Chrystal, Moore win ASA presidential election

Last Friday, students elected sophomores Courtney Chrystal and Mekhi Moore as their Augustana Student Association (ASA) president and vice president for next year by a large majority.

Chrystal and Moore received 69% of the votes, which is 451 ballots, according to sophomore Cal Irvine, the ASA technical director and this year’s election commissioner. The opposing ticket, Brayden Harris and Laura Hartke, received 29% of the votes, or 188 ballots. Two percent of voters abstained.

“The campaign in general, for me, was super tiring, I’ll be honest, but it was also really rewarding,” Chrystal said. “Our whole point was to go and meet people where they were at.”

Going forward, Chrystal said the major points that the two want to address in their administration are Title IX and sexual assault issues, mental health awareness on campus and how to support affinity student organizations that represent systemically non-dominant groups.

Chrystal also said their administration will plan to address other major issues as they come up.

“Students can expect that, as needs arise, those are going to be the ones that are addressed first,” Chrystal said.

According to Moore, besides these large plans, the two also want to make ASA a place where senators can quickly pursue projects that they care about.

“We want the new elected senators to be constantly getting projects done and finished,” Moore said.

Students also elected sophomore Gedion Alemayehu as treasurer and junior Sara Alhasnawi as secretary.

Sophomore Harley Tran and junior Onajite Taire were elected as the two international senators, and Andrew Struck was elected as the adult learner senator.

Ellie Holmes, Noah Hovorka, Sheldon Jensen and John Walker are the new senior senators. Students chose Tsegab Arega, Cooper Benning, Camryn Simmons and Raena Brendtro as the junior senators. Megan Richardson, Lauren Teller, Zachary Pandorf and Slater Dixon were elected as the sophomore senators.

One of the major concerns during the presidential election was the use of mass emails. According to an email sent by current ASA President Cole Tessendorf and Vice President Hannah DeWild, candidates were not allowed to campaign through mass emails.

According to Tessendorf, this rule, which is not an official part of ASA’s election code, was created after pushback from students about candidates using mass emails in the 2020 election. Earlier in that school year, ASA passed an amendment that student organizations could not send out mass emails to all students unless students signed up, but according to Tessendorf, ASA was not subjected to that same rule. As a result, candidates in last year’s election sent out mass emails, which students argued was hypocritical.

“[The mass email rule] was an attempt to make us as compliant as all of the other student organizations,” Tessendorf said in his reasoning for creating the rule this year.

Irvine, who was responsible for receiving complaints from students about rule violations, said that both tickets had reports of sending out mass emails. In all cases, candidates got permission from staff members or student leaders that have access to email lists to send info to those groups.

Chrystal and Moore sent out an email to students on the Lost & Found club’s email list detailing some of their initiatives. Attached to the email was their campaign’s platform.

Harris and Hartke sent out two emails to different student populations. Harris sent an email to the Elmen staff saying, “I’d really appreciate your support,” and containing a link to the voting website. The ticket also sent an email to the nursing department, which was forwarded to students through a staff member.

According to Tessendorf, there was an investigation by the ASA executive members and Mark Blackburn, the Dean of Students, into all of these reports. Because the term “mass email” was not defined in-depth in the original email by Tessendorf and DeWild, and because both tickets did the same thing, no candidates were punished for the emails they sent.

“In our minds, what [the no mass email rule] meant was scraping Buzz Book for all the names,” Tessendorf said. “That’s kind of how we worded it, but obviously both candidates found the gray area.”

Irvine said ASA could pass an amendment to define what mass emails are and how they will be dealt with in future elections. Chrystal and Moore said part of their goals for next year will be to clarify the definition of mass email and the rule as a whole.

“I hope this is something we can set in stone for next year,” Moore said. “Mass emails have been a talk that’s been happening for a long time, so it would be nice to have, like, ‘here are the rules regarding mass emails,’ and then leave it at that.”