Electing 'the Worst' at Penn State
It wouldn’t be a student government election without some allegations of hypocrisy or conspiracy. But the events surrounding the recent race at Pennsylvania State University are bizarre, even by student election standards.
Jay Bundy won a plurality of votes in last week's campus election and was poised to take over leadership of the University Park Undergraduate Association, recognized by university administrators as being the official voice of students. Soon after the election, Bundy and his running mate, Christopher Brink, both juniors, were told by the elections commission that they had won the vote count.
Later in the week, Bundy was quoted in Penn State's student newspaper, The Daily Collegian, as saying that “if the students are stupid enough to vote for someone as inappropriate and retarded as I am, then they deserve a president who is going to give the worst performance to the best of his ability.” He later added in the interview that “you voted for me, bitches. That was a bad idea.”
Brink, the vice presidential candidate, said he and Bundy received another call from the elections commission that weekend saying that the team had been disqualified for alleged rules violations, including exceeding campaign spending limits and illegal canvassing.
Sara Snyder, a member of the commission, said the Bundy/Brink team had been informed on election night that her group needed to verify financial information before making an official announcement. The final decision, she said, "had nothing to do with anything that the candidate had said or written" in the newspaper.
Brink said he had turned in the pertinent information and was under the impression that the leadership team would begin the next week. "I find it very interesting that we were 100 percent certified and as soon as the comments aired, I got phone calls from the commission apologizing that they needed to re-review the case."
The commission has named the runner-up in the election as president.
Meanwhile, Bundy was arrested Monday, charged with theft and multiple counts of disorderly conduct. Brink said after Bundy met with administrators that morning, he drove to a gas station, walked out with candy and an energy drink and was confronted by a convenience store clerk. Bundy fought with the clerk, and later with a courtroom judge, before pleading not guilty to all counts and being released on bail, Brink said.
"He crumpled under the stress," Brink added. "He's going through some tough times."
Bundy could not be reached for comment Wednesday, and Brink said he didn't know Bundy's whereabouts.
According to Brink, his campaign partner told him that he meant every word of what he said in the student newspaper and had planned the outbreak since the election began.
"That's an elaborate deception," Brink said. "He's a real intense person, and that comes out from time to time. I don't think he was his normal self [when he made the comments]. It's not right for anyone to say that. I don't condone his actions. He definitely took advantage of me."
Bundy, who is president of the Penn State chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is known as an advocate for fewer regulations on students' lives.
Brink said he and Bundy had run with serious intentions, though they often poked fun at what he called a culture of "résumé padding" in student government. "If our opponents wore suits and ties, we wore board shorts and flat baseball caps," Brink said.
Bundy would have been the first elected president of UPUA, which recently gained the status as being the official student voice -- taking over for the Undergraduate Student Government, which had held that role for decades.
Graham B. Spanier, Penn State's president, announced the change in April, saying that a student referendum on student government leadership showed that Penn State undergraduates wanted a change.
Nick Stathes, president of the USG, said that few students participated in the referendum, and that discussions of a takeover by UPUA had been behind closed doors. Stathes and other students have complained that administrators don't allow student government to make important campus decisions.
A Penn State spokeswoman said the university administration sees this issue as a student matter and does not plan to get involved.
Stathes said while he is upset with Bundy's comments in the newspaper, "it was wrong for [the commission] to disqualify him, because it's clear it was because of what he said, not what the campaign did wrong."
Tom Shakely, a Penn State sophomore who is director of PSU Stop, a group that formed in February to advocate student rights, said he is upset with how the election process unfolded.
"It feels like UPUA represents a runaround democracy," he said. "People were already skeptical of the organization before."
Brink said his campaign ticket was trying to spark interest in student government. “I think most students could care less, personally," he said. "I think they won’t start to care until someone proves they are doing something."
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