By Ashley Han and Kellen Browning,
An earlier version of this article did not contain Fox Conner’s full quote. The HUB regrets this error.
The recent ASB student election ended with charges that two of the three candidates for ASB treasurer violated campaign rules. In both cases, however, student government decided the possible infractions were not serious enough to warrant disqualification.
ASB campaign rules forbid offering food in exchange for votes, stating that “Food rules apply […] Meaning, no passing out food.”
But sophomore Fox Conner says that’s what candidate Nick Borowsky, the eventual winner of the race, did in his Spanish class.
“We were sitting next to each other in Spanish and the topic of the election came up […] and [Borowsky] was giving out brownies and said I could have one if I would vote for him, and when I said I wasn’t going to, he said I couldn’t have one. […] I thought he was serious; he might not have been though, considering I’m not super close with Nick and can’t tell when he’s joking,” Conner said.
Other students said that Borowsky came to them at lunch with food.
According to junior Nimesh Poudel, “He offered [my friends and me] the brownies he had with him to go vote. We pretty much finished all his brownies, too […] it was good incentive. And then we voted right after that.”
Borowsky reportedly told student government that the brownies were a thank-you for his campaign helpers. But none of the people interviewed say that they helped Borowsky at all.
“In fact I barely know him,” Poudel said.
Borowsky himself declined to comment on the allegations, saying only that “I trust that Mr. Morgan has the information from all sides of the conflict […]”
Student government adviser Eric Morgan heard the allegations about passing out food during the election week.
“I had several of my own students come to me with that rumor. […] He was allowed to continue running based on the investigation that we did. […] Our investigations were that the rumors were unfounded,” Morgan said.
Junior Shreya Sudarshana, another candidate for ASB Treasurer, admits she benefited from a loose interpretation of the campaign rules regarding due dates.
“I was sick during some of the week [when the campaign forms were due] and was late on getting my teacher signatures so I turned it in a week late,” Sudarshana said. “I had my speech, short answer questions and signatures petition done but they still definitely bent a rule for me by letting me run late.”
Morgan believes that it is fair to give someone an extension on turning in forms, but says that if a candidate has trouble meeting deadlines, then allowing them to run might not be fair to the candidate who does meet expectations.
“That happens every single year; I let somebody turn in something late,” Morgan said, noting that he would rather give someone the chance to run than penalize them.
Morgan says that the campaign rules are better described as guidelines because in a complicated situation like high school elections, they are difficult to enforce.
“We have an open campus, and so food is a tricky thing. We’re not allowed to use food with ASB events […] We try to tell our candidates to keep that out of there. Really there’s not a whole lot we can do because people are allowed to bring food and share food […] So there’s all these weird gray areas with the guidelines violations,” Morgan said.
Morgan says that besides a conversation and a warning, his only real disciplinary power is to prevent someone from running–a severe last-resort tactic he wants to avoid.
“If students are giving away food, it would depend on the seriousness and egregiousness of it. Is it fair to give them a warning? I would say, ‘Yes.’ Is it fair to kick them out? I would have a hard time…really it depends on the scale of what’s going on,” Morgan said.
Morgan says the student government class is discussing possible solutions.
“One of the ideas that we had was that candidates could only use supplies in the back room to campaign. But what do I do if someone makes a homemade t-shirt? Do I have them take it off? What do I do if you want to support your friend, and so you make a homemade t-shirt? Do I penalize your friend for you wearing a t-shirt to campus,” Morgan said.
Morgan believes that even if some rules were broken or bent, it probably would not have affected the outcome.
“I didn’t see the race coming down to a matter of bribery, even if we found that allegation [about food] valid–which we did not,” Morgan said.
But the case creates lingering questions for candidates.
“I’m just kind of upset that I don’t know if he would have won without those brownies,” Sudarshana said. “If he had, that’s great; we have a qualified person in the position. If not, it shows he shouldn’t be there and that it’s not the choice that the student body made based on how well they believed he would have done his job.”