Third-year College student Hunter Wagenaar announced that he is dropping out of the race for Student Council president during his closing remarks of The Cavalier Daily’s fourth-annual presidential candidate forum Monday night. The University Board of Elections is investigating Wagenaar’s allegations regarding violations of endorsing procedure policies.
Wagenaar was running against third-year College student Ellen Yates, who currently serves as Student Council’s vice president for administration. Yates has not responded to request for comment as of press time.
Veronica Merril, a third-year Architecture student who was running for vice president for organizations on Wagenaar’s ticket, also announced her withdrawal from the race in a statement to The Cavalier Daily following the forum. Merril was running against Shefalika Prasad, incumbent VPO and third-year College student.
Ilyas Saltani, a second-year College student running for VPA alongside Wagenaar and Merril, did not respond to The Cavalier Daily’s initial request for comment. However, in a public statement posted to Facebook Tuesday evening, Saltani announced that he will be continuing his candidacy in the race. He expressed that he maintains support of the ticket’s mission to “empower the student.”
Prasad and Darynha Gnep, Yates’s running mate for VPA and third-year Curry student, have not responded to request for comment.
In his closing remarks Monday night, Wagenaar alleged that he was coerced by the current administration to resign from his position as a Student Council representative in October after he filed a rules and ethics complaint against Yates and Student Council president Ellie Brasacchio, a fourth-year College student.
Wagenaar also claims that members of Student Council have engaged in harassment and slander against him. He said this includes the chair of the representative body and others monitoring the Google Calendar affiliated with his University email to “harass” those with whom he met. Additionally, Wagenaar claims Brasacchio threatened legal action for maintaining ownership to intellectual property he produced while serving as a representative. Brasacchio has not responded to a request for comment as of press time.
Wagenaar also alleges that he was harassed during an endorsement interview by someone close to Yates’s campaign and that a member of Yates’s ticket slandered Wagenaar to the leader of an endorsing organization.
“Frankly, I do not think these acts of intimidation and harassment will stop if I am elected. I do not think UBE will do anything, and I am tired,” Wagenaar said in his closing remarks. “So tonight I will be dropping out of the race for Student Council president.”
During Tuesday night’s Student Council general body meeting, Brasacchio addressed the allegations on behalf of herself and Student Council when they were brought up during the meeting’s public comment period.
“I can tell you that the claims made are false and unsubstantiated,” Brasacchio said. “There is no evidence behind them.”
UBE confirms that Wagenaar brought his concern regarding the endorsing interview to their attention Feb. 14 — the second day candidates could interview with endorsing organizations. After the complaint was brought to their Vice Chair for Rules and Regulations, the matter was directed to the UBE Chair and Vice Chair for Candidates. The board then consulted the endorsing organization in question and UBE’s faculty advisory. According to UBE, the board is still investigating and looking to rectify the situation.
“It was an absolutely unprecedented situation and UBE wanted to ensure that we were pursuing a response that would be reasonable and fair for everyone involved,” said Mason Fuller, UBE chair and fourth-year College student, in an email to The Cavalier Daily. “We were still in the process of investigating the situation and deciding on a solution when the debate happened tonight.”
However, UBE was not aware of Wagenaar’s allegations against a member of Yates’s ticket until the live forum. Wagenaar told The Cavalier Daily that he learned today that someone on Yates’s ticket had, he claims, previously called the leader of an organization to persuade them to endorse Yates.
UBE’s rules and regulations state that “no candidate may become involved in the decision-making processes of any Endorsing Organization’s endorsing process.” UBE holds the ability to revoke future eligibility to endorse through UBE from organizations who fail to comply with its standards.
“We will be doing whatever we can to address it before voting begins,” Fuller said.
During the meeting, Brasacchio said she was not speaking on behalf of any campaign and added that Student Council supported UBE’s investigation into Wagenaar’s allegations.
“We support wholeheartedly their investigation into the claims,” Brasacchio said.
In an interview with The Cavalier Daily, Wagenaar said he came to the decision to withdraw prior to the forum, citing the effect Student Council’s alleged “corruption” has had on his mental health and academic performance over the past six months.
Wagenaar said he did not go into the race with the intention of dropping but acknowledged that some may question why he chose to follow through with the forum if he had already decided to drop out.
“For a long time, there have not been any voices to oppose the strategy that Student Council has put forth,” Wagenaar said. “So my thought was, let’s at least give students an hour of hearing new plans for how their student government can interact with them.”
The Cavalier Daily can neither confirm nor deny the full extent of Wagenaar’s claims as of press time.
This article has been updated to include information about Ilyas Saltani staying in the race for the VPA position. It has also been updated to include comment from Ellie Brasacchio stated during Tuesday’s Student Council meeting.