Students File Challenge to Anti-Israel Party’s CSG Election Victory

Student plaintiffs have filed a lawsuit in the Central Student Judiciary seeking to disqualify the anti-Israel SHUT IT DOWN party, which last week was projected to have won the Central Student Government (CSG) presidency and 22 of 45 CSG Assembly seats.

SHUT IT DOWN ran on a platform of stopping all CSG spending, including funding for student organizations, until the university divests from companies with ties to the Israeli armed forces. According to the SHUT IT DOWN platform:

Every dollar coming out of this university is blood money. Student government cannot operate as usual as we witness the systematic murder of Palestinians. Student life cannot continue as normal when our tuition and labor are being used to fund a genocide.

Since Fall 2023, CSG has allocated $1.14 million, collected through a fee of $11.19 from each student each semester.

In Fall 2023, 58.93 percent of the CSG budget went to the Student Organization Committee to support student clubs. Other CSG-funded projects include a free-textbook program, a low-cost shuttle to and from Detroit Metropolitan Airport, free graduation attire, and student subscriptions to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

The lawsuit alleges that SHUT IT DOWN deserves an unheard-of 44 demerits for violating the CSG Elections Code. Any candidate who receives five demerits is disqualified, and the plaintiffs contend that the party as a whole is liable for demerits incurred by individual candidates.

The lawsuit was brought by Momentum, United for Michigan, and New Ideas — three political parties that contested seats in the Winter 2024 CSG election — and a MomentUM candidate, and Laurie Tabachnick, a Rackham Graduate School student voter. The Central Student Judiciary, CSG’s judiciary, will hear the case.

The suit claims SHUT IT DOWN and its candidates committed Elections Code violations in seven categories. It asks that SHUT IT DOWN receive four demerits due to an email endorsement of SHUT IT DOWN candidates that a graduate student sent to two student LISTSERVs, archdocsonly@umich.edu and phdurp.students@umich.edu. The CSG Compiled Code forbids campaigning through email groups unless they are the sender’s own groups created for campaign purposes.

The lawsuit further states that SHUT IT DOWN touted on its Instagram account an endorsement from Warp at Michigan when CSG recorded no such endorsement. It also says SHUT IT DOWN claimed to be endorsed by Omega Beta Eta, the university’s first Arab fraternity, which had actually endorsed only SHUT IT DOWN executive candidates Alifa Chowdhury and Eli Atkinson, and that the party promoted an endorsement from the Egyptian Students Association before the endorsement had been registered. The suit asks for six demerits “for publicizing false endorsements.”

For various instances of moving and obscuring opponents’ campaign posters and flyers, the lawsuit asks that SHUT IT DOWN get 24 demerits.

The other alleged violations of the Elections Code are not reporting SHUT IT DOWN’s joint expenses with the Divest! Don’t Arrest campaign (four demerits), campaigning within 100 feet of polling sites (four), and not stating who paid for campaign advertisements (two).

Whether SHUT IT DOWN is disqualified will be decided before Tuesday, April 9, when the election results are certified. If any winning candidates are disqualified, runners-up will be declared winners. After a Fall 2023 referendum, CSG adopted single transferable vote to calculate the winning Assembly candidates from the four largest schools and colleges; the original vote calculation will be used to determine new winners as necessary.

Editors’ Note: An earlier version of this article named the MomentUM candidate who brought the lawsuit against SHUT IT DOWN. The candidate’s name has been removed owing to privacy concerns.

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About Alex Stamell

Alex Stamell is editor in chief of the Michigan Review. He is a senior studying Romance languages and literatures.