Romantic relationship between SGA president and election commissioner a clear conflict of interest

Diego Arriaga and Cicebella Astraquillo

Jose Gonzalez-Campelo/The Cougar

On Monday, the 61st administration of the Student Government Association officially started its tenure in office. While incoming student body President Diego Arriaga has made bold promises to improve students’ well-being, the connection between his job and his personal relationships should raise some eyebrows. In particular, Arriaga’s romantic relationship with former Election Commissioner Cessabella Astraquillo should be considered a conflict of interest and be addressed more seriously.

The two lovebirds officially announced that they were dating in an Instagram post on one of Astraquillo’s private Instagram accounts. The post, which was uploaded just a few days ago, features a picture of Arriaga and Astraquillo along with the caption “The corruption allegations go crazy but your girl is winning in life.”

While it’s true that everyone should feel free to pursue whoever they want romantically, it’s also true that the presidency is a position that holds a lot of power, as is the position of election commissioner.

During her time in office, Astraquillo worked to raise awareness about and preserve the sanctity of student government elections. Notably, she was still actively serving in this position when Arriaga’s party, For All Cougars, won their election and took office.

The Election Commissioner is meant to be a firmly non-partisan position with no clear bias towards any of the parties involved in the election. This is so that students can feel certain their votes aren’t being manipulated towards or against one party in any way.

So far, there’s been no evidence that Astraquillo used her position to help For All Cougars take office, but she did face potential impeachment over allegations of targeting For All Cougars’ opponents, Students Unite, as well as neglecting her duties as election commissioner.

The senate eventually voted not to impeach her, but announcing a relationship with the incoming student body president after overseeing an election he won doesn’t exactly scream “non-partisan.”

When asked for comment, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs Keith T. Kowalka said he didn’t see the relationship as a problem since they started dating after the election had concluded.

“If they were dating during the actual process, it would’ve been a conflict of interest. Since they weren’t, there’s no issue at all. She’s completed her term,” said Kowalka.

However, anonymous sources told the Cougar that the two of them had been close for some time, including being spotted holding hands shortly after a recent SGA banquet.

Even if they did start dating after the election, relationships don’t just come out of nowhere, and it’s likely that they’ve been close for some time.

While nitpicking personal relationships might seem overly critical, these positions matter a lot and should be taken seriously.

Arriaga is going to spend the next year doing his best to make decisions as a representative of the student body. If there’s even the slightest possibility that he got into office with the assistance of personal connections, how can students and student senators trust him to be honest in other areas?

At the end of the day, there might not be anything sketchy going on. The two of them could just be in a healthy relationship that started because they met through mutual interests. But openly flaunting a relationship that’s likely to raise questions about corruption is appalling at worst and sloppy at best.

Multiple previous administrations have fallen into disarray over questionable personal connections, and it would be a shame to see the 61st burn out the same way before it’s even truly gotten started.

Malachi Key is a journalism senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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