Students reproach Haden Gomez during open forum at MSA senate meeting
BEC Vice Chairman Mark McDaniel said: “If we had the information that we had today back in November, Chris, Haden... you would have been removed from the election.”
Jan. 28, 2016
Nothing seemed out of the ordinary on the agenda for the Missouri Students Association full Senate meeting Wednesday night. Announcements would be made, proposed legislation would be discussed, and committee chairs would give updates. Business as usual.
Four hours and two resignations of prominent MSA leaders later, it became clear that the first full Senate of the semester was anything but ordinary.
The Senate meeting focused on the misconduct of former President-elect Haden Gomez and former Vice President-elect Chris Hanner. Several screenshots of a group message in GroupMe between Gomez, Hanner and former campaign managers Natalie Edelstein and Josh Boehm revealed that Gomez and Hanner knowingly worked with the Pocket Points app to send mass campaign notifications, which is prohibited by the Board of Elections Commissioners.
Gomez and Hanner resigned after a tense meeting and chaotic open forum, and Payton Head became interim president until MSA holds a special election on an undecided date. Former Budget Committee Chairman Bill Vega was appointed interim vice president.
“I will apologize and own up to the many mistakes that I made during the campaign,” Gomez said. “Never once did I want to slander another person because that’s not who I was.”
After Gomez resigned, Hanner was sworn in as MSA President. In his first and only order of business, Hanner made Head his vice president and then announced his own resignation, effective minutes later at 10 p.m, leaving Head to move into the interim president role.
Hours before Gomez and Hanner resigned, Sen. Joshua Tennison introduced Act 55-23, which would have nullified the 2015 MSA presidential election. Initially, two other proposed pieces of legislation offered different solutions for nullifying either the election or the Gomez/Hanner candidacy, but both acts died in committee. The act was tabled when it became apparent that Gomez and Hanner were preparing to resign.
MSA senators, former 2015 MSA presidential candidates, students affiliated with Concerned Student 1950 and other student spectators filled every seat and the back of the room in Leadership Auditorium to discuss the misconduct of Gomez and Hanner during the election.
Students involved in the Concerned Student 1950 movement condemned the Gomez/Hanner campaign for “buying the election,” using the messages posted in the GroupMe as evidence.
“The student body has the power,” one of the students said. “When the power is taken away and sullied by money, what does it say when the Senate does not have the power to reclaim that vote?”
They also pointed to Gomez’s apparent lack of concern for students with marginal identities. In one of the screenshots, Gomez, Edelstein and Boehm discuss what to post on social media regarding Concerned Student 1950.
“I most definitely never wanted to tweet something or share something or say something as a matter of not sensationalizing something,” Gomez said in the meeting. “I didn’t want to be a member of that political game.”
Another member affiliated with the Concerned Student 1950 movement said that Gomez misrepresented the Greek community, pointing to the screenshot in which Edelstein suggested posting something about Concerned Student on social media.
Senate Clerk Leslie Parker disagreed with Concerned Student 1950’s assessment of Gomez.
“Haden and Chris have always expressed a very deep interest in Concerned Student 1950,” Parker said. “I mean that knowing what I know now.”
Former MSA vice presidential candidate Heather Parrie spoke on Gomez’s personal character. She recalled Gomez making a sexual advance toward her at a Tour Team social, but she chose not to report it because she didn’t have faith in the Title IX system.
In addition to Parrie, other people focused on the personal qualities of Gomez and Hanner. The open forum lasted for an hour.
“We lost focus of why we were doing this,” former MSA presidential candidate Jordan McFarland said in an interview after the meeting. “We were talking about personal attacks, things that may have happened to us in other settings that, yes, they are indicative of the character of the person, but not of the question of the matter which was conducted during the election.”
Parrie said that what was discussed in the open forum was necessary for understanding the character of Gomez and Hanner.
“I felt that they needed to be said because I think it was getting lost in the translation that we’re not just talking about by-laws, we’re not just talking about positions, we’re talking about human beings that have a lot of power and no one wants that,” Parrie said of her comments during open forum in an interview after adjournment.
Former Vice BEC Chairs Mark McDaniel and Bridget Everson blamed the BEC for allowing the situation to come this far. Everson also said she didn’t think the infractions against the Gomez/Hanner campaign were given the attention they deserved.
“If we had the information that we had today back in November, Chris, Haden...you would have been removed from the election,” McDaniel said.
“If I can just leave you with one message, it’s do not let your personal bias get in the way of progress for students, because I’ve seen a lot of that in this chamber,” Hanner said in his closing statement before resigning.
Edited by Waverly Colville & Nancy Coleman | firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com