Home Campus UPDATE: Graduate Student Senate certifies Dareen Tadros as president-elect, after appeal from rival candidate

UPDATE: Graduate Student Senate certifies Dareen Tadros as president-elect, after appeal from rival candidate

23 min read
Dareen Tadros. Photo by William Meyer.

After a two month investigation following an election appeal, Graduate Student Senate has finally certified Dareen Tadros as president-elect for the 2019-2020 school year.

Update and Correction: A previous version of this story erroneously said Maria Modayil declined to comment on the election following the meeting. While she did decline to comment on the issue to an Athens News reporter, Modayil did not speak to a TNP reporter that night. Modayil and Brett Fredericksen were interviewed in the days following the meeting, and the story has been updated with their accounts.

Graduate Student Senate voted last Tuesday to certify February’s executive election results, confirming Dareen Tadros as president-elect.

Tadros currently serves as president of the International Development Student Association, vice president of the Fulbright Association at Ohio University, and senator for international studies at GSS.

The vote came after a lengthy appeal process that questioned the validity of the election. The appeal, filed by GSS presidential candidate Brett Fredericksen, cited low voter turnout and a delayed election as reasons to have a revote. Tadros said she respected the appeal, and is glad GSS ultimately voted to certify the election results.

“The appeal process was in the spirit of justice and the spirit of democracy, and I feel that justice and democracy are still alive,” Tadros said.

Per the senate’s Rules and Procedures, the senate president is required to create a committee comprised of five GSS members to investigate an appeal. Concerned about perceived bias, President Maria Modayil recused herself from the committee’s creation and delegated the task to Senator Emeritus Daniel Williams.

In addition to Williams, who served as a spokesman for the committee, five volunteers — the only five — formed the Appeals Board. The Appeals Board collected email archives, chat records, recorded interviews, and election records, as well as statements from all current and some former GSS members.

Ultimately, the board found there was no conspiracy to elect Fredericksen or Tadros. In reviewing its findings, the board concluded that Tadros attempted to interfere with the appeals process, but her actions did not interfere with the board’s ability to function.

Furthermore, the board found that voter turnout was typical of previous elections and that the election’s last minute date change, affected by miscommunication among GSS executives, was “prohibitive to participation.”

Additionally, the Appeals Board’s findings note that “allegations of a toxic work environment or bullying” were “outside the scope of the appeal.”

Based on its findings, the board did not recommend certification of the election. It stated that “a new election is the only way to ensure justice and uphold democratic process.”

Claudia Cisneros, who resigned as the senate’s vice president of communication this year, was not convinced.

“The truth is, this whole thing is a cover up for a conspiracy that was made by people in this body to have one person win, because she didn’t like the other two people to be president,” she said.

Cisneros accused Modayil of manipulation, and said that Modayil dragged her feet through the release of the election newsletter, finished days before the announcement, because she wanted to change the format.

“What was the priority? Wasn’t the priority the elections, which were your responsibility?” Cisneros asked Modayil during the meeting.

Cisneros claimed she has evidence of the alleged conspiracy, but said she would not be able to share all of it because of the meeting’s time restraints.

In an interview the day after the meeting, Fredricksen said he was disappointed in Cisneros for accusing conspiracy.

“I think a lot of people — when they shout that there’s collusion between me and Maria are misinterpreting the fact that I am an active member in the body — and thus work closely with Maria — as somehow an effort to supplant an election and install me as Maria’s heir,” Fredericksen said.

Jack Nece, representative for accounting students, expressed concern over the precedent being set should GSS call for a new election.

“If we were to redact on what happened previously, no matter the results of it, I feel like we’re on a very slippery slope,” Nece said. “If you don’t like what happened, we can just run a motion for it, investigate it, and maybe do a whole new vote if they (the Appeals Board) finds any reason to un-certify it.”

Concerned that the controversy of the appeal would skew votes in a new election, Nece concluded the underlying problem is voter participation.

In a statement read aloud by his proxy, Fredericksen said, “I feel with the full extent of my being that the appeal has been handled thoroughly and in an unbiased manner and with board members even keeping their identities unknown to me until now.”

He noted that Tadros and Michael Senteney, another presidential candidate, have every right to be upset at being put through the appeal process. He said he supports the board’s findings and added that he will fully support any decision the general body makes on the issue.  

“In the end, I am trying to express what I feel to be democratic ideals, and to advocate for graduate student interests,” Fredericksen’s statement read.

Tadros shared her own thoughts on the appeal process. First, according to the senate’s official rules and procedures, candidates are not allowed to run for two positions; Fredericksen and Michael Senteney ran for both president and treasurer.

However, the general body voted to suspend the rule to ensure executive vacancies would be filled. Second, the results of the election should be made public after 24 hours. Tadros was concerned that the Appeals Board did not highlight the broken rules in the appeal report.

Modayil explained Friday that the rule suspension came about after a conversation concerning the compensation executive GSS members receive. One position, the president, is paid.The other three are not.

Modayil said that due to GSS’ body consistently having only three out of four executives due to resignations in the past two years, the body wanted to emulate Student Senate’s three position model, which features a president, vice president and treasurer.

