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After alleged election procedure violation, RWRC to undergo special elections

Maria Morkas / Thresher

By Belinda Zhu     4/10/24 12:04am

The Student Association will be conducting special elections for the Rice Women’s Resource Center directors on a campus-wide ballot. Although internal elections have concluded, SA director of elections Jocelyn Wang said it is currently unknown when the ballot will go out to the student body.

Wang said this special election comes after receiving a complaint from an unnamed student that the directors did not follow the election procedure outlined in the most recent 2023 RWRC constitution,  instead using the 2022 constitution with a different procedure. 

“Something a bit icky has been done,” the student wrote in their complaint. “The RWRC Directors are running for a second term, but they did not tell any of the [coordinators] to run or anything about it. They did not host the typical interviews, either, but ran for a second term without a vote.”

“The version of the constitution [the directors] used left the candidate nomination process to the outgoing directors, which in this case happens to be the same directors running for re-election,” Wang, a Baker College sophomore, said. “We received a complaint that the directors did not publicize the elections within the RWRC, so the rest of the interested candidates were unable to run because they didn’t know what was happening.” 

The 2022 constitution stated that “the application review and interview process will be conducted by the outgoing Director(s).” The 2023 version added a requirement for an internal vote where “a majority of the current leadership, including director(s) and coordinators, must agree to nominate candidate(s) for the position of Director(s).” The internal vote did not take place for the 2023 nomination.

RWRC co-director Gillian Gravatt said she and her co-director, Jenny Liu, were operating under the most recent version of the constitution they had access to, which was the 2022 one rather than the 2023 version. Liu redirected an interview request to Gravatt.

“When the previous directors selected us, they told us the precedent is the directors who get selected as juniors stay in the position for two years, and when they are about to graduate, they choose two new directors,” Gravatt, a Martel College junior, said. “We were operating under [the 2022] constitution and the precedent, so based on that, we thought we would be continuing our term and didn’t think as critically as we should have.”

In the complaint, the student wrote that “the directors did not live up to many of the promises made and said they did on the paragraph on the SA site. Thus, there is a lot to be implemented at the center, but no one got the option [to do so].”

Following the complaint, Wang worked with the RWRC co-directors to outline a process for a special election. According to Gravatt, the new process proposed by the SA would allow Gravatt and Liu to choose the candidates after the interview process, as outlined in the 2023 constitution. 

However, Gravatt said she and Liu felt that this process felt odd and presented a conflict of interest. 

“Given the fact that we were trying to remedy a past failing and be as democratic as possible, we asked to bring in faculty [to conduct the interviews] instead,” Gravatt said.“My co-director and I were present for interviews, but we didn’t make any decisions. We had our faculty sponsor and a representative from the SAFE office make all decisions.”

The faculty team chose two students among the four who interviewed, and the RWRC coordinator team voted for either Gravatt and Liu or the two students chosen by the faculty team on March 28. There will be a special ballot for the student body to confirm the candidates chosen by the coordinators. Gravatt declined to state which candidates were selected.

The Senate must vote to approve the special elections ballot before its release to the student body. There are two more Senate meetings for the rest of the semester, according to SA president Jae Kim’s April 7 public notice, but Wang said she is unclear about the election’s timeline.

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