The Dust Has Settled: SGA President and Vice President Selected, Federal Complaint May Be Dismissed

By Samantha Phillips

The results of the Student Government Association 2017-2018 presidential election are in— Rayann Atway and her running mate Ernie Barkett won by about 450 votes, making Atway the next SGA president and Barkett her executive vice president.

“We’re both really excited,” Atway said. “It’s really rewarding. We are excited to serve next year and to hit the ground running now.”

Barkett said he is thankful for everyone who voted for them, and supported them throughout the election.

The final score after sanctions were 735 votes for Atway, and 284.2 votes for her opponent Sydney Vegoda, Atway lost 15 votes from the sanctions, and Vegoda lost about 6 votes.

The Atway and Vegoda campaigns were both sanctioned with a two percent dock of votes for violating election rules, according to an email from Eddie Howard, the YSU associate vice president of Student Experience.


Polling and Grievances

The polls were open from April 4 to April 6, an extra day longer than past SGA elections, since the physical polling location wasn’t available on April 4.

The election results were postponed by a series of grievances being filed pertaining to the election. Initially, 38 grievances were filed.

Most of the grievances were dismissed or combined with others because they were duplicates. They were primarily filed between Atway and Barkett and their opponents, Vegoda and  her running mate Dylan Edwards.

On Friday, grievance hearings were held at Williamson to give the candidates a chance to argue their case and debate on their grievances, which included complaints of copyright infringements of memes and pictures or videos of both presidential candidates shared without consent.

On top of the grievances, a federal complaint was filed at the Mahoning County Courthouse against the YSU SGA’s Election Board.

What is Known About the SGA Election Board Federal Complaint

Edwards said he does not plan on pursuing the complaint that he and Vegoda filed on April 10, because he will be graduating in Spring 2018. He said Vegoda may continue with it because she will be attending YSU for another year.

The Jambar reached out to Vegoda to talk about the federal complaint and alleged lawsuit, but she has not been available for comment.

Howard declined to comment on the behalf of the university, stating that he would have to speak with General Counsel.

The complaint was originally filed on April 10, and claimed that Vegoda and Edwards had their First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment rights violated after a grievance was filed against them for slander and libel.

Vegoda and Edwards received an email on April 6 from Taylor Christian, a member of the YSU SGA’s Election Board, stating they had to respond by April 10 to a grievance that claimed they violated the Student Code of Conduct and University Policy.

The grievance claimed that the Vegoda and Edwards campaign contained slander and libel against Atway by editing a clip of her to obscure her views on transparency, and then shared the edited video without consent.

The federal complaint filed in response claimed that under the U.S. Constitution, they had their right to free speech impeded, and due process wasn’t provided since they didn’t receive a copy of the actual grievance until 40 minutes before the hearing on April 10.

“There were some rights and privileges that we have under the Student Code of Conduct and the U.S. Constitution that we needed upheld,” Edwards said.

Edwards added that he originally wanted to move forward with the federal complaint because he and Vegoda felt that they were being treated unfairly, and that the SGA bylaws were unclear. He said the grievances were filed after the election

“The kind of treatment we received and the problems with the bylaws we had to deal with, that’s going to prevent students from running and being elected solely on the ambiguity of some of the bylaws,” Edwards said.

There were also issues with how the old electoral board operated. The old electoral board was accused of having relationships of varying degrees with candidates campaigning for SGA president and vice president, therefore making grievance hearings unfair.

Jacob Schriner-Briggs, exiting vice president of SGA, said the old electoral board was replaced with a new elections board, overseen by Kelly Beers, associate director for Student Conduct, featuring five students with no connections to SGA or the running candidates.

“The old electoral board was taken out of the equation and replaced with students from the conduct review board,” Schriner-Briggs said. “They will be overseen by Kelly Beers and she will run [the meetings] according to SGA bylaws.”

Edwards said he felt the charged slander grievance against him and Vegoda was unfair because members of the election board spoke badly about them on social media and privately to their friends.

“The situation with the old board was kind of problematic at best, you had someone who lived with Rayann for multiple years on the board, then you have three other members of the board who made statements privately to people that talked bad on us,” Edwards said.

The amended complaint can be viewed here: Amended Complaint.


Future Initiatives

Moving forward, Atway and Barkett said they would like to continue on past initiatives, such as the student food pantry and textbook affordability.

“The current administration was successful on applying for and being granted for the food pantry on campus, so we are able to purchase a refrigerator and freezer for the pantry,” Atway said. “What Ernie and I want to do is secure a good location where we can fit the refrigerator and freezer.”

They also plan on ensuring that students are registered as voters and developing housing contracts with students for the summer period, especially international students.

Gabriella Gessler, YSU SGA president, said she will be meeting with Atway and Barkett on Wednesday to transition them into their positions.

Additional reporting by Gabrielle Fellows.