By Saba Mann, Hannah Joseph, Meghan Brink, Nate Depaul, Cameron Cupp | March 30, 2021
Photo Credit: Richel Boroh / ASP Photo provided by Bryan Ramsaran
The Student Association Elections Commission on Tuesday launched a formal investigation into matters surrounding several instances of alleged unethical campaign conduct by President-elect Bryan Ramsaran’s UniteUA party line.
Abdoullah Goudiaby, the current Student Association Director of Intercultural Affairs and the runner-up of the presidential election, has publicly alleged via Instagram that Bryan Ramsaran, Peter Moschovitis, and their campaign affiliates were engaged in bribery of student organizations for the purpose of soliciting their support, blackmail of students looking for Student Association positions, early and unauthorized campaigning, and colluding with underground and unrecognized Greek organizations in order to mobilize their support.
Goudiaby and his allies brought these allegations to the forefront of the campus’s attention, leading to the Commission taking up their case.
‘#NotMyUA’ held a protest Monday, announced by Goudiaby via Instagram, to speak out against the alleged conduct of the Ramsaran-Moschovitis campaign.
Nicholas Chin, a newly elected Senator who ran under the For The People ticket, stated at the protest, “It’s not the fact that we came up 40 votes short, it’s about how this election went down.” Chin, who formerly served as SA Senate Chairman, and is widely expected to seek another term as Chairman, continued, “it’s about the bribery that went down. It’s about the threatening phone calls that were made. It’s about the scare tactics that were made.”
Photo Credit: Richel Boroh / ASP
One of the allegations made by “#NotMyUA” to the Ramsaran-Moschovitis campaign was that the pair conducted, “documented bribery of student organizations for their votes.”
In Goudiaby’s Instagram livestream, he read a message, independently confirmed by the ASP as authentic, sent by Ramsaran to the UAlbany Cryptocurrency Club’s GroupMe which states as follows:
(Use of profanity within the message by Ramsaran, as well as the names of affiliates of the Cryptocurrency Club, have been censored by the ASP).
“The past two years we’ve nothing but f------ trash fiscal responsibility!!!! We had an impeached president and didn’t even get out money back and nothing changed this year!!! Senate tried to hold people accountable and we were called racist and inconsiderate as well as many other degrading terms!!! No f------ more team here’s what I got for y’all, FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY AND SHOULD I WIN 40 F------- THOUSAND TO CRYPTO MINING RIGS TO FINALLY MAKE SOME BREAD”
In the same thread on GroupMe, Ramsaran said, “I’m just running a friendly campaign to get us a crypto rig.” A member of the Cryptocurrency Club replied, and stated, “Bryan told me personally he was looking to see if SA could invest in crypto.”
The For The People campaign cites this message to the Cryptocurrency Club as evidence of their claim that Ramsaran bribed student groups for their support.
When asked about the message in an interview with the Albany Student Press, President-elect Ramsaran stated, “I don’t know if I can comment on this right now. It's an allegation.”
During campaigning, the For The People ticket filed a complaint to the SA Elections Commission alleging that the UniteUA ticket was actively soliciting the support of illegal, underground Greek organizations.
The complaint lodged to the Elections Commision was made on the grounds of a GroupMe message, who For The People alleged was from an unknown affiliate of Ramsaran. This claim was later rejected by the Elections Commission for having insufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action.
In an interview with the ASP, Ramsaran stated, “for whatever reason we have seen [Greek] orgs rightfully removed from campus. I want to continue to build Greek life, and I am against anyone whose intent is to join underground Greek life, I stand with the university in the decision to remove organizations should they be found guilty of any allegations.”
Goudiaby in his livestream also alleged that smear tactics were incited by his opponents, specifically regarding a controversial Tweet he posted in August of last year, which was resurfaced near the election cycle.
The tweet read: “There’s a pattern at UA regarding COVID that I can’t qwhite put my finger on.”
“I do believe this was taken out of context for a number of reasons, the first being that this tweet never specified any race perpetuating COVID-19 over another,” said Goudiaby referencing his controversial statement in an interview with the ASP. “This tweet was put up at the start of classes as I ...observed the decision to open the campus up and how it disproportionately endangered BIPOC students as well as those from low socio-economic backgrounds”
The former presidential candidate went on to say to the ASP, “I don’t think this use (of the tweet) as a negative campaign tactic was fair for two reasons. The first is that in any SA election, a student should be able to run free of defamation and character attacks based on misrepresentations like “racist” and “anti-white”, context and transparency is important. The second reason is that actual instances of racism, discrimination, and oppression are very real and present on our campus and in the lives of our students.”
Ramsaran responded to Goudiaby's claim in an interview with the ASP: “I had nothing to do with it,” Ramsaran said in regards to the spreading of Goudiaby’s tweet. “I don't have too much to comment on regarding the past.”
On the allegations by ‘#NotMyUA’ regarding violation by the UniteUA ticket of an SA bylaw regarding campaigning periods, Goudiaby stated that, “proof was provided of a student group president expressing to fellow eboard members that they were contacted, told of the opposing candidates' platform, and expressed that the organization should support him (time stamped prior to the designated campaign period).”
However, he stated to the ASP that, “the evidence was deemed insufficient because it wasn't a primary source, in this case that would have to be a recording of the conversation as it happened in real time.”
President-elect Ramsaran strongly denied this allegation in accordance with the Elections Commission that ruled in his favor.
Vice-President-elect Moschovitis said in an interview, “no one began campaigning before it was authorized, we did however reach out to as many students as possible immediately once campaigning began.”
President-elect Ramsaran questioned why these allegations were only being made in light of an election loss for his opponent, saying there was a “time and place, as well as a process” for these claims to be judicated.
The final allegation made by ‘#NotMyUA’ accuses surrogates of the Ramsaran campaign of blackmailing SA officials. Specifically, they allege that the campaign aggressively attempted to coerce these persons into supporting UniteUA, and threatened to withhold potential appointments and promotions from them if they supported For The People.
“I want to say that this has been the most vile and dangerous allegation. A group of students reported this incident to the EC and then brought it to my attention,” Goudiaby said. He additionally stated that this evidence has been submitted to the Elections Commission to supplement the investigation which began Tuesday.
In response to the allegation of blackmail, Ramsaran stated, “in terms of blackmailing, again, I don't really want to comment on allegations, you know because there was a time and place to make these allegations.”
Additionally, Moschovitis stated to the ASP, "to my knowledge, no one on my ticket has blackmailed anyone and I have yet to see any evidence proving otherwise."
As to what the ‘#NotMyUA’ movement hopes to achieve, Goudiaby said that he and his followers are looking for clarity and accountability.
“In terms of the investigation, the primary outcome I would like to see is accountability. The students, candidates and campus community deserve to see whether or not candidates played by the rules equally,” Goudiaby said. “I don’t have a personal goal with this, I am only amplifying the concerns the students have as I’ve always done during my time at UAlbany.”
While the Director said he did not claim a desire for the disqualification of his opponent, Ramsaran is said he is convinced that he was duly elected and that the election has come to a close.
“At the end of the day the (election) process is completed,” said Ramsaran. “I am the President-elect.”
A decision from the Elections Commission will follow the conclusion of its investigation.
Sources within the Student Association have told the Albany Student Press that both sides are planning to appeal the decision to the SA Supreme Court should the ruling not be in their favor.