Students file complaint against USG senatorial hopeful

Senatorial candidate Quinn Cunniff used campaign materials that referenced the famous murder trial involving O.J. Simpson. (Tucker Judkins/Daily Trojan)

The Undergraduate Student Government Elections Commission voted unanimously that senatorial candidate Quinn Cunniff did not violate the Elections Code in a hearing Wednesday, according to the infraction decision.

Angelina Stroud, a freshman majoring in non-governmental organizations and social change, filed a complaint against Cunniff Tuesday. According to the decision, Stroud claimed Cunniff’s campaign materials, which included direct references to the criminal trial involving USC alumnus O.J. Simpson, were inappropriate and offensive. Cunniff’s signs showed a picture of him trying on a black glove with the phrase, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must commit … to voting Cunniff for Senate.”

“I first saw the poster when I was walking to class and at first I just walked by it, but then I totally did a double take,” Stroud said. “I took a photo of it and thought it was an inappropriate joke to make as a white male [portraying] a black man who is standing a murder trial.”

Stroud’s complaint alleged that Cunnif violated Article VIII in the USG Elections Code. The campaign policy states, “All campaign material shall contain no ‘fighting words,’ meaning language which (a) the speech, considered objectively, is abusive and/or insulting rather than a communication of ideas, and (b) is actually used in an abusive manner in a situation that presents an actual danger that it will cause a breach of peace.”

Stroud said that in her Thematic Option class, students and her professor discussed the content of the poster and many expressed their concerns.

“I found [the poster] insulting, rather than a communication of ideas,” Stroud said. “I thought with that poster, it did not communicate any campaign ideas. It does not communicate what [Cunniff] would do with his senatorial position.”

In an email to the Daily Trojan, Cunniff said the complaint filed against him was an attempt to censor his campaign efforts.

“The complaint was simply a waste of time,” Cunniff wrote. “My poster was found unanimously by USG to be in compliance with the Campaign Code. I am happy to see people so emotionally involved in the election process, but I wish that this energy was geared toward more worthwhile causes, instead of simply trying to sensor [sic] my campaign.”

Lucille Warren, a freshman majoring in political economy, said she also filed a complaint because she thought the poster came off as offensive.

“I was incredibly bothered by the fact that for a school government election, that [the trial] would be made a  joke,” Warren said. “[The Simpson] case obviously holds significant weight for … [its] racial conflict … and what [Cunniff’s] picture represents is when O.J. was putting on the glove with the blood of two different [people] on it from being … beaten to death.”