By: Topher Payton
First, Damir Siahkoohi won the student president election.
Then, after an advisory board disqualified Siahkoohi’s candidacy, ruling that his campaign violated SGA election bylaws, Kyle Nicholas was named the winner.
But now, with a special appeals board being convened by Eastern President Michael Benson to review the decision, both Siahkoohi and Nicholas will have to wait at least a few more days before they learn who will be student president for the 2014-2015 school year. And students will have to wait until either one of them is sworn in.
The special appeals board, which President Benson is currently assembling, will review the Advisory Board’s decision from Tuesday. That’s when Advisory Board voted 5-3 that Siahkoohi, by hanging a campaign banner off an outdoor Powell balcony, violated SGA bylaws prohibiting election materials in Powell when polls were open.
The board’s decision disqualified Siahkoohi, who had won the election by just a handful of votes, effectively handing the election to the runner-up Nicholas and his running mate Rachael Lander.
After the ruling, Siahkoohi said he approached President Benson, asking whether he’d consider an appeal to the Advisory Board’s ruling, which Benson agreed to take a look at.
Benson said that he will form an appeals board—composed of two faculty, two staff and three students—and review the case over the next few days.
“The feeling was as I read the SGA constitution that it’s not clear,” Benson said. “I would err on the side of caution. The constitution as it’s currently written allows for an appeal process.”
Nicholas said current SGA President Sarah Carpenter and Executive Vice President Steven Bradford will stay on as interim president and vice-president until a final decision is made by the appeals board. Benson added that he hoped the board would have its decision before the end of next week so the new student president can be sworn-in before graduation ceremonies that weekend.
The appeals board, convened by Benson, will be composed of people who have no ties to the election, Siahkoohi said, adding that he believed they would review the case in its entirety, not just procedural questions about the Advisory Board’s ruling.
Also among the questions the appeals board will consider: Whether the advisory board has the authority to challenge the ruling of two student boards, Siahkoohi said.
Benson added that the appeals board’s decision will be final, equating its authority to that of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“I really hesitate at all to get involved in an election,” Benson said. “[The SGA election] is the last place for administrators [to get involved].”