When Ian Yaffe '09 submitted his petition for candidacy as president of Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) on Thursday, he assumed that it would be denied. It was.
"My candidacy is against the constitution," Yaffe said in an interview with the Orient.
Yaffe, who has never served on BSG and therefore does not meet the requirements for the position of BSG president, has not let the Elections Commission's refusal of his candidacy deter him.
"I don't believe that rule is entirely just," Yaffe said. "I have an issue with them believing that not everyone here is qualified to run for office."
"The constitution is important, but it should never get in the way of doing what people think is right," he said.
At its March 28 meeting, BSG voted against a constitutional amendment that would have made all students eligible to run for BSG president. As it reads now, election rules require that candidates for president and treasurer have previous experience on BSG and the Student Activities Funding Committee (SAFC), respectively.
"The decision is clearly written in the election rules that you cannot run if you have not served on BSG," said BSG Treasurer Rebecca Ginsberg '07.
"It came up in debate a couple of weeks ago and the whole [BSG] body decided. It wasn't even a matter of [the Elections Commission] making a decision," Ginsberg said. "[Yaffe] didn't meet the election eligibility requirements, so he's not eligible to run."
Although declared an ineligible candidate by the Elections Commission, a group made up of six members of BSG and two members of the Judicial Board, Yaffe has decided to continue his contest for the presidency. Yaffe said he plans to propose an amendment to the BSG constitution, an action that requires he get 20 percent of the student body to sign a petition over the weekend.
Once Yaffe collects some 350 signatures, the amendment must be ratified by a two-thirds majority of the student body in a referendum election.
Vice President of Student Government Affairs Dustin Brooks '08 is the only candidate for BSG president who has been approved by the commission.
Brooks, who has been a member of BSG for three years, said he feels he has a good grasp on what changes the student government needs to see.
"The BSG has worked a lot on reforming itself, and now it's time for it to focus on communication, making sure students, faculty, and staff are talking," Brooks said in an interview with the Orient before Yaffe's candidacy was invalidated.
"I really think we're getting to a point where we're ready to provide a conduit for students to talk to the administration, rather than being the middleman. I also think the BSG can be more visible and the work that it does more public," he said.
According to Brooks, his No. 1 priority if elected would be to make BSG more open to students.
"In terms of those issues, I'm really looking forward to the conversation about academic advising, because I think that's the one that has developed the least on campus to date, and I think that students' perspectives on that are so crucial to developing the right system," Brooks said.
Yaffe agrees that the BSG could be more accessible to students.
"I would like to see the BSG be a lot more transparent," Yaffe said. "There's a lot of self-imposed bureaucracy here."
"They believe that people need to know how the BSG and the SAFC operate before taking the helm of those organizations. To me, it basically says that BSG doesn't trust students to elect their own leaders," he said. "I don't really see BSG or SAFC as that complicated of an institution."
In a Thusday night phone interview with the Orient, Brooks sympathized with Yaffe but expressed his concerns about his choice of avenues.
"As a member of student government, I wish he had decided to do this much sooner when the discussion was going on," Brooks said, noting last month's BSG debate and vote on the issue and the subsequent conversation in the Orient.
"I understand where he's coming from, I just wish he could do it in a way that's a discussion, not a petition," Brooks said.
Other students who have submitted petitions for candidacy are Kata Solow '10 for vice president of BSG affairs, Michael Dooley '10 for vice president of facilities, Sam Dinning '09 for vice president of academic affairs, Clark Gascoigne '08 and John Masland '08 for treasurer, William Donahoe '08 and Lynzie McGregor '09 for vice president of student organizations, and Tony Thrower '09 and Ben Lehay '08 for vice president of student affairs.
According to Ginsberg, the Elections Commission has one other concern about a candidate's eligibility.
"Not all of the members of the election committee could be [at Thursday night's meeting], so we are meeting tomorrow to address that concern," Ginsberg said.
Candidates will be informed of their eligibility sometime today.
Elections are expected to be held online starting Wednesday. If Yaffe does obtain enough signatures to propose an amendment to the constitution, a referendum in which 30 percent of the student body votes will need to take place before the scheduled elections.
According to BSG President and Election Commission member DeRay Mckesson '07, there is currently no plan to postpone the elections to account for this new development.
"There's no petition right now [calling for a constitutional amendment]," Mckesson said in a phone interview with the Orient early this morning. "We don't talk about hypotheticals in terms of planning."
However, he said that the election dates are not absolute and that "the possibility of the elections moving is real."
"If they want to keep elections when they are, I'm fine with that," Yaffe said.
"We're a small community. You can reach a large number of people in a small amount of time," he said.
Bobby Guerette contributed to this report.