Friday, April 14, the Associated Students Superior Court ruled against Kadija Sesay’s appeal, removing her presidential candidacy from the 2011 election ballot.
Parker Hemingway, director of elections of the Associated Students of EWU (ASEWU), filed a grievance against Sesay, stating that she violated the ASEWU bylaws concerning campaigning and should be removed from the ballot.
Bylaw 206A, section 5, subsection A, states that campaign materials shall not be posted or distributed prior to 6 a.m. the day after the mandatory election candidate information session, which is determined by Hemingway, and the official close of election filing.
A few days before receiving her candidacy packet, Sesay posted a group on Facebook that announced her candidacy and encouraged others to vote for her. When learning that she created this group prior to the allowable date for candidates to begin campaigning, she told Hemingway of her group.
“I did some investigating, and I found that she was in clear violation,” said Hemingway. “In order to keep it fair to everyone else, it was my job to file a formal grievance.”
After the grievance was filed, Sesay took the opportunity provided to her by the student conduct code and appealed Hemingway’s decision. Her appeal papers were submitted to ASEWU Superior Court Justice Jared Couch, who determined the hearing date.
“We have 10 days to act [to a filed appeal],” said Couch. “But in this case, I wanted to act as quick as possible so the candidate wasn’t left wondering, ‘What is the future going to bring for me? How are they going to rule?'”
Couch gave Hemingway the necessary three days notice of the hearing before it was officially scheduled for April 14 at 1:30 p.m.
Sesay’s appeal was two-fold as she stated that she had not received the proper process in removing her name from the ballot and also not being fully informed of the rules and regulations concerning campaigning.
“Having to deal with this is not fair because I should be campaigning right now,” Sesay said.
In response to Sesay’s statement of not being informed of campaigning policies, Hemingway referenced the campaigning agreement that each candidate must sign, which included a list of all bylaws concerning election and campaign materials as well as a statement that official campaigning can not begin until 6 a.m. April 9.
“Once [Sesay] picked up the packet and knew what the rule was, the Facebook group should have been deleted on the spot,” Hemingway said.
Rather than deleting the group, Sesay set the group to private where members could continue posting but no one else could find the group.
“She came to me with admitting that she had created a Facebook page prior to the 6 a.m. allotted time to start campaigning and distributing campaign materials,” Hemingway said during the hearing.
Hemingway detailed the process of formally meeting with Sesay.
“During the day of the meeting, I had not been in my office yet to see that the appellant had replied to my email a day prior at 5:30 [p.m.] Monday, April 11,” he said.
Sesay said that she originally came to the ASEWU office for a formal meeting during Hemingway’s office hours at 11 a.m. Tuesday and waited for an hour, but he was not present.
Hemingway said he was in a group session for a class during that time.
Sesay has filed a complaint against the ASEWU staff with OSRR. She said they were not impartial in their decision and are “blatantly full of corruption, nepotism and discrimination. I hope they will prove me wrong and be none of the above.”
“I just want a just and fair trial,” she said prior to the hearing.
Another element of confusion in Friday’s hearing was the lack of concrete definition of an “endorsement.” A member of the Superior Court was unwittingly added on Sesay’s group and has a hearing pending on allegations of endorsing a candidate.
According to ASEWU bylaw 206A, section two, “All ASEWU Council titles (e.g. ASEWU president, ASEWU Vice president, etc.) are the property of the Associated Students of Eastern Washington University, Inc., and shall not be used as part of an endorsement of a candidate for an ASEWU office or and ASEWU ballot initiative or referendum.”
The confusion related to endorsements was also noticed by Sesay. “If they’re going to do that, they need to make [the endorsement policy] applicable to the [Associated Students] staff, council, everything,” she said.
However, a Superior Court justice associated with Sesay’s group neither used her title while in Sesay’s Facebook group, nor did she make any comments on the group’s wall, which is what stimulated some controversy at both the hearing and the ASEWU council meeting where Sesay appealed the Superior Court’s decision to deny her request.
“The word endorsement is not defined in the definitions of the constitution,” said Couch. “But you have to read [the bylaw] as a whole. It says, ‘Any member of the ASEWU superior court who intends to endorse or participate.’ So the words endorse and participate need to be looked at.”
Couch said it was the participation aspect that influenced the Superior Court’s decision on ruling Callahan in violation of the endorsement section in the ASEWU bylaws.
Sesay is a member of the Black Student Union and is a former president of the EWU Wrestling Club.