The SGA Supreme Court will soon announce the current SGA Executive Vice President, Sydney Finley, as the winner of the SGA presidential election with 670 votes and a run-off between candidates Katie Hayden and Valerie Tran for the office of the Executive Vice President.
This is a very curious outcome, as after the elections first ended, candidate for Student Body President Dorian Brown led all of his opponents with 844 votes to Sydney Finley’s 791 votes. Additionally, Katie Hayden led all of her opponents with 856 votes to Valerie Tran’s 497 votes. These totals which came directly from the unofficial results disclosed to candidates as the election closed, were soon to be significantly altered by the SGA Supreme Court.
Unofficial Results were disclosed to candidates via email once the election closed and before Supreme Court hearings occurred. Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden led both of their races.
According to the SGA Supreme Court, Sydney Finley and her running mate, Paighton Brooks, brought suit against their opponents Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden for a myriad of campaign violations on March 21st. The lawsuit delivered to Brown-Hayden on the next day was five pages long, single-spaced, yet the Court only allowed the Brown-Hayden campaign two days to prepare documents in their defense and appear before the Court in a pretrial conference, significantly violating the current SGA constitution which requires the Court to allow the campaign no less than fourteen days from the time the lawsuit was served to prepare documents in their defense and appear before the Court (Section 5.7.6).
This violation was the first in a line of unconstitutional actions on behalf of the Supreme Court and the current Top 4 in SGA to win the election for Sydney Finley, including President Ugonna Okorie and Services Vice President Eli Cooper.
In their lawsuit, Sydney Finley and Paighton Brooks alleged six claims of SGA election rules (SGAGER document available here) violations by the Brown-Hayden campaign. In one, they claimed that because Brown liked a comment left on his page from AVP candidate Kendall Tubbs that Brown was responsible for endorsing another candidate. In another, they claim that Brown-Hayden began their campaign account too early on February 9th at 8:46 AM, an entire 15 minutes before the campaign start time of 9:01 AM. In yet another claim, they say that Brown and Hayden were pictured at multiple events without masks on in violation of University policy. All of the claims, with one exception, were dismissed by the Court due to a lack of evidence or ridiculousness.
The claim the Court accepted is even more worrisome than any of those it denied. Finley-Brooks claimed that the Brown-Hayden campaign violated election rules (SGAGER 203.3c) by receiving Instagram endorsement posts from two students with official ties to the University, Emily Gornick and Dayla Johnson. These posts clearly said, “personal endorsement,” on them, but the Court ruled that since they included information about their campus involvement on the posts to establish credibility, these two posts counted as campaign violations.
The two endorsement posts Finley-Brooks sued for that were included on the Brown-Hayden Instagram page, @brownhayden2022. Five other posts were included in the Court’s penalty that was not in Finley-Brooks’s suit.
Then, in another violation of universal courtroom norms, the Court decided that five other posts on the Brown-Hayden campaign’s Instagram violated this same rule. These five extra posts were not included in the Finley/Brooks suit but rather found by the Court itself. This is extremely abnormal: courts usually limit themselves to consider only the evidence brought before them. They then arbitrarily decided that each one of these violations would result in a 3% reduction in votes for the Brown-Hayden and Finley-Brooks campaigns (for two other violations of campaign rules). Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden had 21% of the total number of votes subtracted from the votes they received due to this decision, while Finley and Brooks lost only 6% of their vote totals. Without the Court searching for their own evidence, Brown would have only lost 6%, securing their victory in the election. The Court went out of its way to ensure Brown’s defeat.
So far, this may seem like an undemocratic, activist Supreme Court determining the outcome of an election without regard to the votes of the student body, but the Court did not act alone. In fact, this conspiracy to steal the SGA presidential election was assisted by the current SGA Top 4.
