Compliments cause campaign conflict
Associated Students Inc. executive candidates Sean Zent and Larry Toney have been issued a five-day sanction from campaigning after their competitors filed a complaint against them with the Board of Elections last week.
The complaint was filed by ASI President John Haberstroh and Jorge Soriano, ASI Chief of Staff and a presidential candidate, who alleged that Zent and Toney were campaigning before the approved campaign start date of March 11, according to ASI Communications Coordinator Christina Esparza.
Zent and Toney had set up a booth on campus decorated with a sign that included both of their names and advertised “free compliments.” As students walked by the booth, Zent and Toney offered them compliments about their hair, clothes and other aspects of that nature.
Haberstroh said that he and Soriano filed the complaint because Zent and Toney were tabling outside of the Multicultural Center (MCC) for a number of hours last week.
“Although Zent didn’t specifically say, ‘Hey, vote for me,’ he was still putting himself out there to get a head start,” Haberstroh said. “In my eyes, that’s exactly what campaigning is. It’s getting your face out there.”
The BOE found Zent and Toney guilty of campaigning before the determined start date on Friday. The candidates were issued a five-day sanction from campaigning at the start of the campaign period, according to Haberstroh.
ASI Senator-at-Large Manuel Nieto said that the Zent and Toney also gave a presentation to the Student Athletic Advisory Committee about their ASI campaign on Feb. 6, which can also be considered early campaigning.
During the BOE hearing on Friday, it was learned that Zent and Toney’s fraternity reserved the table under its name from the MCC, but allegedly no fraternity paraphernalia decorated the table, according to Esparza. It’s alleged the two were “campaigning” in a round-about way, according to Esparza.
Nieto said that Haberstroh and Soriano will appeal the BOE decision because they think the punishment for the campaign violation was not strict enough.
“[Zent and Toney] were not found guilty on the athletics part,” Nieto said.
The BOE ruled that Zent and Toney were in violation of Part VI, B, 1 of the election handbook, which states, “The campaign period will begin on the Monday following the last Mandatory Candidates Meeting.”
According to the election handbook, a violation of this campaign rule is grounds for potential disqualification from the race.
Zent said that he gives out compliments to people on a daily basis and that he thinks it positively impacts other peoples’ days. He and Toney said they did not have any intentions of campaigning and that they were holding the compliment booth on behalf of their fraternity, Kappa Sigma.
“It was so cool; we had no idea of the positive influence it would have on the students,” Zent said.
He said Dean of Students Jeffrey Klaus walked by the booth and said that he liked what they were doing.
“We never once mentioned anything about ASI, and we weren’t going out of our way to introduce ourselves with any affiliation to ASI,” Zent said.
Zent also said that no one in the BOE had any evidence that he and Toney were campaigning and that they plan to appeal the decision.
“I care about this school so much and want to make it a better place for the students,” Zent said. “I want to give back, and it really saddens me that they would try to have us disqualified.”