Thursday evening saw an unprecedented public hearing about the complaints filed against the recent USG election winners Mosopefoluwa “Sope” Ladapo and Michael Thompson.
By Paris Garnier
After one of the biggest elections in Undergraduate Student Government’s history, a hearing was held Thursday night to determine if the allegations against Mosopefoluwa “Sope” Ladapo and Michael Thompson were true.
The hearing itself took place in room BS 2006 in the business building at 6:15 p.m. and lasted for an hour and a half. The hearing was public and originally slated to be in the Campus Center, but was changed because the available rooms were too small. The audience spilled out into the hallway after the room reached maximum capacity.
As explained in previous articles, Ladapo and Thompson had complaints filed against them by Jamie Collier. The complaints were six counts of “campaigning in a study area” and one count of voter fraud. In the hearing, each complaint was individually examined by the committee, as they were before in a private meeting to determine if the complaints fit format guidelines.
Before either party made their case, the Elections Hearing Parliamentary Procedures were read off. Procedure dictated that the hearing would be public, quorum for the committee would be reached before it began, and dictated who may speak and when. Only those who were involved in the complaints could speak and no interruptions would be tolerated.
The committee emphasized that final decisions about sanction points would not be decided at that evening and that there would be a private 24 hour deliberation period before a public announcement. The hearing was to see if the complaints were valid based on both parties’ arguments and evidence.
The hearing was straightforward: each party was granted an opening and closing statement for each complaint, as well as a time for the committee to ask questions in between. The order in which statements were given alternated between each party. Opening statements were two minutes long and closing statements were one minute long. Only Ladapo and Collier spoke.
Committee members questioned why Collier filed six separate complaints despite the pictures being taken on the same day and the nature of the pictures being identical. Collier explained that multiple images showed a repeated violation.
Ladapo said that friends took the pictures and uploaded some to the “Sope and Thompson” campaign Facebook page without being asked by Ladapo or Thompson. Later, Ladapo and Thompson uploaded some images that they had been sent. He also said that only he and Thompson were official campaign members and that the friends who uploaded the pictures were neither paid nor asked to volunteer.
Collier stated that, because Ladapo and Thompson didn’t remove the images and put several up on their own, “they allowed for the violation to happen.” Collier repeated that it was a matter of violating the code, something that both Ladapo and Collier are familiar with, having served on the USG Elections Committee together.
Ladapo argued that there was no evidence of a disruption in the library; Collier argued that there was no evidence that taking the pictures didn’t cause a disruption.
Collier said that Ladapo and Thompson posting a number of images shows a disregard for the elections code. Ladapo pointed out that the code does not specify if taking pictures or video is considered a disruption, or even considered campaigning.
“[The committee] cannot punish us for something that is not in the code,” he said.
The committee asked both Collier and Ladapo how they defined a disruption in context to the situation. Ladapo answered that a disruption would be convincing individuals to vote, while Collier said that a disruption is distracting a student from what they were doing. They were also questioned about the nature of a disruption in regard to the noise restricted third floor and the group-study fourth floor.
The friendship between Collier and Ladapo was brought to light when the committee asked Collier why he did not reach out to Ladapo before filing the complaints. Collier answered that he regretted not speaking to Ladapo and warning him about the pictures, but did not regret filing the complaints. In one of his statements, Ladapo referred to Collier as a former friend.
Ladapo said that the final complaint of voter fraud was hearsay and “the most egregious of the complaints.” Collier said that he received information from an anonymous source that Cynthia Morraz intimidated voters in the Multicultural Center; Morraz was the one who took the picture in complaint seven of a student holding an “I voted for Sope & Thompson” sign in front of a still-active online voting page.
Morraz, who is close to Ladapo, said she felt attacked.
“I was basically called a bully by Jamie on his statement when he was in there. So that’s interesting because [the student in image seven] is my friend, he is Sope’s friend.”
Ladapo himself felt that the claims were a waste of time and invalid, something that he repeated multiple times during the hearing, which he found “interesting, to say the least.”
“I didn’t know what to expect going into it. There were a lot of misconceptions that I had about the process and … as soon as I walked into the room i realized some things that we hadn’t taken into account about the process, about how it was going to go down,” he said.
Dozens of students attended the hearing to show support or just get a better understanding of the situation.
“[I’m] not really involved, just a concerned citizen, I guess. I really just want to see what happens,” IUPUI junior John Ery said. “Honestly, I didn’t vote for Sope or Michael, but I do find it difficult to forge an online election.”
“I want to know who USG is. I want to know who is in charge. I want to know why these results aren’t the way they are. Why aren’t Thompson and Sope in office?” Silvia Thomas, an IUPUI sophomore, said.
“Sope and I are both Social Justice Scholars together. So that’s how I know Sope, but that’s not the only reason I voted for him and not the only reason I’ve supported him and his campaign, because I think that Sope and Michael both bring unique perspectives that work together and they’re really looking to change the way IUPUI works,” IUPUI junior Cassandra Govert said.
“My hopes are that the complaints don’t go through and that we don’t get any more sanction points,” Govert said. “My concern is that this won’t exactly be entirely fair.”