An inquiry committee delving into the controversy regarding last year’s unofficial Undergraduate Student Council (USC) candidate party Blue Wish (Pureunbaram) has been undergoing construction. The committee, if created, will conduct an investigation into the de facto situation and evaluate the circumstance in an unbiased manner to eliminate much confusion surrounding the issue.
The controversy arose during late October 2017, when the election campaign for the 32nd Undergraduate Student Council General Election began. The KAIST USC Central Election Commission (CEC) announced that groups will be able to proclaim their intention to run for the seats until October 30. Current administration Batchim and then-candidates Blue Wish both applied to run for the seats and had been approved on October 29.
However, Blue Wish was ultimately unable to put its name on the ballot as the vice-candidate-hopeful Jinyoung Kim had been on a leave of absence. The CEC had initially approved the campaign based on Articles III and IV of the USC Constitution that gave “full membership status” to students who have paid their student dues for the year and are attending the school. A student on leave of absence is granted an “associate status” and electoral eligibility if they have paid their fee.
On October 30, however, the school administration raised objections to the validity of their candidate status, stating that Article VII, Section 6 of the Student Activity Guidelines prohibits students on leaves of absence from serving as student representatives. Deeming an internal decision to be a malfeasance, the CEC consulted with the Central Executive Committee. Through an interpretation of both documents and a precedent reform in 2015, the committee, though overruling the Student Activity Guidelines, unanimously favored Article 128 of the constitution requiring a full membership status for the presidency and resultantly denied Blue Wish’s electoral eligibility. It then extended the registration period until November 1 and officially set the eligibility requirements to students who have “paid the fee and are currently attending school”.
The election fell into chaos when Kim stated on his Facebook page that though Blue Wish could not run, “the election would not be choice-less” and that “Blue Wish will serve as an alternative.” The CEC judged such a declaration as an attempt to disrupt the election process via “unlawful electioneering in advance” and requested a disciplinary committee be formed. The request eventually resulted in the inception of a temporary Blue Wind Inquiry Committee. Simultaneously, some students viewed the restriction as a political decision in which the incumbent administration actively sought to prevent an outside party from running. In response, the CEC released a timeline of the situation up to November 19 detailing the correspondence between the two parties. It also issued an apology for the disorder it caused through the initial erroneous interpretation of the official documents. Also, through a lengthy post on KaDaejeon, 30th Vice President Hang Park pointed out numerous contentious concerns towards Blue Wish, requesting for it to “reveal its purpose”. Kim and former president-candidate-hopeful Juho Park commented on the post rebutting the points, stating that they merely “wished to improve student society” and that they of all people “hoped for a fair election”.
After the election ended with the induction of Batchim on November 25, the CEC released the “Report on Blue Wish” in December at the 2017 2nd Fall Student Representative Conference (SRC). The report further provided reasons as to why CEC believed Blue Wish’s actions to be illegal: the initial Facebook post and its statements, similarities of its campaign materials to a pledge, and the inclusion of specific plans only possible as a USC representative. Kim submitted a statement to CEC refuting some points in the report, and stating that the biased report was “an act of arrogation”. He also questioned the fairness of the election and saw SRC to be an unfit and undemocratic venue to discuss the matter. In all, the Central Executive Commission concluded SRCs, especially with the absence of the Blue Wish team, would be insufficient for clear evaluation. Using the document as a basis, the commission announced that an official inquiry committee will be created in February.
Consequently, a post requesting applications for the official committee by the temporary committee was uploaded to the USC Facebook page on March 12; it stated that it would create an inquiry committee to prevent recurrences and to approach the issue from a more mitigating viewpoint. The requirements for the investigative team restricted the following individuals from applying: Central Elections Committee members; Presidential members from the 31st and 32nd USC; current Batchim members; and Blue Wish members, whose membership is defined as having been in the Blue Wish KakaoTalk chat room on November 28, 2017 at 4:28 p.m. However, due to the lack of participation from the 2017 representatives, the committee was not formed. The subsequent 2018 1st Spring SRC, lasting until 3 a.m. on March 24, held a fierce discussion about the establishment of the committee and concluded with the following: a recruitment of participants from the 2017 2nd Fall SRC will occur from March 26 to April 1; if there are no applicants, then the formation of an inquiry committee will be regarded as impossible and no further action will be taken.
While the status of a possible inquiry committee has not been confirmed, the situation has bred much commotion, conflict, and turmoil in the student community. The incident has left many scars and questions regarding the operations behind the USC elections; how the future elections will reflect the experience remains to be seen.