ASUU Faces Backlash for Sanctions Placed on VKW and Karabegovic Tickets After Supreme Court Decision


(Chronicle archives)

By Caelan Roberts, News Editor


ASUU is facing backlash for sanctions placed on the VKW and Karabegovic executive tickets after the ASUU Supreme Court found them to have violated endorsement policy in the ASUU elections packet.

Both tickets were forbidden from campaigning, online or in-person, from 6 a.m. this Wednesday to 6 a.m. on Thursday. This included no activity on their campaign social media accounts or campaign-related posts on candidates’ personal social media accounts.  

The tickets were found to be in violation of the endorsements clause of the elections packet during a public hearing Tuesday night, which states, “Endorsements from university employees who are not enrolled students in the ASUU, or ANY off-campus entities, are strictly forbidden.”

ASUU publicly announced the decision on its Instagram Wednesday, where comments supporting the VKW and Karabegovic tickets quickly began to accumulate. As of Thursday night, the post has 97 comments, a large majority questioning the court’s decision.

The ASUU Supreme Court Case

The grievance was brought by Ian Linnabary, campaign manager of the O’Leary ticket, who alleged the Karabegovic and VKW tickets violated the ASUU elections policy by, what he said, seeking an endorsement from Unsafe U. Unsafe U is an organization that aims to educate students about campus safety at the University of Utah, but they not are unaffiliated with the U, according to their Instagram page.

“The elections packet states very clearly that you cannot receive an endorsement from an off-campus organization,” Linnabary said in an interview with the Chronicle.

Sven Karabegovic, presidential candidate of the Karabegovic ticket, disagreed, telling the Chronicle that the clause had “some gray area within it.”

Alicia Baker, vice president of student relations candidate with the Karabegovic ticket, added that the confusion with the clause stressed the importance of new perspectives in ASUU. She said she feels ASUU as it stands is a “terrible cycle of the same people doing the same things, filing the same grievances, having a better understanding than everyone else and just using that to their advantage in really manipulative ways.”

Linnabary said in the hearing, Unsafe U reached out to all three tickets via Instagram asking them to fill out a voluntary survey about campus safety, adding that their responses would be used in consideration for an endorsement. 

According to Unsafe U’s Instagram, the survey is used to create a “report card” for the tickets.

Screenshots of a group message containing all three tickets were presented in the hearing and showed the initial message from Unsafe U saying “we have a quality-based endorsement process. This means we endorse all tickets over our cutoff score of 70% overall or at least a 3.5/5 on responses.” No endorsements were guaranteed in the Feb. 6 message.

After the grievance was filed on Feb. 15, Unsafe U sent a clarifying message to the candidates, saying they would not be issuing an endorsement, and they also edited the original survey to remove any mention of an endorsement. According to an article published by Unsafe U, the VKW and Karabegovic tickets asked the organization not to use the survey responses in the evaluation but only publicly available information. 

Both the VKW and Karabegovic tickets filled out the survey, but the O’Leary ticket did not because they felt it violated the endorsements rules laid out for candidates, Linnabary said in the hearing. 

In a joint written defense, the VKW and Karabegovic tickets said they accepted the invitation to fill out the survey but “without any commitment to an endorsement.”

“We had never assumed or expected any endorsement,” Karabegovic said in an interview with the Chronicle. “Our participation in this survey was just an opportunity for us to share our stance on campus safety with students at the U.”

In the hearing, the defense noted that while the elections packet discourages collaboration with non-registered student organizations, it is not explicitly prohibited. Muskan Walia, presidential candidate of the VKW ticket, added during the hearing that the report card given out by Unsafe U is “within the bounds of collaboration.”

In the written statement of defense, the tickets stated their involvement in the survey was only for educational purposes, adding if the court found them guilty, the decision could “harmfully impact students’ voices and access to transparent information.”

The defense was also found at fault for violating the Do Not Assume clause of the elections packet, which states that if a candidate is unsure about election rules, they shouldn’t assume they know the answer. 

Unsafe U’s History of Candidate ‘Report Cards’ and Endorsement

Alexis Perno, director of outreach and communication for the VKW ticket, said an endorsement from Unsafe U was “out of the question, I think for us because we knew that Unsafe U has never provided endorsements.” They added that in the past, Unsafe U has provided analysis for each of the tickets, but “it’s never been considered an endorsement, and I don’t think VKW ever considered it an endorsement.”

The Unsafe U Instagram has several posts endorsing candidates in previous years’ elections, such as the Wojciechowski ticket in 2021. The VanderToolen ticket, which Jack O’Leary acted as campaign manager for, also partially filled out the survey during their run last year. Unsafe U did not endorse them and gave them a report card score of 57%.

In the hearing, elections director Jacob Jones said it wasn’t until this year that the policy prohibited endorsements from off-campus entities, which is why it hasn’t been an issue in years past. He also clarified that Unsafe U is considered an off-campus entity, something the defense disputed in their arguments. 

Perno said, “Every candidate previous to ours has filled out this survey, and they provide a valuable service to students that I think is a niche that is not being filled right now with current student organizations and current departmental organizations.” 

Karabegovic added that they decided to fill out the survey after seeing how valuable students found it to their voting decisions in past years.

Response from the Student Community

After the sanctions were imposed, both tickets received support from students on social media who felt the ruling was unfair.

Tiffany Chan, fourth-year political science and economics student, posted on her Instagram story supporting the two tickets, saying she did so because she thought “the justifications for the supreme court’s decision were misguided.”

Chan was the vice president of university relations last academic year in the Wojciechowski administration and said “a historical precedent” has been set with tickets filling out Unsafe U’s survey, and that’s why she believes the defense filled it out as well.

“I only spoke out for these two tickets because I think that they did nothing wrong, and they didn’t have bad intentions when communicating with Unsafe U,” she said.

One Instagram account, @support_vkw, gained over 140 followers during the day of the sanctions and made several posts in defense of both the VKW and Karabegovic tickets. Perno said this page is not affiliated with the VKW ticket in any official capacity, which the Chronicle has confirmed.

The creator of the account spoke with the Chronicle on the condition of anonymity due to fear of retaliation. “It seems to me that this grievance is a way to silence the tickets with students of color,” they said.

They added that VKW “has recently become a big voice” for first-generation students, and they felt the grievance was an excuse by ASUU and the O’Leary ticket “to force them to be silent.”

The account admin said the fact the account amassed so many followers in a short period of time is proof other students take issue with the silencing of students of color.

Though the account isn’t affiliated with VKW, the ticket has noticed the online support.

“The support that the VKW received when we were sanctioned and when we were in our quiet period has been overwhelming and we’re just so grateful for it,” Perno said. “Because it really speaks to the mission of VKW, which has always been about creating space for people who have never had a seat at the table.”

Following their mandated quiet period, the VKW ticket released a statement on their campaign Instagram account, thanking students for the support they received following the hearing. Perno said the experience “has reaffirmed our commitment to take action to ensure students are not silenced in ASUU and beyond.” 

The Karabegovic ticket also released a statement, saying, “We’ve had 24 hours to think, thank you for sticking with us. This campaign has proven to us that new perspectives are needed within ASUU.”

Linnabary said he felt “no animosity” towards the other tickets and that both of them “would make a great presidency, each of them in their own unique way.” However, he added, “as someone who’s never actually been formally involved with ASUU, I really would like to see our leaders follow the rules set out for them. So for me, that was just what motivated this.”


[email protected]