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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

BREAKING: 2024 VSG election cycle suspended indefinitely

VSG Judicial Court issued an order on March 23 mandating a new campaign period and election cycle in the wake of controversy surrounding one ticket’s legitimacy.
Barrie Barto
The Leadership and Service space, as photographed on Oct. 19, 2022. (Hustler Multimedia/Barrie Barto)

UPDATED: This piece was updated on March 24 at 2:11 p.m. CDT and 5:26 p.m. CDT to include statements from the Morinville-Kearns and Prestipino-Warner campaigns, respectively. It was updated again on March 25 at 7:20 p.m. CDT to include a statement from VSG’s Speaker of the Senate regarding the timeline of the resolution passed on March 19.

Vanderbilt Student Government’s Judicial Court issued a ruling on March 23 calling for the indefinite suspension of the 2024 VSG election cycle following concerns over the election being “unconstitutional and unsalvageable.” The dates for a new campaign period and election cycle have not yet been announced.

While the suspension is in effect, campaigning in any form is not permitted, according to the Court ruling. This policy excludes existing physical campaign materials, such as flyers and banners, which can remain through the conclusion of voting in the new election cycle.

According to VSG Chief Justice Robert Lowther, a junior, the VSG Senate voted on March 19 to pass Resolution S: 23-24-13, which altered VSG precedent by allowing either the president or vice president of a campaign ticket to be off campus during the election semester. VSG Speaker of the Senate Marco Navarro-Stanic, a junior, told The Hustler that he received the resolution prior to the beginning of campaigning but after the Senate’s last session before spring break. The approval of this resolution allowed Hananeel Morinville and Eleanore Kearns, both juniors, to be placed on the VSG ballot, for which voting was scheduled to begin on March 25.

VSG Elections Commissioner William Fiechtl, a junior, said he originally maintained the eligibility of the Morinville-Kearns ticket — a decision challenged by former VSG Chief of Staff Ari Sasson and brought to VSG’s Judicial Court on March 20. In a message to The Hustler, Sasson said he requested that the Court issue an order declaring the resolution unconstitutional to combat “blatant corruption” within VSG.

“VSG insiders promised their ‘chosen candidate’ a backroom dealing: ‘Campaign illegitimately, and we’ll fix the rules as we go to make sure you are up to code eventually,’” Sasson said. “The whole thing does a disservice to candidates who followed the rules from the beginning, and it’s ridiculous that VSG’s response to being called out on their b—— is to cancel the election.” 

The Court issued an opinion on March 22 affirming the resolution’s constitutionality but specified that it did not apply to the 2024 VSG election cycle. In turn, Morinville was allowed to continue her campaign, but Kearns — who is currently studying abroad — was disqualified. The Court also ruled that Fiechtl did not have the jurisdiction to deem the Morinville-Kearns ticket eligible, culminating in Fiechtl’s resignation.

“The fallout of this ruling has been large and controversial among the candidates and other members of VSG,” Fiechtl told The Hustler. “To create a clean slate for election decisions going forward and to reduce my personal stress, the Judicial Court and I agreed that I should resign as elections commissioner.”

Lowther said he subsequently received two requests on March 23 — one from Morinville petitioning to suspend the existing election cycle and initiate a new campaign period culminating in a new election and one from Sasson calling for the current election cycle to continue as planned.

Morinville claimed there has been ongoing “systematic oppression” of her and Kearns that she believes reflects patterns present during the election campaign of Hannah Bruns (B.A. ‘22) and Kayla Prowell (B.A. ‘23) in 2021.

“There are efforts to suppress [Kearns] and I as candidates,” Morinville said in an interview with The Hustler. “There is a lack of transparency with this election, and I think it’s important that the student body knows that.” 

The Court, under Lowther, issued a unanimous decision Saturday evening claiming the election cycle was inappropriately conducted and in opposition to VSG’s values. He further stated that the election failed to meet certain statutory standards, including a lack of available information about the election and issues with the Nonpartisan Candidate Database. Initiating a new campaign period and election allows the new resolution to go into effect, thereby permitting the Morinville-Kearns ticket to appear on the ballot.

