Two students have accused the Georgetown University Student Association (GUSA) of improper conduct relating to last week’s vote for a tuition increase in order to provide reparations for the descendants of slaves sold by the university in 1838.
Students voted by a 2-to-1 margin last Thursday in favor of increasing tuition by $27.20 per semester to create a fund that would go to the descendants. Not all students agreed with the referendum, with some questioning how the fund would be spent or why it was their responsibility to pay for the school’s past sins.
Students Rowan Saydlowski and Chris Castaldi-Moller were two students who disagreed with the referendum, and so submitted a suit against the GUSA Election Commission to the GUSA Constitutional Council alleging violations in the election. The students wrote in the press release that their suit “aims to overturn the results of the referendum on the basis of flawed, failed, and illegal execution of the student government’s laws.” Their suit has already succeeded in delaying the certification of the election results and the case will be heard on Wednesday.
The suit, which is 10 pages long, alleges three main violations of the GUSA Constitution, its by-laws, and ethical regulations. The first complaint claims the chair of the GUSA Senate’s Ethics & Oversight Committee co-sponsored the legislation that introduced the referendum. The suit claims this person had a conflict of interest, since they were also part of the committee tasked by the Election Commission to oversee complaints about election misconduct.
“It is embarrassing and shameful that the Ethics & Oversight Committee, tasked with ensuring ethical action and avoiding conflicts of interest, would act unethically and ignore obvious conflicts of interest within their own committee,” the students wrote in their suit.
This person, however, told Newsweek that “co-sponsorship does not equate to campaigning or a conflict.” The student, Dylan Hughes, told the media outlet that he didn’t campaign for either side of the referendum and co-sponsored it because he “helped to draft and edit the referendum’s technical content, and because I believe it’s important for students to be able to vote on and discuss these issues.”
The second violation alleged by Saydlowski and Castaldi-Moller is that the Election Commission “illegally changed the voting threshold” four days before the election. A tweet about the election originally said the referendum needed 25% of the votes to pass, but it was deleted and a follow-up tweet was posted saying the referendum needed a “simple majority” to pass. The students argued that the change of threshold amounted to “confusion” and may have suppressed the vote of those who opposed the referendum because they thought it wouldn’t get 25% of the vote, as originally thought.
The students also alleged the GUSA “did not enforce sanctions for those on the pro-referendum side who violated election rules,” “failed to properly publicize the process for making complaints about election violations,” and “presented a voter guide that inaccurately and incompletely described the content of the referendum to voters.”
Finally, Saydlowski and Castaldi-Moller allege the referendum is not legitimate anyway because it was not a proposed amendment to the GUSA Constitution, “meaning that there is no legal basis for a referendum of this sort to have taken place at all.”
Neither Saydlowski nor Castaldi-Moller immediately responded to a Daily Wire inquiry, but Saydlowski told Newsweek that he was preparing for their hearing on Wednesday by gathering additional evidence and testimony.