By Charlie Smart
Last week, the UConn student body voted for the next undergraduate representative to the Board of Trustees. Candidates were notified of the results of this election on Monday night and David Rifkin had beaten current Undergraduate Senate Speaker Kevin Alvarez by a narrow margin of 40 votes. Now a third candidate, Samad Khan, has filed an appeal with the Executive Secretary of the Board of Trustees alleging that Rifkin violated election policy during his campaign. According to Khan, that appeal was accepted for consideration.
The allegations against Rifkin stem from reports that he gave students laptops on which to vote and then encouraged the students to vote for him. UConn freshman Kevin Fitzgerald explains that Rifkin approached him as he left Buckley dining hall and gave him a laptop to vote. Rifkin then suggested that Kevin vote for him. It is currently uncertain whether such action violates election policy.
The campaign packet given to all Undergraduate Student Trustee candidates states that, “coercion is prohibited by the university,” however it does not clearly define “coercion”. Kevin Alvarez explains that the line of the election packet that mentions coercion references a section of the student code to define the word. However that particular section of the code makes no mention of coercion.
The campaign packet goes on to say that no candidate “shall campaign immediately adjacent to an officially designated election facility”. However since elections are held online, the definition of “voting facility” is ambiguous and, according to Alvarez, was not made clear to candidates prior to the election. Alvarez went on to discuss how the policies of the trustee election differ from those of the Student Government elections that Rifkin has been involved with in the past, saying that in Student Government elections, approaching voters with electronic devices and encouraging them to vote is clearly allowed.
Alvarez has chosen not to file his own appeal.
According to Student Trustee Election Committee Chair Christine Wilson, such ambiguity in the terms of the election packet is the crux of this appeal. The committee must decide whether or not Rifkin violated these rules when he gave students laptops and instructed them to vote for him.
Rifkin said in an email that he did, in fact, follow the trustee election regulations.
It is still unknown what decision will be made on this appeal or what action will be taken if the committee decides that the allegations against Rifkin are substantial. WHUS will be continuing to follow this story as it develops.