It’s that time of year again: executive board elections. With an investigation regarding this year’s elections already underway, the UNLV Scarlet & Gray Free Press opened its archives to take a look at past issues with the people who control your student government.
Current Senate President Schyler Brown faced impeachment charges for wearing his National Guard uniform while campaigning. In the primary election, he lagged behind frontrunner Nicole Thomas by about 3 percent of votes. He overtook her in the general election, however, and resigned from his senate seat shortly after being served a notice of impeachment. Over the summer of 2016, the senate voted to move forward to an impeachment hearing. They dropped the impeachment charges after Brown’s attorney testified that the usual punishment for this behavior is an “on the spot correction.”
Alex Murdock, a former hospitality senator, ran for senate president on the platform that he would try to eliminate the position once he had it.
Murdock lost and proposed later that year that the senate president be replaced by a speaker of the senate, thereby removing all members of the executive board from the senate. The senate president serves as an ex-officio member of the senate with no vote.
“You will not find a government anywhere–and if you do, please show me because I have been looking–where you have a member of the executive branch in control of the legislature,” Murdock said in a 2015 senate meeting.
The U.S. vice president (a member of the executive branch) is the president of the U.S. senate, according to the U.S. Constitution. The CSUN Senate President, however, is afforded more power over the CSUN Senate including choosing which agenda items the CSUN Senate may hear.
Elias Benjelloun, Kanani Espinoza and Vladislav Zhitny came very close (on multiple occasions) to losing their race for the executive board.
Benjelloun and Zhitny faced impeachment charges after The Rebel Yell reported that they had promised favors to several organizations in exchange for votes during the election. Despite the criticism, the trio’s ticket, Rebelution, won the majority vote in a record turnout of 1,800 students. They were slapped with 16 elections complaints just days later.
The elections commission disqualified the entire ticket for violating CSUN’s constitution during the election. That disqualification was suspended by the Judicial Council, who found that the commission’s evidence had been obtained illegally in addition to violation of due process, and Rebelution was sworn in.
Just weeks later, UNLV lawyers issued an injunction against CSUN to stop the destruction of any materials that may be used in a trial. Some speculated that Murdock would file a lawsuit against the Judicial Council for not having enough justices present to conduct a hearing.
Mark Ciavola was elected student body president with more than 50 percent of votes. His running mates, however, did not garner as many. At the time, CSUN couldn’t decide whether or not a run-off vote would be necessary to declare a winner.
In the end, they decided that since enough students casted “none of the above” votes to render it impossible for any candidate to receive more than 50 percent of votes, Ciavola’s running mates would take office because they had more votes.
Bonus: Ciavola was removed from a UNLV vs. UNR basketball game in Reno after he reportedly “unzipped his pants and ‘motioned his groin’ toward a section of UNR fans.”
Annastasia Koerner, a former liberal arts senator, was forced to stay on the ballot as a presidential candidate even though she didn’t want to. According to CSUN’s bylaws at the time, she withdrew her candidacy too close to the election to be removed from the ballot.
One of her opponents, David Rappoport, lost the election after a smear campaign by the UNLV College Republicans accused him of nepotism and wasting student fees. Ciavola served as the president of UNLV College Republicans at the time.
An argument between the student body president and vice president resulted in senators walking out of a meeting. The president accused the VP of not returning a set of desk keys on time, while the VP accused the president of using CSUN funds to buy alcohol for minors.
“Some people have decided to play king of the mountain on the Executive Board,” the VP said.
“By God, then who is CEO or president of CSUN?” the then-president said. “If he’s implying me being the king…then I am the king.”
The Yellin’ Rebel (as the newspaper was once known) reported that the 1986 executive board elections was “one of the most confusing elections in CSUN history.” The loser of the race for student body president filed a complaint with the elections board, claiming that the student body president-elect had not received 50 percent of votes since 150 students marked “none of the above” on their ballots.
In stranger news, the former CSUN Vice President Tom Muir called the CSUN business manager and requested that she order The Yellin Rebel’s printers to stop the press run of the elections issue. The newspaper staff brought their concerns to CSUN as most copies of the paper were being destroyed before they could reach the hands of students.
Neither UNLV nor CSUN existed. The former still went by Nevada Southern, while the latter called itself the Confederated Students of Nevada Southern (CSNS).
But The Rebel Yell was there.
On the first page, the three candidates for student body president, Ernie Cramer, Bob Schnider and Paul Havas, wrote their personal statements to encourage students to vote for them. Much of what they campaigned for is now taken for granted. Regular senate meetings, student handbooks, an athletic department—all are commonplace on today’s campus.
The mudslinging, fraud and personal attacks were absent from the election of 1958.
As a news brief in the same issue put it, “We may not have the finest student government in the United States, but we certainly do not have the worst (or even near it!)”
Editor’s note: Mark Ciavola is a former opinion editor for The Rebel Yell.