O'Donoghue/Norton given two day suspension
By LAURA ROMPH
Assistant News Editor
In an 11-4 vote with seven abstentions, the Senate turned down an appeal from the Brian O'Donoghue/Brooke Norton ticket, which asked that its two-day campaign suspension from the Judicial Council be revoked.
According to the Judicial Council, candidates O'Donoghue and Brooke Norton violated campaign rules when they appeared on a WVFI radio show Saturday. According to campaigning rules, candidates could not begin campaigning until midnight on Monday.
However, controversy arose in the Senate because of gray areas surrounding the definition of campaigning. O'Donoghue and Norton did not realize that appearing on the radio was a violation of rules and thus their motives for the interview on WVFI were unclear.
"Personally, knowing [O'Donoghue], I know he would never [purposefully] do anything in violation of the constitution," said Alumni Senator David Zachary. "However, ignorance of the law is not a defense."
"The candidates made no efforts to solicit votes," junior Jay Smith, O'Donoghue and Norton's campaign manager, said in a statement to the Senate. "They were engaged in a conversation on the radio about issues effecting the Notre Dame community. It is no different from you or I appearing on WVFI. If a difference exists, it is because they are a known candidate, which they have no control over."
According to the Judicial Council, the pair discussed pertinent campaign issues and because their names appeared in The Observer on Friday and they affirmed their candidacy in the interview, their appearance on the show was as candidates.
However, at the time, O'Donoghue did not realize the interview violated campaign rules. When he became aware that the appearance was a possible violation, he went to Kelly Folks, Judicial Council President. After a discussion with her, he immediately turned himself in for the violation.
"Concessions are being made because [O'Donoghue] was honest and turned himself in," Folks said. "He did not realize it wasn't allowed because it was not explicitly mentioned. I do not think his actions were malicious or even intentional, but this decision was made to be fair to other candidates."
According to the Judicial Council, the appearance on the radio violated the bylaw which states campaigning is limited to a specific period determined by the Election Committee. The penalty for campaigning outside the time period could be as strict as a forfeiture of candidacy.
However, a gray area exists in the definition of campaigning. The constitution states: "Campaigning consists of any public contact for solicitation of votes. Personal appearances, placement of posters or distributions of any election materials is considered campaigning."
Because O'Donoghue and Norton did not solicit votes on the radio, they did not violate the bylaw, according to Smith.
"It was common knowledge that they were candidates," Smith said. "However, they went into the interview to have fun, to talk about things. They were not soliciting votes. Were they acting as candidates? No, they were not. It just happens they are candidates."
However, Folks argued the other side.
"It is my understanding that when they were asked to be on WVFI, it was because they were candidates. [O'Donoghue] himself told me that," Folks said.
Dillon Senator Brendan Dowdall was the only senator present that heard the interview Saturday.
"I'll be as frank as possible," he said. "Their interests were not in the campaign. Most questions asked were jokes ... There were some serious issues, such as interracial dating and diversity on campus, but no platform was established."
Other senators felt the same way.
"Their appearance on the radio and talking about whatever, was not a solicitation of votes," said Knott Senator Ed Foy. "I think the words `vote for me' are very important and I don't think they were uttered."
Standord Hall Senator Curt Roberts said that if the radio show was a violation, then other public appearances of candidates should also be considered violations.
For instance, he said, the ticket of John Osborn and Mark Donahey presented a proposal to the Senate a few weeks ago and at the same meeting also announced they were running for office.
"They were talking about campaign issues. Shouldn't this have been a violation?" he said. "No, neither of these tickets said `vote for me.' They were not soliciting votes."
Other senators disagreed, saying the appearance was a violation.
"They made a personal appearance on the radio as candidates," said Zahm Senator Ryan Becker. "To me that's cut and dry — they made a violation of the bylaws."
"A rule is a rule," said Cavanaugh Senator Bridget Tomes. "Rules make sure that people play fair. They are in violation. By overruling what the Judicial Council said, we are taking our trust away from them."
Perhaps the most controversial issue was a motion passed at the beginning of the meeting. The "Procedures for Election Appeals Bylaws" said that the Senate had the right to overturn, reduce, increase or change imposed penalties assigned by the Judicial Committee with a 2/3 vote.
Most of the debate occurred under the notion that this bylaw — having been passed earlier at the meeting — granted the Senate the ability to hand down a different punishment to O'Donoghue and Norton from the original two-day suspension.
Two hours into the meeting, student body vice president Michael Palumbo was informed that the new bylaw was not in effect because it needed Student Activities approval.
Because the bylaw was not in affect, the Senate had the choice to either accept the appeal in full and designate no punishment, or deny the appeal and agree to the two-day punishment.
Many senators felt this punishment was too harsh for the crime and wanted to use the new bylaw to amend the punishment.
"Did a personal appearance occur? Yes, of course," said Pat Foy."Campaign tickets should know the rules. I think they are in violation. However, two days doesn't make much sense."
"I feel that they did violate the rules, but most importantly, I do feel the punishment given should fit the crime," said Dowdall. "I think it should be one day."
"We've now determined they were in the wrong," said Ed Foy. "They did reach out to the student body and in some opinions, solicit votes. However, they did this for one day, and a one-day suspension is fair."
After more debate, the Senate concurred that because there was a violation, a punishment should be handed down, and thus voted to support the two-day suspension. However, seven Senators abstained from voting because they did not agree.
"Honestly, I am just disappointed in the abstentions. Senators are there to vote and they did not," Palumbo said. Pat Foy also shared some discontent with the meetings outcome.
"In my two years on the senate not a single thing the Senate has passed has been turned down by Student Activities, let alone by two assistants to the director of Student Activities," he said
"Two assistant to the directors determined the outcome of an appeal for a student election," he added.
Presidential candidate O'Donoghue commented after the meeting stating disappointment in the overturned appeal.
"It is a setback, a small one. However, we've been running on the slogan `Believe.' We're not about to stop believing now. We're going to overcome this, and press on," he said.
O'Donoghue added that there is a positive side to the controversy: "There has been some good come of this. We have seen phenomenal faith and support from the Notre Dame student body — both in the Student Union and our dorms. People do truly believe in us and believe in what we're fighting for."
All News Stories for Thursday, February 10, 2000