Column: Ambiguity is a double-edged sword
The BEC’s vaguely written infraction section could come with repercussions.
Feb. 16, 2016
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Last Wednesday during full Senate, the Missouri Students Association unanimously passed the Special Election BEC Handbook. Since the new handbook has intentional vagueness to reduce loopholes and opportunities for cheating, it will require more trust in the BEC’s performance.
The Board of Elections Commissioners was faced with many issues during the last MSA election in regards to the slates’ misconduct. Once the Gomez/Hanner slate resigned as a result of screenshots showing they would have been disqualified prior to being elected, it was clear that a handbook reform was needed in order to make the upcoming special election more fair. So a new handbook was written and passed with any prior ambiguity removed and replaced with stricter outlines such as the definition of obstruction and the definition of a slate.
The new handbook also addressed the infraction section, which is partly to blame for the success Gomez/Hanner had before the truth arose, by purposely writing it with ambiguity. For example, the old handbook had a major and minor infraction system that gave room for slates to violate the handbook but still continue the race, but the new handbook erased the major and minor infractions, and now all infractions are simply infractions. This means that the BEC has the final ruling on what disciplinary action will be taken for infractions on a case to case basis.
When thinking about the issues that MU had because of the Gomez/Hanner slate, this new infraction system seems well done, and it is. However, more trust and power is being put in the BEC, and as an intelligent, well-informed student body, we must question how this shift in power will affect us.
We must not allow the solution to former mistakes become our future difficulties. Although the BEC will have the power to stop cheating slates from gaining misplaced success before the point Gomez/Hanner reached, will the BEC use that power to the best of its ability? The BEC still made basic guidelines for how to respond to the first few infractions of a slate despite the immediacy of its ability to remove any slate for any reasonable suspicion of misconduct. The idea that the BEC still has an attitude that allows looking past a few infractions and has the privilege of ambiguity worries me.
MSA wanted a solution for the loopholes Gomez/Hanner found, so the BEC responded with more freedom for itself to handle misconduct appropriately, which is a feasible solution at this time. However, there may come a time when the BEC will not be giving proper penalties for the severity of the infractions they rule on, and it will be perfectly okay since there is no strict distinction between what penalties will be given to certain infractions. The new handbook has gifted the BEC with the chance to under or over penalize.
The ambiguity of the new handbook may be a temporary solution, but in the long-term, it has the ability to become an issue where the BEC will not have proper precaution against infractions, and the MU student government will find itself in the same situation yet again.