SGA executive campaigns disqualified, suspended by Judicial Council

The SGA meets on Feb. 27 in the SGA chambers in Downing Student Union. They discussed the recent budget cuts and ideas on what that would consist of in the future as well as the dining contract with Aramark.

The Student Government Association campaign of Stephen Mayer, Garrett Edmonds and Harper Anderson has been disqualified by the Judicial Council.

In an Instagram post, the MEA campaign said the Judicial Council held a “secret meeting” last night, and, according to meeting minutes, it was decided their campaign would be disqualified. The trio was running for president, executive vice president and administrative vice president, respectively. The council also disqualified them from other senator positions.

The campaign of Kenan Mujkanovic, who was also running for president, was suspended for violation of election codes. 

Chief Justice Annalicia Carlson provided the Herald with a copy of the minutes from last night’s meeting. The emergency meeting was called to order by Carlson at 8 p.m. and ended at 10:45 p.m. 

Additionally, Carlson, in a statement to the Herald, pushed back about this being called a secret meeting. She said the meeting was advertised to those involved and the council called Mayer, Edmonds, Anderson and Will Harris, the ticket’s campaign manager, to speak to the council. Carlson said three of them did this, but didn’t specify who. 

According to meeting minutes, it was brought to the council’s attention the MEA ticket, and Anna McAvoy, a sophomore running for junior senator and senator-at-large, was using a Pepe the Frog meme, “a well-known symbol for white supremacy, in their campaigning and chalking materials,” according to the minutes. 

The council voted to disqualify both McAvoy and the MEA campaign. 

Carlson sent an email to the MEA ticket last night about the decision. In the email, she said the council determined Edmonds was notified Pepe the Frog “had been co-opted as a hate symbol” after the image had been made, but elected not to remove it.

Due to the decision not to remove it, the council found the ticket in violation of of the election codes. states that no candidate “shall use inappropriate language or depictions of any kind in sidewalk chalk.” 

“The Student Government Association will not stand for the use of such hate symbols, and the Council believes that your decision not to remove the imagery when Mr. Edmonds was made aware (before it rained) or issue a formal statement regarding the issue signals a disregard for both the election codes and the anti-discrimination clause of the SGA Constitution,” Carlson said in the email. 

In a statement to the Herald, Carlson said the council voted to disqualify the entire ticket because at least one person was aware of the racist symbolism of the meme. 

“I believe that Stephen Mayer and Harper Anderson was not aware of the symbolism, but since Garrett Edmonds added their name to the chalking, they are also held responsible,” she said in the statement. 

The Anti-Defamation League classified Pepe the Frog as a hate symbol in 2016. According to ADL, the meme did not originally have racist or anti-Semitic connotations. However, internet users created a subset of Pepe the Frog memes that “centered on racist, anti-Semitic or other bigoted themes.” 

ADL also says the meme is not bigoted in nature, but it’s important to examine the use of the meme in context. 

“The mere fact of posting a Pepe meme does not mean that someone is racist or white supremacist,” the ADL states. “However, if the meme itself is racist or anti-Semitic in nature, or if it appears in a context containing bigoted or offensive language or symbols, then it may have been used for hateful purposes.”

According to the meeting minutes, Mujkanovic’s campaign was suspended for violating section 3.8 of the election codes. Section 3.8 states the distribution of perishable food items within 48 hours of any election is prohibited. That 48 hour window began on April 14. 

In the Instagram post, the MEA campaign said they are disheartened to be deemed ineligible to be “your next SGA executive team, or even senators for the next year over a meme that was used.”

They apologized if the meme offended anyone and said they would be similarly upset if something like this were to happen to another ticket. They also plan to submit an appeal to university administration. 

The disqualification and suspension means the campaign of Connor Hounshell, Savannah Molyneaux and Kara Lowry is the only active campaign for president, executive vice president and administrative vice president. Mujkanovic cannot campaign but is still eligible to win the election, but the MEA ticket is ineligible to win and no longer allowed to campaign. 

Mayer told the Herald the only statement the campaign is currently releasing is the one on social media. Hounshell said his campaign was unaware of the council’s decision and will continue campaigning as normal. 

The Herald has reached out to Mujkanovic for additional comments. 

Carlson said the Judicial Council will meet at 7 p.m. in Downing Student Union room 3018, where an official statement will be released. 

This story was updated at 6:40 p.m. to clarify Will Harris’s role with the MEA campaign. 

The Herald will update this story as more information becomes available.