As an alumna who graduated before social media and cell phones, I do see that the world is markedly different than when my friends and I roamed the halls of Haley Center looking for a pencil sharpener. Yes, a great deal has changed.
The Auburn campus has grown substantially since the early 1980s, but there is one key virtue that was hammered into our sleepy student brains. It remains one of the reasons why I am proud to be an Auburn Tiger: Election conduct and integrity matter.
The Auburn experience, much like today, involved sporting events, late-night study groups, and even some protests, and each year, there were elections for SGA and Miss Auburn. The elections were fun but they were also serious business. Negative campaigning was frowned upon.
The rules were clear then – and they are clear now: harassment, libel and slander of opposing candidates is not only against Auburn SGA Election Code but that kind of violation is also against the core values which Auburn University purports to hold dear. Kate Preston was elected as Miss Auburn and passed by the SGA as the winner of Miss Auburn University; a role that places her out in the community and in the world as a representative of our dear school. That's a problem if we continue to say that Auburn values civil discourse and election integrity.
"Preston was penalized 25 votes for violating code 1008.5.8 and 1011.2 of SGA’s Election Code during her campaign which deals with libel and slander against other candidates as well as harassment against other candidates who are individuals with protected status."
– The Auburn Plainsman, K. Carr, February 3, 2023
Why were SGA code as well as AU Student Handbook violations not taken seriously? (1008.5.8 and 1011.2 of SGA’s Election Code) A 25-vote penalty is a paltry punishment. There is documented evidence that shows Kate Preston violated two very serious SGA election codes which involve slander, harassment and libel against other candidates.
The role of Miss Auburn historically has been a high honor but with these lowered standards and disregard for the law, students are being taught that it's acceptable to win at any cost.
This is simply unacceptable. In an era when election integrity is such a pressing concern on a national level, how can it be that Auburn University is willing to look the other way and allow such egregious violations to slip by with a puny 25-vote penalty? Rather than a penalty for her actions, she received an award.
Miss Auburn Kate Preston should do the right thing and relinquish her title. The reputation of the student body, SGA governing body and the integrity of Auburn University will be damaged if her win is allowed to stand. She received a flimsy penalty for very serious offenses.
Wendelyn Price is a 1987 graduate of Auburn University.
The opinions expressed in columns and letters represent the views and opinions of their individual authors.
These opinions do not necessarily reflect the Auburn University student body, faculty, administration or Board of Trustees.
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