(Samuel Bell ‘11)– I have heard that there is currently a scandal in the AAS elections revolving around the AAS Constitution’s elections rules. As a recent alumnus and former AAS Senator who helped lead the effort to rewrite the AAS Constitution a few years ago, I thought I would offer some perspective on this issue.
I do not know either candidate, and I really have no idea which one would do a better job. But it is clear to me that President Ahmed has been treated unjustly. Through devious, underhanded tactics, her opponents have attempted to oust her, and they now have the audacity to claim she is no longer President. I am writing to assure the students of Amherst that she remains President.
President Ahmed won the election fairly, abiding by all rules and regulations. However, her opponents attempted to invalidate the results of the election through an elections complaint, arguing that she violated spending limits. She did not. Although she did spend literally tens of dollars on her campaign, her $39.40 total did not exceed the $45 limit. She did spend $20 printing out some posters that she later decided to redesign and not use, and her opponents argued that those unused posters should count against her total. Her opponents took their complaint to the Judiciary Council, which ruled correctly that she did not violate the spending limits. After this, the election results were certified, and Amani Ahmed became president.
President Ahmed’s antagonists were not yet done. Next, they went to the Senate to try to invalidate the JC complaint. They lost this vote. So they got dirty.
They proposed to have the student body vote on a constitutional amendment a few days later. The amendment would modify the definition of a campaign expenditure and symbolically invalidate the results of the JC complaint going forward. As the amendment’s backers made clear many times, the referendum would not invalidate the results of the election. As the Student put it, “there will be no impact on the election results.”
To put forward this amendment, President Ahmed’s antagonists gathered the signatures of 15% of the Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior classes and convinced their allies in the Elections Committee to go ahead with a vote, even though they had not collected the necessary signatures from Seniors. Even worse, the Elections Committee did not announce the election to Seniors, severely disenfranchising them. Numerous other proper procedures for constitutional amendments were also violated.
In a generous spirit of compromise, President Ahmed supported the referendum, wanting to move beyond this ridiculous controversy and get on with the business of representing the student body. She voted for it, and encouraged her supporters to do the same. With her support, it passed overwhelmingly. All of this was on the understanding that it would not invalidate her election.
However, before the results had been released*, former AAS Vice President Noah Gordon ’14 lodged a complaint to invalidate the referendum, listing numerous ways in which it violated the Constitution. Then, after the newly inaugurated Judiciary Council recused itself from proceedings, an alternate Judiciary Council composed primarily of members from the previous Judiciary Council issued a contradictory ruling*, which admitted that the complaint against the referendum was correct, noting that the petitioner “only collected signatures from three of the four classes eligible to vote.” Despite finding that the requirements for issuing a referendum were not met, they decided to uphold the referendum anyway.
It is important to note that this group was not the real Judiciary Council. A handful of the anti-Ahmed Judiciary Council members convinced the newly inaugurated Judiciary Council members to step aside and let them rule . However, they did not follow the proper procedure for appointing alternate Judiciary Council members. According to the Constitution, all Judiciary Council alternates must be appointed by the newly elected Judiciary Council Chair and confirmed by the Senate. These members of the rogue Judiciary Council were not appointed by the new Chair or confirmed by the Senate. They did not even bother to fully staff the full component of five members for this fake court, leaving the final vote 3-0.
At an acrimonious Senate meeting Wednesday night, the Senate asked the real Judiciary Council to convene informally and issue an opinion on whether a referendum to invalidate the results of the election would be constitutional. Two members recused themselves, and the Judiciary Council Chair had not submitted her list of alternates for Senate confirmation, so the body was not fully staffed. Because the body was not properly constituted, any rulings it issued should be treated as null and void.
Then the new Judiciary Council pulled a bold and audacious move. Without hearing a proper complaint, without the mandatory public hearing, they decided they had the ability to make a formal ruling. They decided to reverse the original ruling and invalidate the election, removing President Ahmed by fiat . Needless to say, they did not have the ability to do this. According to the Constitution, the Judiciary Council can only rule in the event of a formal complaint. It cannot rule on a complaint more than 10 days after the first hearing.
The Senate first voted to overturn this bogus ruling, and then they voted to reconsider the vote to overturn. The reconsidered vote failed 10-9, garnering a majority but not the required supermajority. Because the Judiciary Council was not properly constituted and did not have the authority to rule, their ruling was not valid, and it did not need to be overruled. I was not present at the meeting, so I cannot be sure of the motivation for overturning the initial overturning of the ruling, but I am informed that the primary motivations were confusion and exhaustion.
At no point during any of these proceedings was President Ahmed ever removed from office. According to the Constitution, “only the Senate may remove an AAS member from office.” It requires a 2/3 vote.
During that Wednesday meeting, there was a vote to remove President Ahmed from office. It failed overwhelmingly.
Amani Ahmed remains AAS President. Her antagonists may scream that she is not. But she has the protection of the AAS Constitution.
A small number of ambitious AAS insiders have attempted to invalidate the result of a popular vote. Let’s not let them get away with it.
*Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect the following changes:
- The paragraph beginning with “Then, her opponents made their move” has been removed to avoid the false impression that Gordon filed his complaint after the results of the referendum were released.
- The paragraph beginning with “However, before the results had been released” has been modified to more accurately reflect the actual sequence of events.
- The sentence beginning with “Then, after the newly inaugurated Judiciary Council recused itself from proceedings” has been modified to more accurately portray the process by which the acting Judiciary Council was selected.
We apologize for any errors or misunderstandings.