Potential SGA presidential candidate disqualified days before campaigning starts

Kaily LaChapelle (center) seated next to Santana Way (left) at a fall 2023 press conference | Elise Gregg, PantherNOW

Elise Catrion Gregg | Editor-in-Chief

Just days before student government campaigning begins, senate president Kaily Lachapelle has been disqualified from running for student body president.

As senate president, LaChapelle led the legislative branch of SGA while also serving in leadership roles in the Pride Student Union and Disabled Student Union. 

“After three years of advocacy on this campus, my time is coming to an end,” LaChapelle told PantherNOW in a written statement. “It was no light task to go against the system and fight for needed change, especially in the state of Florida as a transgender individual.” 

Minutes from the elections board meeting reveal that LaChapelle was disqualified based on a fundraising email sent out before candidates were allowed to start campaigning – in fact, sent out before Lachapelle’s candidacy was approved by the board. 

SGA vice president Santana Way brought the complaint to the board, which met with Way and LaChapelle on Feb. 5, roughly half an hour after the senate killed off “Ceasefire Now!”, a contentious resolution that had been a recurrent issue since fall 2023. 

“I noticed rules not being followed and I brought it to the elections commission,” Way told PantherNOW in an interview. “I believe elections should be fair for everyone.”

According to Way, he was approached on Jan. 12 at the Martin Luther King Commemorative breakfast by a member of the FIU Foundation who had received the email asking for “monetary support”.

The FIU Foundation is a non-profit corporation that works to get donations for the university. Way sits on their board of directors as vice president of SGA.

According to the minutes, LaChapelle claimed they accidentally sent the email, intending to draft it to send later. The director of PSU then contacted LaChapelle to let them know they’d sent it early. 

LaChapelle didn’t get any response from other recipients, and as such, no cash for campaigning. They argued that it should be a tier three violation – in other words, a mistake that would result in a slap on the wrist, like suspension from campaigning for a brief period.

Way disagreed, arguing it was tier one – grounds for disqualification. 

“Once you run, you read the election code,” Santana said to PantherNOW.

According to SGA statutes, fundraising is allowed beginning the day after registration documents are due — in this case, Feb. 2.

“Should a candidate be found to have fundraised prior to the start of the fundraising period they shall
be immediately disqualified,” reads Statute 6007.8.

Way said he told the board that he held onto the email until he had reviewed the elections code, then emailed them. LaChapelle told the board he was unaware that Way had filed a complaint. 

The documents imply that the board didn’t come to a solid conclusion as to whether or not the email was an accident, though the minutes state that board member Jazmine Laughlin indicated she “believes that actions did not represent that this was a mistake.” 

Instead, members focused on the fact that LaChapelle failed to notify the board of the violation when it occurred. 

In the minutes, LaChapelle said they considered contacting the board, but after talking to their team, decided not to. 

“LaChapelle and his team did not think he should out himself,” the meeting minutes read, adding that LaChapelle stated their intent to contact the board if potential donors had responded. 

The meeting adjourned at 7:46 p.m. that evening, with all four members unanimously voting to disqualify LaChapelle. 

“Every step of the way people came for me and tried to push me down,” LaChapelle’s statement to PantherNOW reads. “I won’t ever stop fighting and advocating for change no matter where I am.” 

“To the younger FIU generation and students, keep fighting the system and carving out a path for diverse students to take back our power in this system we are living in.” 

Campaigning begins tomorrow, Feb. 9, and candidates will be announced then.

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