This Week in Villanova History

Tony DiFrancesco

The 1977 Elections Commission, headed by Paul Mamolou, has met several times in recent weeks to act on cases involving Student Government Association presidential candidates Matt Christenson and Don Miller and Arts and Sciences senate candidate Tom Platt.

Because of University infractions committed on Dec. 6, 1976, Don Miller was placed on Disciplinary Probation, thus threatening compliance with Election Commission rules which list “good standing with the University” as a qualification for Student Body President. Miller approached the Commission with a letter concerning these difficulties and at a meeting on March 2, 1977, it was decided that the presidential candidacy of Miller would be allowed.

On the strength of a four-page document submitted by SGA vice president Brian Mullen, Christenson was found guilty of two campaign violations in an Election Commission meeting held Friday, March 25 that lasted for nearly five hours. As a result, dorm campaigning for Christenson ceased as of Saturday, March 26 at 12:00 noon and all other campaigning ended Monday at 5:00. He was required to turn in all posters and flyers to the Elections Commission as well.

The chief source of the violations is a campaigning manual which was circulated among Christenson’s campaign workers. Written over the midterm break by Matt and two others, the 45 manuals, ranging in length from 23 to 45 pages depending on the constituency of the worker, are a detailed account of Christenson’s campaign. “It should be published,” commented Student Body President Art Donato in reference to the efficiency and organization of the manual.

According to election rules, campaigning is defined as “solicitations of votes or support.” The first allegation points to the manual as a solicitation of a vote in cases where the particular campaign worker was not a personal friend of Christenson prior to the date campaigning officially began: March 21, 1977.

A further Election Commission rule states: “All receipts equaling fair market value of campaign materials must be submitted for inspection by the Election Commission, for approval prior to their use during the campaign.” Neither the manual or campaign stationery or the corresponding receipts were made available to the Commission prior to the official start of campaigning.

The books were distributed to the workers on March 9, after the petitions went out. “That’s when I actively thought you could start building a campaign organization,” said Matt. “While it may be wrong, I didn’t think it was a violation.”

The rules of the Election Commission not being available until March 16 is once controversy connected with the allegations.

“I think the Election Commission has given me a fair hearing and I am grateful for their careful, serious consideration,” commented Christenson following the lengthy ordeal. A large number of his supporters remained outside of the SGA office for that final decision.

On Sunday afternoon Mamolou stated that further allegations were being considered. Mullen and SGA members Bud Woods and Michael Baker spent much of Saturday afternoon tracing the sources of receipts submitted by Christenson. One point researched was the cost of blue covers used for the campaign materials. After phoning about 15 area printers to assess fair market value, Mullen stated that the cheapest cost for that particular cover was 28 cents. Kennedy Hall, however, sells them for 19 cents and it is probably that other commercial establishments offer them at a less expensive rate.

Much displeasure has arisen because of the allegation proceedings. Christenson noted, “My biggest gripe is Brian Mullen’s constant presence on the second floor [of Dougherty] with the Commission members. Then, during the meetings, he was debating my statements and I requested that he not be present during my hearing with the Commission. This was agreed to, but then after the 6:30 recess he reentered the meeting and also talked with Paul Mamolou in the bathroom when the discussions were to be going on.”

When questioned about the impartiality of the Commission, Mamolou replied, “The people on the committee are aware of what is going on and have been totally unbiased. Some people that I thought would lean one way are going in the opposite direction. They’ve followed their conscience in deciding what is right and wrong.”

Miller, present SGA vice president, was questioned about his workers allegedly using false information when talking with students. He stated that he couldn’t fully control what his workers did and Mullen added, “These people want their man to win and there is no telling what they might do while campaigning.”

A final case of violations concerned Arts and Sciences candidate Tom Platt, a transfer student, who needs three courses to qualify as a second semester sophomore, a further election requirement. He will now not seek a position.

The Elections Commission is not alien to campaign violations. Two years ago, one candidate was removed from the ballot for using campaign material of a permanent nature (spray paint, bumper stickers, etc.) and for defacing the campaign material of another candidate, while a minor violation was incurred last year for campaigning to soon. Both cases served as guidelines to action in the recent flurry of incidents.