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U-Court rules Ledig eligible to run for RPC president

elections-graphic

By Savannah Kuchar     2/20/20 3:22pm

Ending a weeklong controversy, the University Court ruled 6-3 that Will Ledig, a candidate for Rice Program Council President, was eligible to remain on that Student Association election ballot that was released today. According to the case abstract obtained by the Thresher, the UCourt majority agreed that the definition of membership is not made clear enough in the RPC constitution to justify excluding Ledig from the ballot. 

“The RPC Constitution did not delineate duties of membership specifically, therefore one must judge the spirit of the responsibilities the individual had,” wrote the court in the majority opinion. “The decision of Ledig’s fitness for RPC President should be given to the Student Association voters.”

Ledig, a Hanszen College junior, was originally approved to be on the ballot at the Senate on Monday Feb. 10, but issues concerning his eligibility arose in the following days. According to the RPC constitution, presidential candidates “must have been a member of the Council for at least one full semester.” There was dispute over whether or not Ledig’s year as a Hanszen Beer Bike coordinator met this requirement for RPC membership. On Monday Feb. 17, the Senate voted to let Ledig remain on the ballot and deferred the final decision on eligibility to UCourt.




Photo by Savannah Kuchar | The Rice Thresher


At the two-hour hearing on Wednesday night, attended by approximately twenty students, Ledig and six others (Irene Chu, Ryan Morgado, Divya Jain, Eddie Tang, Grace Wickerson and Josh Bochner) were called to testify in front of the UCourt’s investigative panel. These stakeholders  gave opening statements and then stayed to answer any UCourt members’ questions. 

In response to the ruling, Ledig said he is thankful to U-Court for confirming his eligibility, though he said he wishes this process had not been so drawn out.

“I can't wait to be given the opportunity to prove my merits as a candidate in this election,” Ledig said. “At the same time, I'm disappointed that this situation had to be brought to U-Court in the first place, as I believe it has taken some attention away from what really matters here — the platform of my campaign.”

At the hearing, Ledig said he believed his past involvement with RPC as a Hanszen Beer Bike coordinator was sufficient for his inclusion on the SA ballot.

“I feel like we’re only having this U-Court trial because [of] my campaign stance on RPC’s current practices,” Ledig said. “I think that my role as [Hanszen] Beer Bike Coordinator quite clearly satisfies any reasonable definition of member of the council, as well as resolves any requirements stated to be a member within the RPC constitution.”

Chu, current president of RPC, said at the hearing that there should be a distinction between Beer Bike coordinators at the campus versus the college level, due to their different responsibilities.

“College [Beer Bike] coordinators are not referenced in the RPC constitution at all and are not considered members of RPC,” Chu, a Sid Richardson College senior, said. 

Eddie Tang, a junior at Baker College, is a current RPC campus-wide Beer Bike coordinator and served as a Baker Beer Bike coordinator last year. At the hearing, he likewise said that in his view, these two coordinator positions are very different from each other, with their own distinct responsibilities and concerns.

“The college Beer Bike coordinator job is focused primarily on issues and advancements at their own respective colleges,” Tang said. “On the other hand, as campus wide coordinator this year I’ve focused primarily on campus wide planning for the day of Beer Bike itself. To me, the roles of the college [Beer Bike] coordinators and the RPC campus-wide [Beer Bike] coordinators are extremely different.”

According to Chu, this hearing is the result of mistakes made by the SA Elections Committee and in her opinion, Ledig is on the ballot now because of these errors, not because he actually meets the requirements for candidacy.

“The unfortunate reality is that we would not be here tonight, the night before ballots are opened, had the SA Elections Committee performed their duties as described in the SA Constitution and confirmed the eligibility of all candidates before the ballot was presented to the SA,” Chu said. “The fact that mistakes made by the SA Elections Committee have brought us to this point delegitimizes the SA Elections process.”

Grace Wickerson, the SA President, said the SA did not catch the issue of Will’s eligibility because they did not have any prior system of checking individual organization’s requirements.

“The checking process at the time was just to check them with Student Judicial Programs to ensure that there was no academic or disciplinary violation,” Wickerson, a Brown College senior, said. “At the time we did not have a process in place of checking candidates’ eligibility per blanket tax organization’s constitution. That was an oversight on our part.”

The case abstract included an opinion from the dissenting members. According to these three members, the RPC constitution explicitly states that candidacy is restricted to executive officers, college representatives, committee co-chairs and committee members. They wrote that Ledig’s experience should therefore not be considered sufficient for eligibility.

“In its decision, the Court has prioritized certain aspects of the RPC constitution while ignoring others,” wrote the dissenting court members. “Ledig should not be allowed to pick and choose which constitutional requirements to fulfill in order to justify a belief that he is a member of RPC.”

The UCourt’s investigative panel was composed of: Sam Morimoto, chair; Sarah Rosenthal, vice-chair; Gabriella Hazan, secretary; Ryan Emelle, Jones representative; Jake Joseph, Lovett representative; Clara Kraebber, Sid Richardson representative; Julia Huang, Martel representative; Hayden Mast, McMurtry representative; and Paige Russell, new student representative.



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