A split ruling by the Judicial Board Friday morning did not change senate candidate Cassandra Fowler’s disqualification, meaning she remained disqualified under the Elections Committee’s Thursday morning decision.
When the student government election results were released Friday at noon, Fowler finished eighth of the 29 senate candidates, though her votes will not be counted due to her disqualification. The top 21 candidates received senate seats.
The Elections Committee disqualified Fowler in a hearing where SFC candidate Shannon Eikum testified that Fowler had threatened the lives Eikum and her dog. The committee cited bylaws that make general university regulations, such as the Student Conduct Code, applicable to candidates. In addition, Elections Committee member Aaron O’Donnell said Fowler’s behavior did not "uphold and maintain the integrity and academic mission" of PSU as specified in the bylaws preamble.
Fowler was not present at the time of the Elections Committee decision.
When Judicial Board member Ghazal Youssefi motioned to uphold the Elections Committee’s decision to disqualify Fowler, the three board members present each took a separate position. Youssefi approved the motion, Andy Judd opposed it and board chair Jennifer Stocks abstained. With no other motions made by Youssefi or Judd, the Election Committee’s ruling, the meeting was adjourned.
The board avoided rehashing the disputed facts of the case.
"We’re not really making a decision on the truth of the matter. It’s on the decision the Elections Committee made," Stocks said.
The board expressed concern that the Elections Committee had not properly found Fowler in violation.
"The most concerning part for me is that there wasn’t a specific citation given," Stocks said.
"Without a specific citation, I think that’s inappropriate," Judd said. "But I think the spirit of the motion was appropriate and the decision was appropriate, considering the circumstances."
"If there were time, the elections committee would need to revisit the matter," Judd added.
Though Fowler’s alleged comments may have been distasteful, the Elections Committee may have violated her right to free speech by barring her from the election, according to Duane Bosworth, a lawyer for Portland law firm Davis, Wright, Tremaine.
Part of the problem is that it is unclear what exactly was said during the exchange between Fowler and Eikum. But if Eikum’s version is true, it is "potentially threatening and there is probably some ability to punish someone if in fact that really were the case," Bosworth said.
However, people cannot be punished for speech with which others disagree, the speech should only be punishable if the committee can reasonably infer from it an attempt to affect the results of the election, Bosworth said. He characterized the Elections Committee decision as a "wrongful stretch."
"The concept that this statement expresses an inner attempt to interfere with the election strikes me as preposterous," Bosworth said, referring to Fowler’s remarks. "The context of this small interaction indicates that Fowler is reacting to the animal problem and is in no way attempting to bully Eikum out of the campaign."
-Christian Gaston contributed reporting to this article.