ASUOCover Story

Questions surround ASUO elections following squabble between Bowman and Tullis and the resignation of Elections Board

The fate of this year’s ASUO elections is unclear following a series of events involving an illicitly recorded conversation, the University of Oregon administration stepping in and the breakfast time arrest of a presidential candidate.

The season has reached a boiling point and shows no signs of cooling down.

It is unclear when voting can take place since there is currently no body to oversee the process following the resignation of all five members of the Elections Board.

The controversy dates back to finals week of winter term when Fresh Start Oregon presidential candidate Thomas Tullis filed a grievance against Ben Bowman, Mighty Oregon’s presidential candidate at the time. Tullis accused Bowman of intimidation, harassment and bribery. Tullis also claimed that Bowman, Marshall Kosloff and Alex Titus used these tactics in an effort to dissuade him from running for ASUO president. The conversation occurred in Tullis’ room in Riley Hall. A recorded phone call was cited as the primary instance of the intimidation.

“I was subject to a very hostile conversation with (Bowman), Kosloff and Titus, and I’m seeking that he gets the proper consequences for it,” Tullis wrote in his grievance.

Tullis sought to disqualify Bowman from the race. Tullis’ request was granted after the Elections Board reviewed the recorded phone conversation and the text of the grievance then held a hearing with Titus, Kosloff and Bowman. The Mighty Oregon presidential candidate was disqualified from the race on March 20.

Bowman appealed the board’s ruling but was denied his request by the Constitution Court on March 30. Mighty Oregon then appointed Taylor Allison as its presidential candidate April 2.

Enter the administration. On April 4, Vice President of Student Affairs Robin Holmes informed the university community via email that elections would be delayed to April 14. Holmes also put Bowman back on the ballot. Within minutes of the administration’s decision, former ASUO Elections Board Coordinator MacGregor Ehlen resigned. In his emailed resignation, Ehlen wrote that he stood by the Elections Board’s decision to disqualify Bowman. He mentioned that every member of the board and the ASUO Constitution Court voted to disqualify Bowman as well.

“Unethical conduct has become institutionalized in the ASUO and it is a shame that people accept the status quo,” Ehlen’s resignation read.

Following Ehlen’s resignation, the board’s remaining members — Drew Spainhower, Alex Davis, Madison Berger and Rujun Cao — stepped down as well.

A little more than 24 hours later, a knock came at Tullis’ door. It was the police. Tullis was arrested for recording the conversation between Bowman, Kosloff, Titus and himself in the room at Riley Hall.

Tullis was held in jail for allegedly defying ORS 165.540, a law forbidding the recording of a person-to-person conversation without the consent or knowledge of both parties. He was released more than four hours later.

ASUO President Sam Dotters-Katz began drafting a letter threatening to dismantle the ASUO after the administration reinstated Bowman.

“If the Administration both refuses to reverse this decision and prohibits the ASUO from holding its own elections process, we, the undersigned, will close down the ASUO” Dotters-Katz wrote.

Dotters-Katz was disappointed with university administrators because of the ASUO’s supposed autonomy — the administration only steps in when a state or federal law is broken. Administrators have not disclosed a clear reason for intervening in the elections process. Holmes said that this is due to privacy issues and limitations.

Dotters-Katz doesn’t believe that the administration has reason to intervene. His disapproval of the administration’s intervention was so strong that he and ASUO External Vice President Greg Mills drafted a letter threatening to shut down the student government unless the administration overturned its ruling.

Holmes wrote in a statement to The Emerald that it’s the administration’s responsibility to ensure university policies and laws are followed. The administration steps in when those laws are breached.

“The decision to intervene in the ASUO election process was a difficult one to make, and was made after much deliberation and consultation with numerous interested parties,” Holmes wrote. “It is not always possible to share additional information as there are privacy issues and limitations on what can be shared publicly. I hope the election will proceed smoothly when balloting begins on April 14th.”

Administrators also stepped in during last year’s ASUO elections to reverse a Constitution Court ruling. Even though the votes had been tallied, the court ruled to hold the results following bribery allegations. Administration reversed the ruling and published the elections results and a win for Dotters-Katz over Lamar Wise. There are no set policies on when the administration can interfere with ASUO proceedings, blurring the line between student autonomy and administrative responsibility. In the past administration has stepped in when issues of state or federal law enter the ASUO elections.

However, elections cannot take place without an Elections Board, according to the ASUO Constitution. The entire Elections Board’s resignation is unprecedented, and according to Dotters-Katz, campaigning can’t continue while there is no board.

According to ASUO Senate President Matthew Miyamoto, the process of replacing the elections board would mirror what took place at the beginning of the year. That process may take a minimum of four weeks. It can take longer. It took approximately 3 1/2 months to hire Ehlen and his Elections Board. Appointing a new Elections Board coordinator and hiring a new board would significantly delay the elections process.

It is currently uncertain whether the original Elections Board can come back or if its members are willing to do so.

“Until admin changes their ruling I don’t know if anyone on the Elections Board will come back,” Ehlen said.

As of press time, the UO administration stands by April 14 as the first day of voting for this year’s elections.

Ducks Like You will be on the ballot.

“We’re excited for elections to get going and start working on some of the issues and get more investment back from the student body,” Ducks Like You presidential candidate Beatriz Gutierrez said. “I think we’ve lost a lot of it in the last week with all this drama.”

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Alexandra Wallachy

Alexandra Wallachy

Alex is a head correspondent at the Emerald focusing on higher education and student government. She is also a producer for the Emerald Podcast Network and a huge fan of the Daily Show.