Adewumi DQ’ed from UPUA Prez Bid, Claims Bias
Running for President… Again
There are few people at Penn State whose career I follow with as much interest as David Adewumi.
David first appeared on my radar last winter when he began organizing a spring break mission trip to post-earthquake Haiti. It was from there that he launched his UPUA Presidential Campaign, including the ultra-ambitious (and almost certainly untenable) 10.i.10 plan. David ended up losing that election to current UPUA President Christian Ragland, and it was shortly after that loss when he launched Innoblue (then called Project Blue Pill).
The reason David’s career has interested me so is that palace intrigue, whether real or imagined, seems to follow him. This spring is turning out to be no exception.
David had been coy most of the semester about his potential candidacy for UPUA President– I asked him numerous times, and if even he knew the answer then, he didn’t reveal it. Personally I suspected that he would not run, contrary to the belief of many. Turns out I was wrong for a bit, but eventually right. Let me explain.
Late last Friday afternoon, Adewumi and Sri Pisupati submitted what they thought was the last of their UPUA registration materials to the UPUA Elections Commission, the group of students responsible for organizing and conducting the elections each spring. The registration materials? Perhaps predictably, they were for the offices of UPUA President and Vice President. ‘Wumi was staging his second run.
He had fears going into it though, fears not kept that private. And they laid almost entirely in the composition of the commission; that is, the students whom Christian Ragland had chosen (some by proxy) to conduct this year’s elections.
Flashback to last spring. The composition of the Elections Commission in 2010, as chosen by former UPUA President Gavin Keirans, included such former student government stand-outs as Nick Mance (anyone else miss Gavin and his bros?) and Samantha Miller. It also included Dustin Dove, and it’s with him that the story moves forward.
Dove took the deputy commisioner position because he expected to graduate in May 2010. However, Dove did not end up graduating last spring due to previously unplanned additional academic obligations and returned to State College this fall, brimming with institutional knowledge of student government and personal relations with numerous members.
President Christian Ragland saw in Dove a valuable asset and recruited him to serve as his Chief of Staff. Too bad it was against the rules. At least the spirit of the rules, as interpreted by this admittedly non-legislatively minded blogger.
The rules I’m referring to? The UPUA Elections Code. As section 3.14.03 reads:
No Commissioner shall be eligible for appointment to any UPUA office until one full fall semester has passed following the election of service. This provision shall not lift should a Commissioner depart office.
Ragland appointed Dove through executive fiat at a UPUA meeting held this past October, when @StudentBodyPrez was in fact out of town himself. Dove was able to be appointed through a constitutional loophole– there were not defined executive bylaws at the time, and as such Ragland could make appointments without having them be approved by the Assembly. However, the Assembly at the time did not take fondly to Ragland’s unilateral action when he wasn’t even present and voted as a body to censure him.
However, the Assembly’s hesitations did not address directly the seeming irreconcilability of Dove’s appointment with section 3.14.03 of the Elections Code as excerpted above. The UPUA’s Board of Arbitration (BOA) did though. According to an email sent by Dove, the ruling was that he “could continue to act as Chief of Staff (with all the duties/responsibilities).” And indeed, he did just that.
Dove’s official appointment as Chief of Staff evaporated until the first UPUA meeting this spring, when he was confirmed by the Assembly according to legislation passed in November that cleared up the constitutional confusion.
In a phone conversation on Monday, Adewumi spoke to me about Dove’s unofficial inclusion in Ragland’s cabinet this fall.
“As a candidate in last year’s race, I was truly dismayed to see Christian Ragland, Jessica Pelliciotta, and Elections Commissioner and Chief of Staff Dustin Dove break and totally ignore the rules of the UPUA Elections Code,” he said. “I think that calls into question the entire integrity of the process.” (Correction 9:54 pm Tuesday: Pelliciotta noted to me in an email that at the time she in fact did not support Dove’s nomination as Chief of Staff.)
Dove told me in a phone conversation yesterday that he believes his unofficial serving as Ragland’s Chief of Staff this fall is a “dead story that’s trying to be used to make a controversy.”
“It’s kind of silly that it’s being brought,” he said. “David has brought up to me before that he thinks I’m biased and threw the election last year. It’s insulting to me.”
This Year’s Election Commission
But perhaps Adewumi is simply bringing up Dove’s supposed impropriety this fall because now it is convenient. No doubt, that is the opinion of a least some members of the Elections Commission, not to mention other UPUA observers. Yet Adewumi’s claims go deeper still.
This spring, Dove went from serving as Chief of Staff to Elections Commissioner. According to Ragland, it was an easy choice. “The elections are a tough process, so you want someone who knows what’s going on,” he said. “That’s why he was essentially the right guy.”
Dove said that when he approached Ragland about serving as commissioner this year, Ragland’s response was wholly positive. Dove explained that the President usually grants permission to the Commissioner to assemble his or her commission. This year was no exception. Dove filled out his commission with deputy commissioners as follows (Correction 8:58 am Wednesday: The originally published list of deputy commissioners was incomplete. New additions are indicated with an asterisk.):
- Deputy Commissioner for Campaigning Blake Bonnewell*
- Deputy Commissioner for Candidacy Rob Ghormoz
- Deputy Commissioner for Enforcement Tim Dooley
- Deputy Commissioner for Events David Frankenfield*
- Deputy Commissioner for IT Alex Shovlin*
- Deputy Commissioner for Publicity Katie Perugini
At that point, Dove and the rest of his chosen commission members all went through the UPUA’s Internal Development committee and Assembly approval processes successfully. As Dove said yesterday, “It’s very surprising to see allegations of bias when the commission has gone through that process.”