“But our Rules and Procedures says that there are four positions, so we had to pass the suspension of rules so that we can accommodate this structure that we envisioned this year, but at the same time accommodate the elections that are supposed to happen,” Modayil said.

She noted that some former GSS members were tasked with changing the language of the Rules and Procedures, but they resigned before the task was completed, hence the rule suspension. Still, Modayil recalled a technicality discussed during the conversation, that the president is a non-voting member.

“The language in our Rules and Procedures is that ‘individuals shall not seek for more than one voting position on GSS,’ so technically Michael and Brett applying to the president position — its a nonvoting position,” Modayil said. “If they applied for VP and treasurer, then they would be in violation of the rule. We thought we should suspend that regardless, just in case.”

“The body allowed for people to apply for more than one position,” Modayil continued. “Is it fair for me, the night before the elections happened to say ‘oh no, we overlooked this, so now you all have to take your names off one position?’”

The election, held on Feb. 1, did have its results announced until Feb. 5. Tadros said that before the results were announced, Modayil sent an email to all candidates to request a meeting. Tadros and Modayil met on Feb. 4.

“I know it requires lots of work — I knew all of these things before applying — but my feeling is that you were trying to scare me away from the position at the time without telling me I was the elected president,” Tadros said to Modayil during Tuesday’s meeting.

Modayil clarified Friday that she did not count the votes until Feb. 5, the day after she met Tadros and the other four executive candidates. She said the delay in the announcement was because of constraint caused by her academic work.

“I was on a time crunch at the time with my academic work to get my dissertation stuff in,” Modayil said. “Like, right now I’m behind my schedule on graduating — I was supposed to graduate this semester, but I have to put off my graduation — it’s because all of this has consumed my life.”

During an interview, Tadros said she was bullied throughout the appeals process by Modayil and Fredericksen, the latter of whom she met with following the announcement of the election results.

“He approached me and asked me to leave the position, to take another position, the fourth position, that the body voted to remove,” Tadros said. “He told me it would be a better learning experience for me.”

Fredericksen said that was a misunderstanding.

Fredericksen said he approached Modayil and Tadros to ask if he could nominate Tadros for vice president of communication (VPC) or vice president of legislative affairs (VPLA). However, he added that Modayil and Tadros, who were together at the time, said Tadros had a class that conflicted with the executive meeting time.

“I approached her, shook her hand and congratulated her on winning,” Fredericksen said. “After that, I pointed to the two empty seats at the exec table and said ‘you should consider taking the VPC or VPLA positions that are available this semester, as we as a body have not eliminated those positions yet and they’re still open, to gain experience on the executive board for next semester.’”

With the exception of the president, when a executive member of GSS resigns, that position can be filled once an individual is nominated and appointed without a general body vote.

Tadros also said Modayil accused her of lying and that she tried to convince Tadros to step down.

“She tried to scare me away from that position, telling me it was even challenging for her, it was a huge learning leap, and definitely that it’s a huge responsibility,” Tadros said.

Modayil denied the accusation, and said she met with all five executive candidates to answer and build upon any questions they had about the positions they campaigned for.

“It was my intention to properly prepare the next executives for their positions, and I am disappointed that one person took it to mean that I was bullying when I did not even know the results myself,” Modayil said in an email.

Modayil said that she takes full responsibility for the shortcomings surrounding the timing and delay of the appeal process.

In an interview Friday, Modayil shared her thoughts on Tuesday’s meeting.

“I question if it’s a true representation of our Graduate Student body because our graduate student body is very diverse,” Modayil said. “There was a specific group of students who came, and they came because of their alliances with Dareen specifically.”

“And, I’m sure if Brett wanted to take this as contentiously, he could have gathered up as many people too,” Modayil continued. “But, his intent was not a personal attack — his intent was the process was not followed, and justice to the process should be done.”

Modayil said the Appeals Board focused on events prior to the election on Feb. 1, and stated that most of Tadros’ submissions to the board concerned events that took place after the election, which includes Tadros’ harassment allegations.

Fredericksen, who was not in attendance Tuesday because of a demanding exam schedule, applauded the senate’s composure.

“I’m disappointed with how a lot of people behaved in the meeting last night, but I do believe the body was able to maintain its composure regardless of how they voted on the appeal,” Fredricksen said.

“That being said, I am concerned at the efforts made to circumvent the appeals process, such as contacting the media, the university ombudsman, and various advisors of the GSS body, not allowing us to work under our normal operating procedures.”

When GSS voted to certify the election, Walter 235 erupted into thunderous applause as a group of about 20 spectators paraded out, cheering in the hallway.

Of her plans as GSS president, Tadros said, “We need to be more inclusive, to represent all the students as much as possible, and to also listen to the needs of the students and to work closely with the administration.”

Tadros added that she hopes to continue collaborating with Student Senate and that she is very appreciative of the work they have done. She said there is a need to increase graduate student representation.

“It’s important to have representation, especially as there are not many graduate students representing graduates on Student Senate,” she said.

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