Newly elected senator says she faced harassment during campaign
Yasaman Hakami hopes to change bylaws so harassment is punished during election
Newly elected Senator-at-Large Yasaman Hakami was harassed by another student, called a “fascist,” and had her campaign posters ripped down following a town hall for Undergraduate Senate candidates on Oct. 29, Hakami said. The story was first reported by The Blackprint.
When discussing racism and bigotry, a student at the town hall claimed that all of the candidates were “the same” and lacked a diversity of opinion.
There is no variation in opinion and either one “is on the side of racism or against,” Hakami said she replied to the student.
The student then created and put up a paper in front of the window of the room that said “Yasaman is a fascist,” Hakami said.
After the town hall, Hakami found her campaign posters torn down and crumpled up on the ground when she came back to her dorm room in Anderson Hall. There was also a comment on the Facebook live stream of the town hall claiming Hakami was insincere. The comment was later deleted.
In an op-ed for The Eagle, Hakami wrote that when she saw the posters crumbled on the ground, she “lost it.”
“I went into my room, called my mom and cried until I felt ready enough to address the issue online,” Hakami wrote.
She later wrote a Facebook post describing the pain the incident caused her. In her Eagle op-ed, Hakami argued that bullying should have no place in the senate race or Student Government.
Hakami also does not believe that harassment issues are being handled correctly by either SG or the University. She said she found out there is no specific bylaw reprimanding harassment during campaigns, and there was nothing specifically that SG could have done.
Hakami and her campaign manager Jacob Robbins and Jared Bedell, who serves as president of Anderson and Centennial Hall in the Residence Hall Association, emailed SG Elections Commissioner Jacob DeGoes about the incident. The Eagle viewed screenshots of the emails.
DeGoes told them that since there were no rules against negative campaigning in the Elections Policy Book, nothing could be done about the harassment Hakami faced during the town hall. If they found out who had torn down her posters, DeGoes said, then Hakami could file a case with the Judicial Board.
However, DeGoes told The Eagle, Article I, Section III of the elections policy book prohibits campaigning in an “intimidating, coercive or threatening fashion which is intentional or persistent.”
DeGoes also said that violations can be brought up to the Judicial Board, which can begin a case. At the same time, he believes that the laws can be changed to ensure cases of harassment are handled more seriously and there are more serious penalties.
“I do feel that such wording could be much stronger, and more specific to instances of harassment like we have unfortunately seen in this election season,” DeGoes said. “These are changes that can be implemented through legislation to change and update the Elections Policy Book and the bylaws of AUSG.”
Hakami did not report the incident to the University at the time because she did not know how. She did report it to her resident assistant.
However, the night of the incident, Hakami received a phone call from Student Government President Taylor Dumpson.
“Taylor called me and told me about her own experiences with harassment and different ways to be strong,” Hakami said. “[She said that] individuals will harass you because they are intimidated by you, which I found very comforting and I felt better because I didn’t feel alone.”
Now that she has been elected as a senator, Hakami hopes to change the bylaws to ensure that harassment is covered and no candidates in the future have to go through what she did without repercussions.
“We are working closely with Joint Commissions on Elections Policy, the elections committee, [the Center for Advocacy and Student Equity] and fellow senators who are passionate about making sure that we enhance the state of our current elections handbook and bylaws to end harassment during the election, close campaign financing loopholes and provide write-in candidates a better opportunity to make a run and succeed doing so,” Hakami said.