The Notre Dame student body election campaign was a tumult of ethics violation allegations and online hate for candidates.
On Jan. 31, campaigning started for Notre Dame student body president and vice president. Three separate tickets, all made up of sophomore male students, had successfully gained the 700 verified signatures in order to make it on the ballot: Daniel Jung-Aidan Rezner; Derick Williams-Hunter Brooke and Pablo Oropeza-Griffin McAndrew.
All of the tickets had allegations filed against them, resulting in lengthy hearings with Judicial Council and ultimately sanctions.
The Williams-Brooke ticket had the most allegations filed against them out of the three. In total, they were notified of three allegations, and of those, one was thrown out before it came to the trial process.
Brooke outlined the process that occurs after an allegation: first, the candidates are notified via email and told a specific time to meet with Judicial Council; second, the candidates are locked in a separate room while the party who filed the allegation speaks to the council and presents evidence; third, the candidates are allowed to review evidence and testimony in front of the council and are able to mount a defense. Then, the committee deliberates and sends out a notification of their decision and any consequences that might follow.
The remaining two allegations were regarding the same problem, an incorrect link that was sent out to potential voters by supporters of Williams and Brooke. These allegations were filed on the night of the election and were seemingly the cause of the delayed results announcement.
In a press release to campus media from Judicial Council president Madison Nemeth and vice president for elections Koryn Isa, the election committee “decided there will be a deduction of ten (10) votes from the Williams-Brooke ticket in the primary election for each incorrect link that was sent out. Thus, the total votes that shall be deducted from the Williams-Brooke ticket is twenty (20) votes.” The ticket also had to issue a formal apology on their campaign Instagram account, @williamsbrooke2023.
The apology read, “We know many of you are confused about what has been going on behind the scenes. We appreciate your patience as we ourselves have tried to get to the bottom of this.”
Brooke told The Observer that the ticket received a lot of backlash over the days preceding the election, most of which can under the veil of anonymity over social media platforms — including multiple Instagram accounts under the name @hatewilliamsbrooke2023. Brooke says that when the account was first created, it only followed one page: the Oropeza-McAndrew campaign.
Brooke said he received the brunt of the hate, with lots of anonymous accounts attacking him and alleging he had cheated on his girlfriend. He told The Observer those claims were expressly not true.
“[The hate] can be difficult. It can be very political. It's unfortunate, but [Williams] and I have always tried to be honest, transparent, open,” he noted. “I think Student Government has an incredible way of bringing out at the same time, the worst in people and the best in people.”
The allegation aimed at the Oropeza-McAndrew ticket started before the campaigning period even began. In Instagram posts on their personal accounts, which have now been deleted, the candidates announced their “campaign” to run for student body president and vice president before the official time for campaigning began.
The Opropeza-McAndrew campaign released a post that included loose platform policies, introduced by the phrase "here’s a list of our priorities and why you should support our run." Oropeza says that the word "run" and the inclusion of policies were problematic in Judicial Council's view, suggesting that they were already campaigning during a period that was restricted to petitioning.
Judicial Council sanctioned them by banning them from campaigning through social media on the first day of the campaigning period.
While discussing allegations against other tickets, Oropeza told The Observer that their ticket was involved in the submission of multiple allegations against Williams-Brooke on the day of the election, saying that they were “next to” the party who filed.
“I'm not going to place [the blame] on someone else when I was part of it,” Oropeza said of his admission.
Oropeza and McAndrew also suffered their share of online hate during the campaign period, especially because of political views and identities not affiliated with their platform.
“[The hate] is annoying, but at the same time, it was said under the veil of anonymity, and so I think it's just cowardice, and you're trying to get a rise out of me,” Oropeza explained, adding that he experienced much worse comments in his childhood. “You can't ever really hurt me more than I've been hurt before.”
McAndrew concurred, saying that they greatly appreciated people who stood up for them.
“It was heartening to see that people came out to our defense,” he said.
Ultimately the winning ticket, Jung-Rezner received notification the day before voting, Feb. 7, that a poster was hung up on the third floor of LaFortune Student Center (LaFun). As outlined on the Judicial Council website, this violation broke Article XV, Section 1(d)(3), which states that no campaigning may occur on the upper levels of LaFun.
The team received a sanction of having to 1) take down the poster and 2) issue a formal apology on their official campaign platform, @danrez23 on Instagram. The post said, “we have no idea how this poster ended up there as we followed all the proper protocols for poster distribution.”
In an interview with The Observer, Jung-Rezner said they took full responsibility for the violation and learned from their mistake.
“We take full responsibility for [the poster]. We had to post a public apology on our social media, which we willfully did,” Jung emphasized. “You know, you learn from it, and you recognize your mistake. You grow and go from there.”
Rezner seconded this, adding, “the rules can be very strict sometimes and for good reason. We wanted to make sure that everyone has a fair chance.”
The pair also prepared to give backlash against their campaign before it happened.
“[The election] is a stressful process. And sometimes [people] will say things about you without merit. We met at the beginning of this process, and we just said, ‘look, things are going to get thrown around that may or may not be true',” Jung said. “We can't let it affect us personally.”