Student government repeals redundant anti-slander guidelines for candidates, officials say

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A document requiring El Camino College student government candidates to abide by several guidelines was repealed the week before voters take to the polls, Associated Student Organization officials (ASO) said.

The “Terms of Agreement” document was created to prevent slander among the ASO representatives and candidates, Andrew Leon-Bercovich, ASO director of external affairs, said.

Slandering was an issue during last year’s spring 2018 elections. In the fall 2018 special elections, current ASO President Joey Mardesich was accused of slandering to get his position, Leon-Bercovich said.

Mardesich said he was accused of slandering opponents but was also the victim of slandering himself, even being the target of victim shaming.

Mardesich said everything began when a candidate was disqualified after they went through EC emails for the personal use of promoting their campaign, which violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, a federal law that protects the privacy of a student’s education records.

Mardesich said he was accused of slander and a grievance was filed against him for speaking about the violation.

“But it is not,” Mardesich said. “The definition of slander is making a false accusation to diminish somebody else.”

In spring 2018, Mardesich and Leon-Bercovich, who had been in ASO for about nine weeks, were disqualified from the elections because they did not meet the required 16 weeks of membership.

Special elections were held the following semester on Tuesday, Oct. 16 and Wednesday, Oct. 17.

In spring 2019, candidates were required to sign the legal document to participate in elections. However, it was rescinded during the latest ASO meeting on Thursday, May 23.

Mardesich said he felt the “Terms of Agreement” were redundant considering campaign guidelines states that no slander is allowed.

“You’re not even allowed to use any dirty campaign tactics to win the the election or to run your campaign,” Mardesich said. “Those can be punished by disqualification.”

ASO Commissioner of Student Services Steven Unger said ASO candidates and members of the Election Committee struggled in getting the documents in order.

Members of the Election Committee did not turn in the documents on time and failed to send them out in time, Unger said.

Several candidates argued during the meeting that the document should be nullified because it was given to them on such short notice.

ASO director of Student Services Sean Min, who was planning to run for Student Trustee as Marilyn Valdez’s term is set to expire this June, was deemed ineligible because he did not turn in the “Terms of Agreement” on time.

Min said the document was given to candidates Monday, May 20, at 8:03 p.m. and was required to be turned in by 5 p.m the following day.

“It’s very important to me that I have an equal opportunity to campaign alongside my peers,” Min said. “But what it comes down to is time and the bottom line is there wasn’t enough time for people to receive documents that would be contingent on their qualifications.”

Bercovich said the reason the documents were late was that the Election Committee was elected in mid-April.

However, the Election Committee must be elected three weeks into the semester (late-February or early-March) and give candidates five weeks to read, sign, and return the documents, according to the ASO By-Laws 700-799.

ASO Spring Justice Mario Lopez said he would have liked for candidates to sign the documents but argued during the meeting that since the by-laws were not met, the candidates should not have to sign the “Terms of Agreement.”

“Our campaign is a big thing because we want to let students choose who they want to be represented by,” Lopez said.

Candidates will continue to campaign as they still have a set of election guidelines to follow, that states their rules and regulations they must follow for the campaign, according to the Election Guidelines.

Lopez added that because the Election Committee was late this semester, there will be an emphasis in making sure the group is chosen three weeks into the semester next spring with the hopes of using the same Terms of Agreement next year, with more time.

Voting for the ASO election will take place Tuesday, May 28 and Wednesday, May 29 on the Library Lawn from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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