During the hearings, Liam Gallagher, counsel to the Brown-Hayden campaign, requested any previous SGA Supreme Court precedent for use in defending Brown. According to him, the Court replied that they were unable to locate any precedent. Sydney Finley, though, in her position as Executive Vice President is constitutionally responsible (Section 3.3.6) for the keeping of such records. She cited court precedent in her lawsuit filed with the Court which provided her an unfair advantage in the proceedings.
Current Services Vice President Eli Cooper served as counsel to the Finley-Brooks campaign and was also listed as an eyewitness on the campaign’s lawsuit in three of its claims. When Liam Gallagher petitioned the Court to remove Cooper from the list of eyewitnesses because of his office in Top 4, Liam said Cooper removed himself and submitted a very similar eyewitness statement to the Court under the name of SGA President Ugonna Okorie. These executive officers share administration with Sydney Finley, yet are representing her in the Supreme Court hearings and providing eyewitness testimony for her: two clear conflicts of interest.
In addition to providing counsel to Finley under questionable circumstances, Cooper personally attacked Dorian Brown during the Court proceedings. According to Gallagher, Cooper said Brown attended the anniversary vigil of the Atlanta Spa shootings held by the APSUI and the Raise Red event to “boost his social clout.”
When LPR reached out to candidate Dorian Brown for comment, he said, “To a certain point, I feel like this was a conspiracy against me. I lack experience in SGA, so the other candidates knew more about the election rules and already had established networks within SGA. They used them to unfairly take over 400 votes from me. I believe this election was stolen from me.”
Last but not least, Academic Vice President Alexa Meza is a close friend of the SGA Chief Justice, Jackie Gesser. Alexa also attempted to determine the outcome of the election for her current position of Academic Vice President. Before the election was even completed, Alexa texted a candidate for the position informing them that, “we [Meza and Gesser] are charging [AVP candidate] Kendall [Tubbs] for a lot. Don’t tell anyone else that tho.” “Basically our goal is to dock him one vote per every student he sent that survey out to so it messes up the vote proportions or something. But fr do not tell anyone else.” From her own words, AVP Alexa Meza conspired with the Chief Justice to alter the outcome of the AVP election.
This evidence that numerous SGA elections were stolen from the decision of the student body is damning. As of now, Sydney Finley will be installed by the SGA Supreme Court and Top 4 as the next Student Body President; the executive vice president will be decided in a run-off between Katie Hayden and Valerie Tran because of the Supreme Court’s vote sanction; and the academic vice-presidential election was at the very least tampered with by the Court and current AVP Alexa Meza. Students should be outraged. Their decision was overturned by an unelected body based on little-known election technicalities.
The Louisville Political Review Editorial Board (Julia Mattingly, Nino Owens, Emma Fridy, and Alex Reynolds) wholeheartedly condemn the actions of the SGA Supreme Court, SGA President Ugonna Okorie, EVP Sydney Finley, SVP Eli Cooper, and AVP Alexa Meza. We believe that they acted in the very least undemocratically, but possibly unlawfully also. As a publication, we pride ourselves on non-partisanship. In this case, that commitment is transcended by our commitment to democracy and our commitment to facts.
The students of the University of Louisville chose Dorian Brown and Katie Hayden to be their SGA President and Executive Vice President. Therefore, the Louisville Political Review supports that decision. We also believe that the SGA Supreme Court must reverse this wrongful decision, the SGA Top 4 should be investigated for tampering in the election and the proper actions should be taken afterward, and the SGA Senate must amend the constitution to keep this situation from ever happening again. Student engagement in SGA elections is already low (only 10% of students cast a ballot in this year’s elections); and allowing this situation to go unaddressed could dash that minimal engagement–at the very least, SGA will become more undemocratic than it already is.
I really appreciate the investigation and journalism of LPR. Without this reputable source, many of us would not know about the actions of the court and the reality of the next SGA. While I am leaving the University of Louisville, I know the school will be in good hands so long as media outlets like this continue to hold elected officials accountable. I only hope justice can be served so that those chosen by the STUDENT BODY may fill their role.