Following an endorsement issued in a UCSB Rec Sports newsletter, two candidates running for positions on the Associated Students Legislative Council were disqualified from the race last night.
Open People’s Party candidates Matt Berson and Joel Katz, both of whom were running for Off-Campus Representative, are the Executive Editor and Executive Managing Editor of Rec Sports News, respectively. The newsletter, which appeared as a pullout advertisement in the Daily Nexus yesterday, endorsed the two candidates and the Open People’s Party. Last night, the A.S. Elections Committee unanimously voted to disqualify Berson and Katz after it ruled that the two candidates violated the A.S. Election Code.
Elections Committee Chair Toby Bautista claimed Berson and Katz violated section four of the by-laws which states that “no money allocated by the Associated Students to any special interest or registered group (either partially or totally funded by A.S.) may be used in any way to promote, support, endorse, publicize, or announce the campaign of any individual Candidate or slate of Candidates.”
Bautista said the newsletter receives an A.S. lock-in fee. As a result, both candidates are disqualified and all their votes will become null and void.
“One of the main points of the Election Committee is to make a fair, equal and just election,” Bautista said. “We are thinking about the innocent candidates. We do not want to invalidate an election.”
She said the committee is now investigating O.P.P. to see if the party had any involvement in the endorsement. The two candidates may appeal the decision to the A.S. Judicial Council.
In an e-mailed statement, Katz said he believes that he and his fellow running mate did not commit any violations.
“We are still under the midst of trying to figure out what went wrong,” Katz said. “We stand by what we believe in which includes the preservation of recreational field space for the students in addition to creating a relationship between the recreational community and student government. The reason Rec Sports News chose to endorse O.P.P. is because they [O.P.P.] have shown the greatest interest in preserving these values. This choice was made because it was in the best interest of what Rec Sports News represents and was done with no bias.”
However, Student Voice Presidential candidate Hassan Naveed said he believed that the two O.P.P. candidates’ actions may have tainted the election.
“I’m a little concerned about the fairness of the election,” Naveed said. “As of now, this election is unfair.”
The Rec Sports newsletter is a paid pullout advertisement that appears almost every two months in the Daily Nexus. It is a not a publication of the Daily Nexus. The Daily Nexus itself, although it receives a quarterly lock-in fee of about 85 cents per student that is voted upon by students every two years, is exempt from such by-laws.
In an A.S. Judicial Council case, Lehr v. Daily Nexus, it was decided on May 15, 1989, that A.S. cannot alter or control the Daily Nexus’ budget because the chancellor has placed financial oversight in the hands of the UCSB Press Council, additionally, “federal courts have ruled that university papers . . . retain the same freedoms and functions as independent papers. The main difference is that the university cannot exercise the same control over content that the publisher (person funding the paper) of an independent paper has . . . The role of a paper is not merely to dispense factual information, but also to exercise their first amendment right to freedom of the press by expressing opinion in the form [of] editorials and endorsements.”
“When the students vote to approve the media lock-in . . . they are giving money to the Daily Nexus with the intention that it fulfills the role of a newspaper . . . Necessarily implied in this function is the power to endorse candidates in a campus election.”