On Monday, Dean of Students Soncia Reagins-Lilly announced that previously disqualified candidates Madison Gardner and his running mate Antonio Guevara will be put back on the ballot for the Student Government presidential and vice presidential election. The decision comes three weeks after Gardner filed a lawsuit against the University and SG.
His suit alleged that the election code violated his free speech and assembly rights granted by the Texas Constitution. The Election Supervisory Board disqualified the executive alliance candidates because Carissa Kelley, recently elected Student Events Center president, appeared in their campaign materials. The SG rule prohibiting association among candidates has been temporarily suspended.
After two failed attempts to appeal the disqualification at the University level, Gardner took it upon himself to sue UT and SG, an organization in which he serves on the executive board, despite his claims of dedication and loyalty to the University. But his lawsuit underscores the disingenuous nature of those claims.
The mantra of Gardner and Guevara’s campaign is to “Unite Texas,” but their actions have consistently and unapologetically contradicted that pledge — unless they intended to unite Texas in animosity.
Gardner is delusional if he believes that suing the University is in the best interest of students. Students’ interests would have been better served if their university’s name had not been dragged through the mud and if its legal resources had not been squandered because Gardner and Guevara decided they needed one more line on their resumes, an opportunity their disqualification deprived them of, as Gardner’s attorney argued.
Moreover, that Gardner and Guevara were not satisfied with the decisions of two entities entirely composed of students, their potential constituents, speaks to their flippant attitude toward student democracy. Their reinstatement on the ballot is not representative of the students’ right to a fair election.
Not that fairness ever mattered much to Gardner. In an interview with The Daily Texan on Monday, he said, “I don’t think it really matters how much we spent because what we spent on the lawyer was a lot cheaper than a lot of other [attorneys].” Perhaps the thousands of dollars in legal fees didn’t dent his pocketbook, but to the vast majority of students here, such a move would have spelled financial ruin. Displaying an astounding degree of ignorance of his fellow students’ financial situations, Gardner thought there was nothing wrong with strolling down to an attorney’s office, writing a check and buying the election out from under his opponents.
The legitimacy of SG, already laughable in most circles, would bottom out if Gardner and Guevara are elected next week. What kind of leadership should we expect from students who show blatant disregard for the standards of fair elections?
The decision to include Gardner and Guevara on the ballot sets a dangerous precedent for the future of student representation at the University. It proves that candidates with enough money to hire an attorney are able to effectively ignore any decision the ESB and the SG judicial court can make regarding election rules, rendering both organizations powerless.
Gardner has displayed more energy and enthusiasm in his quest to sue his way back into the race than in the entirety of his past three years in SG. Clearly, he believes that students should have the privilege of being represented by someone whose biggest claim to fame is his phenomenal inability to take responsibility for his mistakes. This is not what we deserve in someone who claims to lead the student body.