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Thelmogate 2015: The Election

Written by Emery Younger

By EMERY YOUNGER and JONATHAN TEN EYCK

On Wednesday morning many members of the University com- munity awoke and saw “A Memo from R. Christopher Di Mezzo ‘18 to the St. Lawrence Univer- sity campus” in their inboxes or on their Facebook newsfeed. This document clearly stated that Di Mezzo was no longer a candidate for the presidency of the Thelo- mathesian Society due to a viola- tion of Thelmo’s voting regula- tions, which each candidate had agreed to. Di Mezzo attributed this violation to “a glitch that allowed the first ten voters to edit the poll.”

While this memo, written on Di Mezzo’s official Thelmo letterhead, broke the news to all but a few, the disqualification was not news to the Thelmo Executive Board. “On Monday morning John Robert [O’Connor] was going through the poll making sure everything was going okay and recognized an is- sue in the poll,” said Thelmo Presi- dent Ryan Orvis ‘17, “It said that it had been edited by R. Christopher Di Mezzo.” After further investiga- tion, O’Connor noticed that the order of the poll had been modi- fied to list R. Christopher DiMezzo as the first candidate for President, and Joseph Nickerson ‘17 second. This alteration switched the order of the candidates, which was pre- viously randomly set by Thelmo Election Chair Matt Bauer ’16, fol- lowing a coin toss.

By Monday afternoon, O’Connor had enough evidence to notify Election Chair Bauer, who then opened a formal investigation into the alteration of the ballot. On Monday evening Bauer privately met with the current Executive Board of Thelmo (comprised of Orvis, Sarah Evarts ’17, and Drew Houx ‘18, Jeanette Gitobu ’16, and Cassie Christopher ‘17), with the exception of Di Mezzo, to inform them that he had decided to dis- qualify Di Mezzo from the election. “I operated under the circumstances that [since] he broke a rule in the constitution, he’s disqualified from the race,” said Bauer.

“So Tuesday morning I woke up having received an email from Matt Bauer,” said R. Christopher Di Mezzo. “I opened the attachment and it said ‘I write today to notify you that you have been disqualified as a candidate for the presidency of the Thelomathesian Society.”

Seeing no other option, Di Mezzo immediately requested a hear- ing with the Thelmo Executive Board to appeal Bauer’s decision. At the hearing both Bauer and Di Mezzo presented their evidence on the incident. “Our stories matched up identically,” said Di Mezzo, “Mine just had context to my ac- tions. At no point did I refute any of the evidence,” he added.

After leaving the hearing to al- low the Exec Board a vote on Di Mezzo’s appeal, Bauer and Di Mez- zo shared a moment in the hallway of Hepburn. “And I said [to Matt], ‘You did your job’, because he did do his job,” added Di Mezzo.

Later that night, Di Mezzo was informed that the Executive Board had unanimously decided to up- hold Bauer’s decision to suspend Di Mezzo’s candidacy. “It was a pretty difficult decision to come to,” Orvis said, “but we were look- ing at the constitution and evi- dence. You can’t start playing the game of intention.”

Following this decision Di Mez- zo drafted his memo to the Uni- versity community in which he ex- plained the context within which the violation had occurred. “This is not a black and white issue,” he wrote, “What was best for the stu- dents of St. Lawrence University was not taken into account.”

Di Mezzo also discussed how he had hoped to shape the Univer- sity as President. After a long cam- paign, Di Mezzo wrote that he had come to realize “that Thelmo is a broken institution in the eyes of the the student body.”

This assertion was not well received by the senior members of Thelmo. “It was very difficult for the Executive Board,” stated Presi- dent Ryan Orvis. “We’ve worked very well with Christopher for the past year and we’ve done a lot of great things. For him to write this letter as a member of the exec board, not as a candidate, is almost nullifying his own work.”

Despite Di Mezzo’s disqualifi- cation, the election for Thelmo President is still open for voting. Although Di Mezzo is no longer eligible for election, votes that were previously cast for him are still be- ing counted towards the 682-vote threshold, which is required for the University to hold a valid election. Nickerson now remains as the sole eligible candidate on the ballot, and although students are able to write-in an alternative choice, it is unlikely that a write-in campaign would be successful with such little time left in the race.

The election and its implications dominated Thelmo’s meeting on Wednesday evening. After Bauer explained the process behind his decision to disqualify Di Mezzo, Orvis delivered a brief statement before opening the floor for dis- cussion. Many of the Senators present expressed dismay over the decision and noted that, while this decision might have been correct by the constitution, they ques- tioned whether it was in the best interest of the student body.

Numerous senators stated that they had been approached by stu- dents about the issue. They felt that Thelmo’s actions surrounding this election had the potential to posi- tively or negatively affect students’ perception of student government. Already, two long-standing senators have announced they will be resigning due to the situation, according to Di Mezzo.

Additionally, Nickerson stated at Wednesday’s meeting that he felt his campaign had been under- mined, and believed that altering the election procedure would take away from the hard work that has already been put into the campaign.

This week’s events have sparked dialogue among many members of the student body regarding the role of Thelmo. “It was great to see so many people come to tonight’s meeting and voice their concerns, “said Orvis, who also added that he has directed Thelmo to cre- ate ad-hoc committee, chaired by Mariah Dignan ‘16, to look for ways to improve the body’s con- stitution. “They have a great chal- lenge ahead of them,” he added, “but sometimes great things come from great challenges.”

As for Di Mezzo, he plans on staying involved on campus after completing his term as Vice Presi- dent of Senate Affairs at the end of this semester. However he has no intention of serving as a sena- tor in Thelmo in the near future. “I feel confident that I will still have a platform to get things done, President or not,” concluded Di Mezzo.

About the author

Emery Younger