Recap of the Student Government Association Grievance Hearing

By Samantha Phillips and Gabrielle Fellows

Sanctions in response to grievances filed during this year’s Student Government Association presidential elections will be published before 6:30 p.m. Saturday, following hearings held Friday.

The hearings were held in the Williamson College of Business Administration and Presidential candidates Rayann Atway and Sydney Vegoda and Vice Presidential candidates Ernie Barkett and Dylan Edwards were present to respond to the grievances.

Kelly Beers, associate director of Student Conduct, said there were initially 38 grievances in connection with the SGA election. To avoid redundancy, duplicate grievances were combined. Only grievances that pertained to the SGA election were discussed.

A student panel consisting of Kelsey Montozzi, Drake Hankins, Emma Kovacs, Joseph Shields and Jacob Croach will rule on sanctions for the respondents. These students had no connection to SGA or those running for office.

Due to university policy, the sanctions must be given within 24 hours of the hearings, which ended at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

The following grievances were brought before the Student Code of Conduct panel:

Grievance 1: Immediately dismissed by Ernie Barkett before discussion.

Grievance 2: James MacGregor filed a grievance against Logan Barna, YSU SGA representative, for posting flyers at the Courtyard Apartments. He said he discussed it with the election board prior to posting them, and didn’t realize he was breaking any rules. He apologized for posting the flyers. MacGregor was not present for the hearing.

Grievances 4 and 5: Lukas Darling filed a grievance against Ernie Barkett for allegedly placing campaign flyers on tables in lower Kilcawley on March 22. Darling said Barkett signed a contract saying he wouldn’t post flyers in lower Kilcawley a few days prior to the SGA election. Barkett said he handed out flyers to people as he spoke with them, and they may have left those flyers on tables.

Grievance 8: Noor Khalayleh filed a grievance against Sydney Vegoda and Dylan Edwards, claiming they distributed unauthorized audio and video of Atway on their Facebook campaign page without her consent. Beers asked the the parties not to discuss whether or not the video was modified. Khalayleh said the Facebook video was viewed by more than 850 people.

Grievance 9: A student filed a grievance against Barkett, alleging that Barkett discussed his campaign in professor A.J. Sumell’s environmental economics class. Barkett brought a written statement from Sumell, who said he asked Barkett to give the presentation, so Barkett shouldn’t be punished for doing so. Barkett added that he did this on the day that voting was extended and the class wasn’t full that day. He said the polls were open for 62 hours when he gave the speech.

Grievance 10 (Grievance 11 was dismissed because it was a duplicate): Vegoda and Edwards filed a grievance against Atway and Barkett. Vegoda claimed that multiple photos of her and Edwards were shared on Atway and Barkett’s Facebook page without consent, including a post that advertised the Rookery Radio debate. Atway said content posted on Facebook becomes authorized for public use under Facebook’s terms and conditions, but Vegoda said sharing unauthorized images online violates university policy.

Grievance 13 (Grievance 12 was dismissed because it was a duplicate): Vegoda and Edwards filed a grievance against Atway and Barkett, claiming they violated the Student Code of Conduct by sharing the livestream of the Rookery Radio debate on their Instagram page. They claimed it was unauthorized dissemination of a video recording. Barkett said that streaming video is not the same as a video recording.

Grievance 14: Vegoda and Edwards filed a grievance against Atway and Barkett, claiming photos of Vegoda and Edwards were posted on Instagram and Twitter without consent. Beers said the previous grievance involved the same discussion, and they didn’t need to re-discuss it.

Grievances 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22, 24: Vegoda and Edwards filed several grievances against Atway and Barkett regarding e-mails that were sent from Atway’s YSU e-mail account that contained voting instructions and a message to vote for Atway and Barkett. Vegoda claimed that it violated the Ohio Revised Code and the Student Code of Conduct. Atway said there has never been a case where using emails for political campaigns was ruled a violation of the code, and that the code prohibited selling goods or services through their emails. Barkett said political emails are protected under the First Amendment.

Grievances 19, 23, 25, 26, 28: Edwards filed several grievances against Atway and Barkett regarding the use of YSU trademarks — logos and images such as Pete the Penguin. Vegoda and Edwards claimed that university policy bars anyone from using the content if the publication isn’t associated with athletics, so it’s a case of copyright infringement. Atway responded that the YSU website states that Pete’s image can be published for educational purposes, and their campaign was meant to educate people on their platforms and how to vote in the election. Vegoda claimed the use of Meryl Streep’s image in a meme that was posted on Atway and Barkett’s Facebook campaign page was a copyright infringement, but Atway responded they were allowed to use the image because it was for parody purposes.

Grievances 32 and 38: Vegoda and Edwards filed grievances against Atway and Barkett, relating to the alleged violation for using a student email account and the Pete the Penguin image. Atway said Pete is a “highly identifiable” mascot, so the image is allowed to be used by the entire campus community under the university’s fair use clause. Vegoda claimed that Atway’s email use was a violation because it was for an “inappropriate financial gain.” Atway and Barkett argued that they ran because they wanted to improve the student body, not for the salary.

Grievance 35: Vegoda filed a grievance against Atway and Barkett, claiming that Atway violated the Ohio Revised Code and the Student Code of Conduct by sending out campaign emails. Atway said the emails contained political speech, which is protected under the First Amendment. She also reiterated that she was running for office to better the University and that the salary was a plus. Vegoda said Atway’s claim was invalid because if Atway’s emails swayed voters, Atway could gain an office, a title and a $20,000 salary, which Vegoda claimed represented a personal gain.

Grievance 31, 33, 34, 36: Edwards filed grievances against Atway and Barkett for their use of Pete the Penguin. Vegoda said Atway and Barkett used the image without the university’s consent, and that university policy often is more strict than that of state law. Edwards cited an example, saying that if someone is 21, they can drink legally in bars, but they cannot drink alcohol in Kilcawley center. Atway said YSU’s website says students can use Pete’s image as long as it is not altered. Vegoda said her campaign reached out to the university and were told they could not use Pete’s image on their campaign materials. She suggested SGA contact the university and discuss the issue so the policy is clear.