DePaul SGA Judicial Board dismisses all allegations from last month’s hearing

Students+walk+on+the+Quad%2C+located+on+the+Lincoln+Park+campus.

Eric Henry

Students walk on the Quad, located on the Lincoln Park campus.

Editor’s Note: Marcus Robertson was an editor for The DePaulia, but had no involvement in the election reporting. 

The Judicial Board of DePaul’s Student Government Association (SGA) dismissed all allegations from last month’s hearing on Tuesday in a statement posted on Instagram.

On May 27, J-Board held a hearing to investigate allegations of election violations in the organization’s spring quarter election. 

David Hupp, SGA’s newly elected senator for disabled students, filed complaints alleging that SGA President Watfae Zayed, along with recently elected SGA Executive Vice President of Diversity and Equity Adora Alava, accessed and submitted their candidate applications early, and that as vice president this past year, Zayed failed to hold a Constitutional Revisions Board (CRB) session this spring quarter.

During the hearing, Hupp said Zayed had informed him that CRB decided as a group not to meet this quarter and that Alyssa Isberto, who served as SGA’s president this academic year, told him that CRB did meet this quarter but didn’t seek constitutional revisions from those outside of CRB. 

“I spoke to another member of CRB and the other member of CRB said that it was not in fact a group decision,” Hupp said. “I’m not looking for any formal consequences beyond a finding that they did not meet and that they should have met and that failure to me was the failure, and that that matters.”

But during her opening statement, Zayed said CRB held a review session over Slack and a precedent had been set that CRB did not typically meet during spring quarter “because of the time restraint and it takes away from our ability to serve our students.”

In addition, Hupp claimed that SGA’s Election Operations Board (EOB) provided Zayed and her running mate Kevin Holechko with “better text formatting” when posting their initiatives on SGA’s website and that EOB failed to notify all candidates, SGA’s advisor and president of the election results three hours prior to making them public, per EOB’s bylaws

Allegation that Zayed failed to hold Constitutional Revisions Board session “Invalid”

On the charge claiming Zayed failed to hold a CRB meeting, J-Board said the allegation was “invalid” adding that SGA voted and adopted constitutional revisions during the quarter.

“Furthermore, we deem that the custom of not soliciting constitutional revisions from the student body during Spring Quarter is justified, given that term’s shorter duration however, we encourage the newly inaugurated General Body to codify that custom into the constitution,” the statement read. 

J-Board added that SGA’s Slack channels constitute a “valid platform” to hold official meetings. 

To support his claim during the May 27 hearing, Hupp showed a screenshot of CRB’s Slack conversation in which the group discussed proposing constitutional revisions to present to the general body.

As a witness for Zayed during the May 27 hearing, Johnny Milas, who served as SGA’s senator for fourth and fifth-year students, said he believed that the Slack conversation was considered CRB’s meeting for the quarter.

“I have been under the impression that we did meet,” Milas said during the hearing. “As far as I know, Slack has been a formal communication channel of SGA. We have held votes in there. We’ve done other official SGA business through that.”

Allegation that Zayed and Alava submitted and accessed application early has “Technical Merit”

Regarding Hupp’s allegation around Zayed and Alava’s early submission and access to the candidate application, J-Board said the charge had “technical merit in that both candidates were found to have accessed the forms early.”

“However, neither candidate submitted their form early, no malicious intent was found, and the problem seems to have been a technical one that neither candidate was aware of,” the statement read.

During the hearing, Courtney James, SGA’s advisor, presented timestamps showing that Zayed accessed the candidate application on April 19 at 12 a.m., nine hours before the application was made available to the public. But according to James, Zayed didn’t submit her application until 9:46 a.m. the same day, after the application opened.

The timestamps also showed that while Alava accessed the form on April 18 at 3:32 p.m.,she didn’t submit the form until April 19 at 4:02 p.m.

According to the statement, “No evidence of harm or material advantage was found, and the technical problem has been highlighted and addressed in the course of this hearing.” 

Allegation that Zayed had “Unfair Advantages”

Regarding Hupp’s claim that EOB provided “unfair advantages” to Zayed though “better text formatting” of her campaign’s initiatives, J-Board said that it found “no evidence of such conspiracy or collusion.”

“We would, however, encourage future EOBs to verify beyond reasonable doubt that all candidates’ initiatives are formatted in the same clear and organized way,” the statement read.

During last month’s hearing, Jane Pallos, SGA’s elections coordinator said there was “absolutely no conspiracy” between Zayed, Holechko and EOB.

“It’s clear as day that there was no conspiracy between us,” Pallos said. 

Allegation that EOB failed to notify candidates and SGA members of election results 

For the final allegation claiming that EOB didn’t inform candidates and others in SGA of the election results three hours before releasing the results to the public, J-Board said this “did factually occur.”

“However, the complete lack of material harm suffered as a result of this error leads us to the conclusion that no punishment is warranted,” read J-Board’s statement. “Furthermore, the attention given to this error as a result of the hearing on May 27 is a sufficient deterrent to repeating it.”

Apology from the acting chief justice

The statement ends with Marcus Robertson, the acting chief justice of the hearing, issuing an apology to the parties involved.

“It was my intention to do everything in my power to hold a hearing that was fair, and minimized harm, to everyone involved,” the statement read. “However, in the final portion of the hearing on May 27, I realized I had failed in one major way: I had not considered the necessity that both sides of each allegation see the opposing side’s evidence.”

According to the statement, Robertson said Hupp was unaware of any evidence that would have disproved his allegations.

“Because of this failure of mine, Hupp entered the hearing unprepared and likely suffered public embarrassment,” the statement read. “More importantly, Hupp was never given a fully-informed opportunity to withdraw his allegations, which probably would have eliminated the need for a hearing,” the statement read.

Robertson took responsibility for Hupp not having the chance to do that, adding that “it is likely the sole reason” the hearing occurred in the first place. 

“For that, I apologize to Watfae Zayed, Adora Alava, David Hupp, each member of the EOB, the SGA general body and the DePaul student body as a whole,” according to the statement.

Robertson then apologized directly to Zayed and Alava.

“I apologize for failing to prevent a hearing that caused both of you real distress, and brought into question your character, integrity and efficacy in office,” the statement read.

Robertson also apologized to Hupp for “failing to share relevant evidence with you, and I apologize for any distress and blowback you’ve suffered as a result.”

And to anyone else involved in the hearing, Robertson apologized for “wasting valuable time that you will never get back.”

In her closing remarks, Zayed said the hearing had prevented her, Holechko and other cabinet members from starting their initiatives.

“We had to delay supporting students for this trial and right now I’m only human, I can only improve and I hope everyone recognizes that, but I also want everyone to recognize that the time we spent, the three and a half hours we have spent here right now is preventing us from serving students,” Zayed said during the hearing.