“Given the overwhelming evidence that the current election cycle was not conducted according to the standards set forth in the VSG Statutes along with the fact that the events leading up to these requests demonstrated an election cycle ill-aligned with the core values of VSG, the Court unanimously decided to issue the order at [Morinville’s] request and to reject [Sasson’s] request,” Lowther said in an email to The Hustler.

According to the Judicial Court Order sent to current candidates and The Hustler, Sasson’s request alleged that initiating a new election cycle would present a “penalty” against the tickets of Lin Morales and Dee Norman, both sophomores, and Evan “Sevaan” Prestipino and Rachel Warner, both first-years. The Court denied these allegations, explaining that their decision “protects the integrity of VSG elections.”

“Ordering a new Campaign Period in the wake of an egregiously unconstitutional election cycle serves to provide a level playing field for all tickets. Moreover, it…sets the precedent that it is unacceptable to ignore Statutory regulations, even if inconvenient,” the order reads. “This order does nothing to penalize any ticket, as all tickets will receive the same time and resources to advocate for their election.”

The start date of the new campaign period has not yet been determined according to Lowther, though the inauguration of the President- and Vice President-elect will occur before the end of this semester’s classes on April 22. The Court order further mandated that VSG must hire a new elections commissioner as soon as possible, conduct a new campaign period and inform the student body of these changes within 24 hours, in line with Statute VSG President Sam Sliman, a senior, did not immediately respond to The Hustler’s request for details on the new elections timeline.

In a joint statement to The Hustler, Morinville and Kearns condemned any negative campaigning and emphasized their prioritization of transparency with the student body.

“While members of other campaigns may try to paint a negative image, we advocated for the student body having the most transparency at every step. Once we realized how little the student body knew due to constitutional violations, we immediately notified the chief justice, Morinville and Kearns said. After much deliberation, the court unanimously voted to suspend the election. The extended judicial court process only happened because there were several attempts made to disqualify our ticket. We had to challenge these baseless and bigoted attempts.”

Prestipino communicated his dismay with the Court’s decision in an email to The Hustler.

“This is exactly what I am against: allowing overly professional guidelines to ruin VSG’s operation. While judicially enforced fairness is important, it seems clear that the best option is to let the election run as is,” Prestipino said.

He further pointed to additional campaign violations committed by Morinville and Kearns, stating the pair disregarded election rules by using electronic communication to reach the petition requirement of 300 signees and posting flyers in lecture halls and bathrooms across campus. According to Prestipino, Fiechtl issued warnings in response to these violations though pursued no further action.

“Some say this is corruption demonstrating an inability to discharge his [Fiechtl’s] duties, but other see it as him simply taking a reasonable ‘it’s not that deep’ approach to VSG,” Prestipino said.

Morales and Norman expressed “mixed feelings” toward the Court order, explaining that they abided by election guidelines but also recognize the opportunity presented by the delay in the election cycle. They referred specifically to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions petition submitted to VSG by the Vanderbilt Divest Coalition that university administrators removed from the upcoming VSG ballot due to alleged legal concerns.

“We are understandably burnt out and frustrated as this campaign period has taken so much out of us — from being behind on sleep and schoolwork to [Norman] getting physically sick as of today,” Morales and Norman said in a message to The Hustler. “However, we do see a major upside, as this is an opportunity for the Divest referendum to be reinstated, as well as gives us more time to advocate for the right to vote for students that has been unjustly taken away from them.”

Tasfia Alam, Jorie Fawcett and Parker Smith contributed reporting to this piece.

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About the Contributors
Brina Ratangee
Brina Ratangee, Editorial Director
Brina Ratangee ('24) is a student in the College of Arts and Science majoring in medicine, health & society and neuroscience. She previously served as News Editor. When not writing for The Hustler, she enjoys trivia nights, solving NYT crosswords and biking around Nashville. You can reach her at [email protected].
Barrie Barto
Barrie Barto, Editor-in-Chief
Barrie Barto ('25) is majoring in medicine, health & society with neuroscience and communication of science & technology minors in the College of Arts and Science. She previously served as Photography Director. When she's not strolling around campus with her camera, you can find Barrie cheering on the St. Louis Blues or tracking down the best gluten-free food in Nashville. She can be reached at [email protected].
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Cranky Alum
3 months ago

I appreciate the write up, but I’m still a little confused over the core allegations. This article would be improved with a more succinct summary of the allegations against the candidates.