Board members accused of bias

Julie Knapp

The Washburn Student Government Association election board has had one person step down and has listened to complaints since the board reprimanded the Vince Bowhay and Lacey Keller president and vice president campaign.

The board, which oversees campaigns and enforces the rules, consists of five Washburn students – Josh Shald, Paige Pfannenstiel, Ryan Bishop, Shelby Shinkle and Jenna Hollis. On Monday, Patrick Muenks, sophomore WSGA senator, brought up concerns there could be a bias on the board, because of the relationship between Shald and Pfannenstiel, with the other presidential candidate, Nick Woolery.

Shald and Woolery are roommates and Pfannenstiel and Woolery are dating.

“It’s a perception issue – nothing personal,” said Muenks, of the possible bias the election board could have.

After concerns were brought up Monday, Pfannenstiel immediately stepped down from the board. However, Shald refused, because it’s a part of the constitution that the president of WSGA serve on the board. The constitution also requires the chief of staff of WSGA, Shinkle, to serve on the board.

Pfannenstiel said she offered multiple times to step down, and was told by the election board it wasn’t an issue.

Shald said the board has been more than fair and impartial in past decisions. All election board decisions this year have been unanimous.

“I take my job seriously,” said Shald. “It’s disappointing and discouraging to have someone think I was biased.”

Shald said he does not assist, advise or otherwise discuss any campaign outside his role on the board.

The election committee was approved by the full senate last semester before candidates announced their intentions to run. However, no allegations of bias were brought until last week when candidates Bowhay and Keller were reprimanded for an unapproved photo placed on their Facebook group, that brought what some are calling racial comments.

The senate approved Joseph Heschmeyer, senior history major, Wednesday night to replace Pfannenstiel and serve on the board for the next two weeks. There were no discussions or questions brought up concerning a bias or a relationship he may have with candidates.

Muenks said he planned future action to stop problems like this.

“I think what I’m going to propose is that the president and chief of staff don’t have to serve – they can appoint someone,” said Muenks.

Shald said he might support that change in the constitution, however, he said the point to it being in the constitution was so the president remains unbiased because they are influential.

“I think it’s important [for the president to serve] because there is no one that knows better about elections than the president,” said Shald.