Open letter to FAU: What is actually going on in Student Government?

Boca Raton House Representative Noah Goldberg: The students of FAU deserve an administration that obeys the law.


House of Representative Noah Goldberg. Photo courtesy of Alexander Rodriguez

Noah Goldberg

Editor’s note: May 2, 9:19 p.m. The following letter remains unedited.


I joined Student Government for one reason: to help the student body of FAU.  


In the Summer of 2016, I was an incoming Freshman who was recruited by former student body President Michael Cairo during my orientation to join Student Government.  I joined the Boca Raton House of Representatives that Summer, and one of the first resolutions that was passed in my time showed support for the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando.  After earning a seat that Fall, I became the chairperson of the Campus Budget Committee under former Speaker of the House Steven Grunberg. A short time later, I was approached by a fellow House Member about running for President and Vice President, after learning that Emily Lawless and Kyle MacDonald were also running.  We declared our candidacy, but was subsequently declared ineligible to run because we did not have the required amount of credit hours. This left the Lawless/MacDonald ticket running unopposed, which, at the time, I was fine with.


Fast forward to February 2018.  Three candidates filed to run for President and Vice President: Jon Carter/Marianne Alex, Jacqueline LaBayne/Kyle MacDonald, and Abdel Eltawil/Christopher Acosta.  Carter was declared ineligible to run for office, however Alex still wanted to help to the FAU student body, so she ran a write-in campaign with Vice Presidential hopeful Edward Perez, since this all occurred after the declaration of candidacy period ended.  10 days before the mandatory candidacy meeting, both LaBayne and MacDonald committed a major violation of the statutes by pre-campaigning (see Statutes 315.300(h) and 319.300(j)). The race went on, and the LaBayne/MacDonald ticket beat the write-in candidates by 833 votes.  However, just one day later was the Elections Board’s complaint and contestation meeting. There was a total of 33 contestations against candidates, all of which were denied.


Alex thought this was unacceptable, so she decided to appeal the Elections Board’s decision to the Student Court.  Out of the 12 contestations that were appealed, only one stood out, which was the major pre-campaigning violation. After deliberations, the Student Court ruled that the LaBayne/MacDonald was responsible for pre-campaigning, which is a major violation, on a 4-0 decision.  The Court discussed possible punishments for the ticket, which are outlined in Statute 319.100. The Court then disqualified the LaBayne/MacDonald ticket on a 3-1 decision (see case 2018.03). The only dissent was from Justice Oseni, who believed the Elections Board was not competent and should be investigated.  The only other punishment only takes effect in the case of election fraud, which there was no proof of.


MacDonald decided that this was unacceptable, so he decided to appeal the Student Court’s decision to the Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Corey King, stating that the Student Court violated due process.  Dr. King denied MacDonald’s appeal, however he ordered the Supervisor of Elections call for a new special election. Dr. King invalidated the original election without reason; the only thing he stated was that a disqualification of a ticket is grounds for invalidation of the whole election, however no statutes concur with him.  At no point in the appellate decision did Dr. King have the authority to invalidate the original election.  In his decision, Dr. King states “I am referring this case back to the Elections Chair to schedule a special election for the university-wide SG President and Vice President.”  Chief Justice Isaiah Moriarity did not agree with the basis of a special election, stating that this circumstance does not warrant a special election. As a result, Chief Justice Moriarity issued a 72-hour stay on the special election.  This stay was then voted on by the Court and upheld on a 4-0 decision.


The Elections Board then had a meeting in which they had to choose from two decisions.  The first was to recognize the Student Court’s stay on the election and verify the original elections results.  The second, and arguably illegal option, was to call for a new special election. During that meeting, Supervisor of Elections Douglas Speed called for a new special election without consulting the opinions of his Assistant Supervisor of Elections or any of his three campus Elections Commissioners.  In fact, after Speed rendered his decision, the Broward Elections Commissioner asked if they get a say in the decision. Speed answered with a simple “yes,” then proceeded to adjourn the meeting. There is a reason that there are five members on the Elections Board, so that a decision that weighs this heavily on the future of Student Government is not decided unilaterally.  At no point during the meeting did the Elections Board invalidate the original election.  


In Steed, et al v. Elections Board, Senator Cody Steed and Governor Nicholas Tyndall of the Jupiter Campus petitioned the Student Court, maintaining that the Elections Board’s calling of a new special election is unconstitutional.  This petition went to a hearing, where in case 2018.08, the Student Court ruled that the special election was indeed unconstitutional on a 4-0 decision. Immediately following the decision of case 2018.08, Chief Justice Moriarity sent an email to the Elections Board detailing the Court’s decision that the special election was unconstitutional and the original February elections are upheld.  It is worth noting that the decisions in cases 2018.03 and 2018.08 were ignored by Dr. King, Mr. Speed, President Lawless, and Vice President MacDonald, even though Statute 614.100 states that Student Court decisions are final actions.


Meanwhile, in the Legislative Branch, a resolution opposing the special election was introduced in the University-wide Senate and all three Campus Houses. Over the span of six days, the Jupiter House passed it 6-0, the Senate passed it 3-2, the Boca Raton House passed it 32-4, and the Broward House passed it 3-0.  In addition to the Jupiter House passing said resolution, they also unanimously overrode President Lawless’ veto regarding a ‘Pet-Friendly Campus’ resolution. In a discussion with her and her Director of Government Relations Jon Carter one day later, President Lawless gave me a reason for the veto. She maintained that campuses should not be pet-friendly because students have allergies and students should make “real friends.”  Furthermore, President Lawless professed that the “Jupiter House [of Representatives] is not a real thing.” She then retreated into her office. These quotes do not sound like an administration for the student body.


Since these actions, the Executive Branch, administration, and the Elections Board have all ignored the decisions of two of the three Branches of Student Government.  The only reason why the Executive Branch has agreed with the special election is because President Lawless supports her Vice President and will do anything to make sure he stays in power for another year.  So, essentially, the reason is bias, which has no place in Student Government. Elected officials should always be for the students, not their friends.


The special election results have since been posted, and regardless of the outcome, it should still be deemed illegal.  The Judicial Branch ruled it illegal twice. The Legislative Branch ruled it illegal four times. How many more times does this have to happen?  


FAU Student Government is in a statutory crisis.  As stated in the resolution opposing the special election, “the very foundation of Student Government is crumbling,” and it is up to the students to fix it.  It is correct to say that the LaBayne/MacDonald ticket received the most votes in the first election, but they cannot expect to constantly break the rules and get away with it.  If this is a continuing trend with LaBayne and MacDonald, then it is also correct to say that the students of FAU will have a President and Vice President that does not care about following the statutes.  The students of FAU deserve an administration that obeys the law.


Noah Goldberg is a rising Junior Accounting Major and Political Science Minor.  He is also the Ways & Means Committee Chairperson for the Boca Raton House of Representatives. For information regarding this story, please email [email protected].