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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Student body president candidate’s disqualification upheld by Texas A&M Judicial Court

David+Cabrera
Photo by Photo by Meredith Seaver
David Cabrera

UPDATE: On Feb. 19, The Texas A&M Judicial Court argued and decided the case of Cabrera’s disqualification and upheld Schaffer’s decision to disqualify Cabrera from the student body president race.
The majority opinion states: “With regards to the eligibility of Mr. Salas for Fall 2019, the court was not able to make a decision for or against the candidate. While we uphold the Election Commisioner’s disqualification based on the Spring 2019 eligibility check, we lacked the necessary mechanisms to review the issues brought forth by the extenuating circumstances presented by Mr. Salas. Since this court is not a legislative body, we do not have powers vested in the S.G.A.C that allow us to address the aforementioned issues.”
Following an appeal filed on Thursday, Feb.13, David Cabrera, a political science junior, has entered the race for student body president.
Cabrera filed to run for the leadership position before the mandatory filing date on Friday, Feb. 7, and was informed on Feb. 11 he had been disqualified from the election.
“On Tuesday night … around 10, I got an email that I got disqualified from the race because I did not have a 2.8 GPA last semester,” Cabrera said.
In the fall of 2019, Cabrera started the semester as a full-time student but said he was forced to withdraw from Texas A&M due to what the university considers too many unexcused absences. These unexcused absences were a reflection of immigration issues Cabrera was facing. Following difficulties with his visa, he was required to go back to his hometown in Ecuador during the semester.
“The U.S. Embassy told me I was still in processing and they did not even know what it was all about. … Even today I don’t know what took so long,” Cabrera said.
Although Cabrera was able to complete online assignments, the university did not allow him to take his in-person exams in any other format, leading to what he said was his inevitable failure in the classes. Cabrera withdrew from the university soon after.
“I was taking one online class, but I was also taking [in-person] lectures,” Cabrera said. “The problem is that the university does not excuse absences with visas.”
According to Student Rule 7, excused absences only apply to the following reasons:
“Personal injury or illness that is too severe or contagious for the student to attend class, death or major illness in a student’s immediate family, illness of a dependent family member, participation in legal or governmental proceedings that require a student’s presence and that cannot be rescheduled, graduate or professional school interviews which are mandatory, interviews for permanent, full-time employment or full-time internship, presentation of research or scholarship at a professional conference related to the student’s academic program, participation in an activity appearing on the university authorized activity list, mandatory participation as a student-athlete in NCAA-sanctioned competition, or an excuse sanctioned by the dean of the student’s college.”
Once Cabrera returned to the United States in December, the university administration made an exception and allowed him to return in the following semester. However, withdrawing from A&M left Cabrera with no GPA for the fall semester, disqualifying him from the initial eligibility check taken after candidate filing closed.
In opposition to his disqualification, Cabrera filed an appeal stating he had special circumstances and would like to challenge the decision of the election commissioner. According to Shefali Chopra, chief justice of the Student Government Association Judicial Court and accounting junior, the appeal was filed on Thursday and the acceptance of the appeal took place that same night. She said the earliest a hearing can take place after filing is 72 hours, but due to scheduling conflicts, it could not be scheduled until Wednesday, Feb 19.
In order to have his name on the ballot, Cabrera was required to attend the mandatory candidate meeting on Sunday. However, because the hearing was scheduled for the following week, Cabrera filed an injunction. This injunction was passed with a majority vote from the justices, and halted what was disqualifying him until the appeal hearing and allowed him to attend the meeting.
“As of right now, the court is taking a very neutral standpoint because we have not had an appeal hearing yet,” Chopra said. “We are not siding with one side or the other, we are taking the necessary actions we feel.”
The Judicial Court will hear both Cabrera’s and the election commissioner’s side and make a decision on Wednesday evening. This hearing will be held in private due to sensitive information in the case, and the chief justice is unsure when the verdict will be public knowledge.
“David Cabrera is on the ballot,” Election Commissioner Jacob Schaffer said. “He was not on the ballot [after the eligibility check], but due to a recent injunction, he is added to the list for the time being.”

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