After throwing out five of six petitions by Team DiBrina, The USC Appeals Board will have up to two weeks to release their final verdict on appeal four.
Appeal #1 — dismissed
In this petition, Team DiBrina claims that a campaign volunteer of Team Tobi posted in a USC club's Facebook group — Dumbledore’s Army — which has 254 members. The appeal claims the post was libelous, defamatory and misrepresented facts targeted towards Team DiBrina.
During the hearing, the chair asked how a speculation about future actions could be considered as misrepresentation of fact. The panel also questioned what the Elections Governance Committee (EGC) considers a volunteer. Erin McCauley, chief returning officer (CRO), said it was up to the discretion of the EGC.
Team Tobi representative and former USC-president, Matt Helfand, argued the post "is a very standard campaign post by a supporter of a team." Helfand argued the post was not libelous and that rules of fair play apply to candidates, not anyone else.
Appeal #2 — dismissed
In the second appeal, Team DiBrina alleged Team Tobi's vice-president candidate and supporters campaigned during the prohibited voting period by sporting team shirts.
Landon Tulk, vice-president elect, said he was given permission by McCauley beforehand for his campaign supports to wear Team Tobi T-shirts during the voting period. While McCauley said she could not specifically recall the conversation, she said it could have happened.
Helfand argued the EGC's decision to not award any demerit points was reasonable. Even if it wasn't, he said it's not fair to penalize candidate acting in good faith.
Appeal #3 — dismissed
Team DiBrina alleged Team Tobi was guilty of pre-campaigning when they shared a Gazette article announcing Team Tobi’s candidacy for USC presidency.
Craig Gilchrist, Team DiBrina representative, said that due to the number of members of Team Tobi's fraternity, Phi Gamma Delta, who shared the article, it was reasonable to deduce they acted on "some suggestion by the candidates."
McCauley said she didn't rule the incident as a violation because she doesn't believe the candidates could have reasonably foreseen the actions of their supporters. She said that during her investigation, she didn't find evidence the shares had been coordinated.
"It was reasonable to assume that number of shares would happen naturally," she said.
Appeal #4 — to be considered
The fourth appeal alleged an individual used her connections as a soph to post in a secret soph team Facebook group and encouraged them to vote and get their frosh to vote for Team Tobi.
Gilchrist argued that if you, by virtue of position, have access to a mailing list, then you're not allowed to hand over the mailing list. A secret Facebook group is the same as a mailing list.
The intervenor, president of the debate society, said the presidents of clubs meet with candidates and they can expect an endorsement. Candidates have an incentive to reach out to community members and seek endorsements. She argued if the appeal was upheld, endorsers could be seen as campaign volunteers.
Helfand asked if the editor-in-chief of the Gazette shared articles on social media, is he a campaign volunteer?
Appeal #6 — dismissed
This appeal alleged members of Team Tobi breached bylaw #2 by campaigning in Essex Hall and Delaware Hall on Jan. 28. The EGC awarded Team Tobi with eight demerit points for the violation.
Gilchrist argued each incident of residence campaigning should have been treated as two separate incidences. He also cited the EGC's 2015 decision on Michelle Bonofiglio. The Senate candidate was disqualified after she earned separate demerit points for posting campaign materials at both Huron and Saugeen.
McCauley said applying eight demerit points was reasonable and the highest number that can be awarded for a major violation.
Helfand also said reliance on precedence is incorrect and that the Appeals Board is not bound by it. He said the context in which a CRO decides a decision is important and that the Appeals Board needs to look at decisions under the scope of reasonableness.
Appeal #7 — dismissed
The last appeal was launched after a member of the sorority Alpha Phi posted in the Medway-Sydenham's 2015-16 Facebook encouraging students to vote for Team Tobi.
Helfand argued Alpha Phi endorsed Team Tobi, and it was reasonable for one of their members to show their support online. He pointed out that upholding this appeal could cause students to disengage in future elections out of fear their support would be misconstrued later on.
"People may be unwilling to participate in future elections for fear of being brought into these fact-finding missions," he said.
In the closing arguments, Gilchrist argued rules must be upheld.
"We submit that it is a clear and important tenant of democracy that the rules of elections be followed," he said. "These are not definitions that we came up; they were passed by the USC and made clear to all candidates."
Team Tobi is five demerit points away from disqualification.