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Judiciary brands IFC scheme 'bribery'

The Duke Student Government judiciary ruled Tuesday evening that the results of the March 11 DSG election run-off will stand-despite its decision that the Interfraternity Council's controversial voter-incentive program violated DSG by-laws and tainted the integrity of the election.

Explaining its ruling, the judiciary stated that IFC's misdeeds did not impact the elections' results and that another election would fail to inspire sufficient student response.

"We believe that the election was tainted by improper behavior on the part of the IFC," Chief Justice and Trinity junior Josh Schaffer said at the hearing. "We do not see that IFC's behavior affected the outcome of the election."

The judiciary's full written decision is forthcoming.

As a result of its conduct, IFC faces a punishment hearing at a future date. The nature and degree of the penalties that DSG can levy, however, remain unclear.

The decision clears the way for the installation of Trinity junior Jeri Powell as the next DSG president, Trinity sophomore Sean Murphy as DSG vice president for student affairs and Trinity sophomore Lisa Zeidner as DSG vice president for community interaction.

The judiciary consists of seven members, but only four members voted: Trinity junior Drew Wooldridge and Trinity senior Jonathan Robell recused themselves from the vote due to conflicts of interest, and Schaffer did not vote in the unanimous decision because DSG by-laws dictate that chief justice votes only to break a tie.

Responding to the appeal of the March 12 ruling on the matter handed down by the DSG election commission, the judiciary overturned portions of the commission's ruling; Although the election commission had stated that the IFC incentive plan raised serious ethical questions, it decided that the council had violated no specific by-laws.

Within a day of the commission's ruling, Trinity junior Lisa Kalik and DSG legislator and Trinity sophomore Brent Kaziny-both of whom filed the initial complaint with the election commission-delivered their appeal to Schaffer. Due to the impending Spring Break, Schaffer delayed the judiciary's decision about whether to reconsider the case until Tuesday night.

At the open hearing, the judiciary first determined that it would review the decision because of several procedural errors the commission made while formulating its ruling:

  • The commission failed to sufficiently investigate the election-tampering accusation made by Kalik and Kaziny;

  • DSG Attorney General and Trinity senior Blair Greber-Raines, also chair of the election commission, conducted improper conversations with IFC election coordinator and Trinity senior Randy Kenna prior to the commission's hearing;

  • Kenna spoke before the commission members and answered their questions at its hearing, but Kalik and Kaziny did not receive the same opportunity.

After deciding to retry the original complaint, the judiciary questioned Kenna heavily. It also questioned several people in attendance, including Powell and Murphy, and their respective competitors in the run-off election, Trinity juniors Bianca Motley and Sheri Shepherd.

During both the initial election and the run-off election, IFC held a competition in which it would permit the fraternity with the highest voter-turnout percentage to forgo paying its IFC dues next year. Because of the "bad press" surrounding the competition, however, Kenna said IFC might decide not to give such a reward to the victors.

Kalik and Kaziny's complaint took issue with the competition, arguing its close connection with IFC endorsements constituted election tampering and bribery. The pair presented as evidence e-mails from IFC President and Trinity junior Eric Weisman to fraternity presidents in which he reminded them about the contest and, in the same messages, encouraged fraternity members to support the IFC-endorsed candidates.

Only Alpha Epsilon Pi, Weisman's fraternity, did not participate in the competition. Weisman, who was not present for the latter two-thirds of the meeting, told The Chronicle March 12 that his fraternity's exclusion was due to the AEPi membership of Chronicle editor and Trinity senior Devin Gordon. Kalik and Kaziny argued that these facts demonstrate that IFC was aware of the ethical shortcomings of its contest.

Kenna emphasized throughout the hearing that IFC's contest was solely designed to encourage members of the greek community to vote and that the council could not be guilty of bribery or tampering because voters always retained the right to make their own voting decisions.

The judiciary ultimately disagreed. Citing a United States legal definition of bribery, it concluded that IFC's behavior would be included within that definition. As such, it ruled that IFC had violated the DSG election by-laws that states "no organization will be allowed to use organization funds to promote any candidate."

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