfaced on Thursday, the four presidential candidates have agreed to uphold Wednesday night's elections results.
The CUCR executive board released a statement early Friday morning asserting that the elections were held in a transparent manner, in accordance with the club's constitution, and under the supervision of Student Governing Board representatives. The statement, however, added that a mistake had been made in a pre-election email saying that only members who had attended at least two general body meetings—and not parties or cohosted events—were eligible to vote. The statement also said that unexpected interest in the elections led to inadequate time being alloted to candidate questions.
“We sincerely apologize to the candidates, as well as to the general body members, for the mistakes that were made by the board. The CUCR board plans to directly address the concerns of each candidate in the election,” the statement said. “All four presidential candidates, in conjunction with the board, accept the results of the election.”
A Bwog post published Thursday morning quoted multiple anonymous individuals who said that the elections were filled with people who did not regularly attend club meetings and that the questions raised during debates unfairly targeted presidential candidate Thomas Flynn, CC '15. The post also said that CUCR President Kate Christensen, BC '14, was “complicit” in the process, favored the winner, Eyvana Bengochea, CC '16, and cleared “many people who were of dubious qualification to vote.”
Christensen said in a phone call that the legitimacy of the voters present in the room was checked to the best of CUCR's ability. She also said that the questions were not purposefully directed at any particular candidate.
“I chose the questions as randomly as a human can,” Christensen said.
CUCR member Nathan Lyons, GS '17, said that the suspicious questions mentioned in the Bwog post were raised by a student who asked about last year's mayoral debate.
“That's where some of the questions arise, and he wasn't even a Columbia student when that happened and he was pretty aggressive about the question to Bobtom [Flynn] about the debate,” Lyons said.
Lyons said that around 50 people attended the elections, while a normal general body meeting draws 20 to 30 people.
“I can't say they've never showed up to anything, but there were a lot of unfamiliar faces,” he said. “Kate came up and asked the dude next to me what meetings he attended, but that wasn't something done to everyone in the room. I don't think there was a hard and fast technique for whom she was checking.”
At the core of the controversy is an email sent by CUCR Director of Communication Maxwell Schwartz prior to the elections, which said that for members to be eligible to vote, “You must have attended 2 general body meetings. Parties and co-sponsored events with other groups do not count.”
The CUCR Constitution states that “members who have attended at least two (2) CUCR events in attendance may vote except the Executive Board official presiding over the election”—the constituion does not specify whether parties or cosponsored events counted.
“The board made a mistake in two emails that were disseminated in the days leading up to the election,” the executive board's statement said. “Upon clarifying the constitution right before elections with our SGB representative, we realized the document in fact states, All members who have attended at least two (2) CUCR events may vote except the official presiding over the election.'—the official in this case being our SGB representative,” Karim Nader, CC '17, is CUCR's Student Governing Board representative.
Flynn declined to comment on the actual election proceedings.
“I do not think that it is really my place right now to talk about what happened last night. I think that the raised issues affected voters and members of CUCR,” Flynn said in an email. “The issues in this election in no way only impact me. There were three other excellent candidates up there.”
On Thursday afternoon, Bengochea sent a statement to Bwog and Spectator calling the allegations “slanderous” and “hateful and cowardly.” The statement criticized Bwog for objectifying Christensen and promoting bigotry, sexism, and racism.
“Unable to accept the fact that a Hispanic woman was elected president, a group of unknown students have veiled themselves behind a mask of anonymity, to launch attacks at myself and other female members of the Columbia Community.” Bengochea's statement said. “In a truly deplorable move, one college, Kate Christiansen [sic] was even referred to with highly sexualized adjectives, including the implicit statement that because she was a woman, with quote gorgeous hair' she swooned' the men into helping a master conspiracy unfold.”
Bengochea later asked to retract her statement and the CUCR board announced it would release an official statement.
“Evyana's statement was written from an emotionally charged and impassioned place. It was a response to the backlash in general and not the Bwog article specifically,” Christensen said. “As anyone who has been misrepresented in public media can attest, to be misrepresented by such falsehoods can elicit a visceral reaction in one's self beyond what one can anticipate Her statement was personal and it wasn't on behalf of CUCR.”
Still, outgoing president Christensen said she was looking forward to the next year.
“I think it's wonderful that we had such a vibrant and competitive race,” Christensen said. “I'm really excited for next year's board.”
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