A complaint filed against President-elect Muhammad Afzaal was dismissed on Monday, clearing the way for his certification as President of the Graduate and Professional Student Association.
The Graduate and Professional Student Association's Court of Review voted 2 to 1 to dismiss the complaint. The complaint accused Afzaal of campaigning too close to a polling station and pressuring students to vote for him.
“The court finds that the complaint is not valid because the governing Article, cited by the Plaintiff, is not applicable because the allegations do not involve a physical polling location,” Chief Justice Simon Suzuki said.
The complaint argued that Afzaal, after coercing complainant, Joslyn Gabaldon to vote for him, violated Article X Section four Subsection 10 of the GPSA constitution, which forbids a candidate from campaigning within 25 feet a polling station. Gabaldon argued that a polling station was created when she and her colleagues opened the ballot on their personal electronic devices.
Gabaldon said the incident occurred on April 4, while she and a handful of her colleagues were studying for a quiz on North Campus. She said that Afzaal approached the group of pharmacy students to campaign to them. She said he then told them to check their emails for the GPSA link. Gabaldon said she told him they would do it after they finished studying, but Afzaal was insistent. Gabaldon said one of her colleagues, Ryan Dow, needed to reset her password to vote.
“(He) literally would not leave her vicinity and would watch her computer screen until she voted until she clicked on his name and he saw that. She felt very pressured in order to vote for him,” Gabaldon said.
Dow said Afzaal did the same thing to other groups. She also said Afzaal came into the classroom where the students were set to take their quiz.
Caleb Howard, another one of the pharmacy doctoral students in Gabaldon’s study group, also said Afzaal was insistent when he asked them to vote.
“It made me feel uncomfortable because I’d be willing to vote if he showed me a non-biased orientation to ‘who are the candidates.’ I thought it was a little unethical that he was telling me to basically vote for him,” Howard said.
Afzaal said that the allegations against him are baseless.
Afzaal said he didn’t remember the interaction, adding that he talked to hundreds of students while campaigning. He said he showed students how and where to vote, after being asked.
“I didn’t hang around them, harassing them or forcing them to vote for me, but I own my right to request them to vote,” Afzaal said.
When the complaint was introduced, it highlighted GPSA’s struggles with filling positions within its governing structure.
Suzuki was the only member of the court when the GPSA elections committee tabled certification of the election results. After that meeting, GPSA hosted a second meeting to appoint two more justices. The meeting was canceled because GPSA could not muster a quorum or a minimum amount of representatives in order to decide on public business, according to the Open Meeting Act of New Mexico.
Last week, Cristina Vasques and Ghada Zribi were appointed to the court on Cristina Vasquez in a special meeting which resolved the issue of the absent court.
Justin Garcia is a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers student government. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Just516garc.