SU Treasury incumbent disqualified after re-election
Sophomore Mishka Narasimhan, whom the student body re-elected to Student Union Treasury last week, was disqualified from her position Tuesday due to a late expenditure report. In an interpretation request to SU’s constitutional council Wednesday, Narasimhan accused Election Commissioner sophomore Bonnie Segel of making a personally biased decision and failing to follow proper procedure.
Narasimhan, an incumbent who was the fourth most popular Treasury candidate with 698 votes, received an email from Segel at 2:31 p.m. Tuesday afternoon announcing her disqualification, just hours before the 7 p.m. inauguration ceremony for new candidates. Narasimhan had failed to submit the expenditure report by Monday night’s 11:59 p.m. deadline, and instead emailed the report to Segel at 1:27 p.m. Tuesday. Narasimhan recorded no expenses during the campaign period.
In the request, Narasimhan said that Student Union President junior Ranen Miao had discussed the disqualification with Segel before the decision was made, alleging that Miao and Segel treated her inconsistently and unfairly because of her vote against Segel’s confirmation as commissioner earlier this fall.
“I implore the constitutional council to question the extent of presidential involvement regarding the disqualification of an elected official who opposed his appointee,” the interpretation request read.
In an email to Student Life late Thursday night, Miao said he had consulted with Segel and said that such conversations are standard procedure for SU decision-making.
“Prior to making her decision, Election Commissioner Segel solicited feedback from a variety of members of Student Union, including me. This is a standard practice in decision-making and is a way to reduce personal bias by taking into account diverse perspectives on the same problem. Hearing the facts of the case, I agreed that there was a clear and flagrant violation that warranted disqualification,” Miao wrote.
The election packet for candidates specifically outlines disqualification in the case of candidates not submitting expense reports. However, Narasimhan said Segel had let similar incidents such as late candidacy applications and missing the mandatory candidates’ meeting go by with just warnings.
Segel declined to comment on her reasoning and the situation in general, citing a desire to avoid influencing the constitutional council’s adjudication process.
Narasimhan’s argument to constitutional council will focus on two main points, first that the election commission did not meet until after the inauguration ceremony, giving her no time to dispute the decision.
“The election commissioner’s responsibility constitutionally is to consult the election commission with any big decision, and that really wasn’t done until after the inauguration happened, and certainly not before she sent the disqualification final decision email to me,” Narasimhan said.
Narasimhan’s second point hinges on the fact that SU has no precedent for disqualifying a candidate after votes have been cast. Student Union advisor Peggy Hermes, who has worked with the organization for five years, said she could not recall a similar instance.
“[The votes for me], which would essentially be nullified after the disqualification is made, could have gone to someone else had I not been in the race, so there’s just a lot of things… that we could clear up with con[stitutional] council,” Narasimhan said.
Miao said that it is important to allow the constitutional council to consider Narasimhan’s request on its merits, but that her actions are clear grounds for disqualification.
“The facts of this case are not complicated,” Miao wrote. “A candidate was disqualified for clearly breaking an explicitly stated election rule, and is retaliating against the Election Commission’s decision out of spite because she feels entitled to an exception. I don’t believe any person, including incumbents, deserve preferential treatment in the electoral process.”
Narasimhan pushed back against Miao’s assertion that she filed the interpretation request out of spite or entitlement in a statement to Student Life Friday afternoon. “The only thing I’m entitled to is equal treatment of my case by the election commissioner,” she wrote. “I was unfortunately not granted that, and the facts will show that to the constitutional council.”
Chief Justice of the constitutional council sophomore Julia Cleary said that the council does not comment on active cases, but will release a full opinion after a trial.
Currently, only 10 of the 11 seats in SU Treasury are filled. The Student Union constitution details that the speaker of the Treasury, currently junior Max Roitblat, is responsible for appointing a student to fill vacant seats.
However, Narasimhan hopes that filling such a vacancy will not be necessary after the constitutional council hearing. “Right now I’m just focused on getting my spot back,” she said.
Kasey Noss and Orli Sheffey contributed reporting.
Editor’s Note: We have updated this article as of 12:55 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 to include comments from SU President Ranen Miao. Miao did not initially respond to a request for comment in time for publication Wednesday night. We have also updated the article as of 9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3 to include Mishka Narasimhan’s response to the specific allegations in Miao’s comments.