Student Association Supreme Court upholds Howard’s election to Black Student Union

By Matt Liparota

Today, the Student Association Supreme Court announced it will uphold the election of Darren Howard, Black Student Union president.

Howard, who won the BSU presidency in April’s executive elections, was dismissed after other BSU executives claimed to witness Howard “at the polling station on several different occasions” and “coercing and intimidating voters into voting for him” during the April 28 elections, according to a formal complaint filed by BSU members. The complaint also alleged Howard destroyed and changed ballots.

The Office of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management overturned Howard’s dismissal.

Justice Winnie Okafor said one reason the court upheld Howard’s election was because he was not sanctioned properly for violations. According to the court’s written opinion, the BSU Constitution states a candidate must be sanctioned both verbally and in written form. According to testimony, Howard was only verbally reprimanded.

“Howard was not disqualified according to the procedures set forth in the BSU Constitution,” the court wrote.

The court also pointed out, according to testimony, Howard was not the only candidate violating policy.

“Testimony from the Election Judge … implicates several candidates in elections violations,” the court wrote. “It appears clear that there were multiple violations by many candidates.”

Questions arose in regard to the validity of the BSU Constitution as well. According to the written opinion, complainants and Howard each believed a 2005 constitution to be valid; however, the SA had a version from 1999 on file. A student organization must have a copy of its constitution on file with the SA office in order for it to be valid.

“I hope the BSU will accept the ruling of this case,” Okafor said. “I hope other student groups look to the internal dynamics of the case and learn what to avoid in the future.”

Chief Justice Heather Hentbrook said she hopes student groups continue to utilize the appeals process in future disputes.

“In the past, [the Supreme Court] hasn’t been that active,” Hentbrook said.

Copies of the court’s opinion are available for free at the SA office for anyone interested, Hentbrook said.