College Council (CC) temporarily stopped Black Student Alliance (BSA) operational activities and is intervening in the organization’s Spring 2019 elections following several anonymous complaints to CC about electoral and financial misconduct.
CC President Jacob Hicks (18Ox, 20C) declined an interview, directing the Wheel to Vice President of Communications Albert Zhang (22C). Zhang wrote in an April 9 email that an initial review found no improprieties with Student Activities Fee funds but CC will still petition the SGA Elections Board to oversee the upcoming elections. Zhang did not respond to questions about CC’s or the Election Board’s authority to oversee elections.
CC suspended BSA’s activities and froze its financial accounts upon receiving an anonymous complaint, according to an April 3 email from CC to BSA’s executive board, which was obtained by the Wheel. CC told BSA it would pass the investigation to the Constitutional Council, but Chief Justice Matthew Ribel (19C) later told the Wheel that they rejected the case because it falls under the Election Board’s jurisdiction.
Elections Board Chair Justin Cohen (20C) said in an April 8 email to the Wheel that he was beginning to investigate the incident.
“I am reaching out to several parties to ask about any alleged misconduct,” Cohen wrote. “Based on those conversations, either the complainant or the Elections Board may request for a hearing to determine possible violations and sanctions.”
As a result of the suspension, BSA was forced to cancel a pool party last weekend. Elections for the next executive board have been postponed indefinitely.
On Tuesday, CC told BSA that the organization would be allowed to resume its organizational activities.
BSA President Nicole Gullatt (20C) and External Vice President Timothy Richmond (20C) said no one in student government would tell them details about the complaints. Gullatt and Richmond believe the electoral misconduct complaints relate to a proposed BSA constitutional amendment that would affect which members would be allowed to run for an executive board position.
If the amendments are approved, candidates who resign from executive board positions would be ineligible to be appointed again to some executive board positions, according to Gullatt and Richmond.
Gullatt said one candidate planning to run in the election would have been impacted by the change but the executive board’s decision to propose the amendment was not meant to target the potential candidate.
Gullatt and Richmond said they both checked with CC Adviser Sarah Beth Potter who said it was OK to pursue the amendment during the election cycle, as long as they followed their constitutional procedures. Potter did not respond to request for comment by publication time.
Imani Brooks (20C), who is a friend of the affected candidate and previously served as BSA president, threatened to file a complaint with CC, according to Gullatt. Brooks declined to comment.
Richmond, who will run to be the next BSA president, described CC’s intervention as confusing and unnecessary.
“SGA or College Council has no formal relationship with the black community or BSA in particular, so I think the best people to evaluate candidates are the people involved in the organization,” Richmond said. “It’s, to an extent, an abuse of their power.”
Richmond further takes issue with the anonymity of the complaints and how student government officials haven’t provided the organization with an opportunity to respond before suspending activities and freezing their financial accounts.
“The cards are stacked against us, being black here at Emory,” Richmond said. “I’m not going to say it’s racially related, but also, why do they assume we don’t have the capacity or the capability to solve our own problems?”
Editors’ Note: Albert Zhang previously served as an assistant news editor at the Wheel. He had no role in the composition or editing of this article.
Former Executive Editor | Richard Chess (20C) served as the Wheel's executive editor from March 2018 to August 2019. He also held various other positions at the Wheel including as news editor and senior editor. As news editor, Richard covered issues related to the city of Atlanta and reported that the 2016 Migos scandal cost Emory $37,500. Richard has received numerous collegiate journalism awards for his investigative and objective news coverage, including an SPJ Mark of Excellence Award in 2019.