Adewumi Informed of Academic Ineligibility
Last Friday, Adewumi and Pisupati submitted their registration materials to the UPUA Elections Commission. On Saturday morning the intended candidates received an email from Deputy Commissioner for Candidacy Rob Ghormoz informing the two that due to David’s academic record he was ineligible for this year’s election.
The clause of the UPUA Elections Code referenced by Ghormoz in the email was 4.04.06. Nested in a section that delineates eligibility requirements for UPUA hopefuls, it reads:
Attendance at University Park for two (2) semesters for the offices of President and Vice President and one (1) semester for all other offices.
That section of the UPUA Elections Code went unchanged from 2010 to 2011, yet one year Adewumi was ostensibly eligible for election and the next, he wasn’t.
I asked Dove about this apparent discrepancy. He said, “Our interpretation may be different from what the commission decided last year.” Dove would not comment on the commission’s specific interpretation of 4.04.06 though.
Yet when I asked Ragland whether the Elections Code was intended to be interpreted differently year-to-year, his response was that it shouldn’t be. “If that’s the case then we have a problem,” he said. “If there’s no concrete elections code where anyone can interpret it any way they choose, then we have to change that.”
Adewumi wouldn’t comment on the record about his academic record, yet the obvious extrapolation from the commission’s decision is that, in their judgement, he has not attended Penn State for two semesters.
Adewumi’s only comment on the subject of 4.04.06 was a quote relayed to me that had apparently been told to him by a friend: “I didn’t know it was possible to be only 38 credits away from graduating college without ever having attended college.” Adewumi also noted to me that no attempt was made to contact him for clarification prior to receiving the email that he had been disqualified.
Adewumi Claims Bias
Adewumi’s basic claim over much of the past few days has been that his disqualification from the UPUA election is the latest in a string of unethical actions by Elections Commissioner Dustin Dove. Yet, to be sure, any machinations behind Dove’s supposed malfeasance are completely opaque at this point. Let’s be clear: David’s claims are just that, and they could very well just be the daydreams of an ambitious undergraduate. But as they have been made public, we feel it is appropriate to convey them to the public.
Adewumi would not comment on the record as to why he believes Dove would intentionally interpret the Elections Code differently than previous commissions simply to disqualify him from the election. He did say the following in a phone conversation Monday:
I believe that Dustin Dove should resign as UPUA Election Commission. This is a continuation in a series of well-documented cases to ignore the UPUA Elections Code, to ignore the decisions made by the UPUA Board of Arbitration, and to ignore the decorum and honor of the positions that he holds. I believe that this is a serious cause for grave concern for students who are interested in true representation and advocacy on their behalf.
Dove, Ragland, and other members of the UPUA with whom I’ve spoken over the past few days think Adewumi’s claims are entirely false.
“It’s nothing personal, obviously,” said Dove. “It’s disappointing to see the allegations. I don’t really want to comment about it, because I don’t know if any comment will make those fears that David may or may not have go away.”
Ragland echoed Dove’s comments. “Nobody was out to get David,” he said. “I do not believe that the Elections Commission came to the decision based on personal opinion or anything.”
“If people think there’s some conspiracy going on between Dustin and I, that’s completely false.”
I began working on this post in earnest on Sunday, and conducted the bulk of my interviews Monday morning. When I spoke with Dove, he told me that there were additional problems with Adewumi’s registration packet that each individually would also disqualify his ticket from participating in this year’s election.
At the time, Adewumi had not yet been informed of the discrepancies. Monday evening he was informed of his ticket’s failure to include a copy of his Penn State ID+ in the registration packet, a requirement stipulated in 4.04 of the Elections Code. Moreover, his intended runningmate Sri Pisupati has completed just one semester at Penn State, and though Adewumi says he has credits such that he has achieved semester-status of at least a sophomore, the commission said that he was ineligible for the election. In an email, Dove explained that the commission does not look at overall credits attained as an indication of a student’s semester standing as that figure includes AP and transfer credits.
Board of Arbitration
Adewumi and Pisupati are planning to appeal to the UPUA’s Board of Arbitration as soon as possible, but Adewumi feels that the disqualification was intentionally timed to make it difficult for the BOA to convene prior to the start of UPUA campaigning Monday morning. “Disqualifying a student over spring break doesn’t realistically give the candidate a chance to appeal the decision in a timely process while still trying to run a campaign,” said Adewumi. “The disqualification, even if overturned, provided a barrier to successfully running for office.”
When Adewumi believes he should have been informed remains unclear.
Dove explained that, “It’s the Elections Commission’s proper role to get the hearing set as early as possible so if David is eligible for candidacy, he can begin campaigning as soon as possible.”
Chief Arbiter Alyssa Thomas has been contacted by both Dove and Adewumi regarding the situation, but as of Monday evening neither had heard back yet. It is of course spring break.
Ragland hopes that Adewumi will have the chance to run, though– and according to Dove, so does he.
“We’re students too,” said Dove. “Our two main goals are to run a fair process and increase turnout.” And, indeed, there are few better ways to increase turnout than offering more choices.
Ragland told me that he spoke with David on Sunday. “He called me,” said Ragland, “and I told him that I’m upset he can’t run.”
“One of the things I’m big on is competition. It takes a tough leader to run for UPUA President and I applaud those who desire to run.”
Ragland admitted, however, that if the Adewumi does end up successfully pursuing arbitrage and entering the presidential election, the lost campaign time and association of his name with “disqualification” could affect his chances. “I would think that it could really hurt him,” said Ragland.
Adewumi is by no means the only student whose registration materials or other qualifications were deemed insufficient by the Elections Commission. One other presidential ticket and three other potential candidates were also ruled ineligible, and they too will also have the option of pursuing arbitration through the BOA. If this is a sign of things to come, it should be an exciting election season indeed.
Thumbnail images courtesy of Penn State Democrats and David Adewumi.