Fraud, Flawed, or Failed: The IE Student Democracy Scandals Unveiled | Op-Ed


Op-Ed denotes an article that is opposite to editorial. Thus, this article does not reflect the official views of The Stork, nor the personal views of The Stork’s Editorial Team.

From Rampant Negligence to Synthetic Representation

Every year, congratulating the winning team in the Student Government Elections becomes more and more hollow, as the rules become less and less important and less and less people care. Twice the university and its sub-organs endorsed one team, and a measly three students watched the Election Debate online. Never mind the dozens of counts of electoral manipulation unaddressed over the years. Or an 80% reduction in the Student Government budgets. Or that 10% of Class Representative positions have been left vacant. If that doesn’t scream carelessness and apathy towards our student governance, what does? 

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Example: Prohibited Affiliation, 2023 SG Election

IEU certainly dropped all pretences of fairness or care this year. Despite repeated efforts to be included, two teams – Above & Beyond and VisionarIE’s – were not even formally announced on the official Student Government Instagram account. In comparison, Team Lotus members were promoted on university affiliated social media accounts from the Women in Business Club to even the official IEU Instagram account. For their part, Team Impulse began campaigning before the permitted period. The Election Debate itself was not approved by Campus Life until the day before it was meant to take place. That’s to say nothing of the failure to officially involve the Stork or other organizations in such matters.

It is understandable that teams might go to such lengths to win. Unlike most student officer positions, according to Article XIV Section 2 of the Student Government Bylaws: 

“Students elected as representatives and taking part in the structures of the IEUSG will be granted with academic and/or financial compensations through a system agreed at the Liaison Committee.”

Article XIV Section 2 of the Student Government Bylaws

Quite the incentive for teams to win, as these compensations are not and nor have they ever been publicly disclosed according to the Vice-Rectors Office. 

It’s Not the First Time..

Cheating and neglectfulness aren’t new to the SG Elections. Over the past 5 years, at least 30 individual counts of election fraud and illicit actions can be tallied. They include: 

  • Bribery and Prohibited Promotions in the 2019 SG Election. Multiple allegations led to changes in the 2nd Election Debate format, which students dubbed ‘the Big Roast’ for the “amount of back and forth attacks [and] heavy criticisms” made.
  • Bribery, Campaign Finance Violations, Extended Campaign Violations, Prohibited Affiliations, and Prohibited Promotions in the 2020 SG Election. Despite being found guilty of bribery, Team Yellow would go on to win the election with the infamous illicit campaign ad featuring the rapper Sean Paul.
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Collection of 2020 Sean Paul Memes, Courtesy of the IEUniMemes Instagram Account.
  • Campus Representation Quota Violations, Covid Policy Violations, Prohibited Affiliations, Prohibited Promotions in the 2021 SG Election: Following protests and a boycotting of the election by Debate Segovia, Team Hive led by Fmr. President Abdul Salam would win the election without sufficient team representation from Segovia.
  • Extended Campaign Violations, False Start, Prohibited Promotions in the 2022 SG Election: Team Catalyst would go on to win, paving the way for President Johanna to run for reelection this year. 
  • Extended Campaign Violations, False Start, Officer Composition Violations, Prohibited Affiliations, Prohibited Promotions in this 2023 SG Election: This year, all four running teams had at least one illicit act associated with them, either by their own actions or by that of a third-party, and The Stork had to stop coverage due to team interferences.

Each and every violation; each and every formal complaint lodged; in five years of SG Elections, not a single one has resulted in punishment. Nor has a team ever been barred from running, regardless of how serious their violations were. At most, a team may be “sanctioned” by the election oversight committee.

In actuality, this is little more than a verbal warning and a slap on the wrist. Why would they bother with more, when the university has publicly and privately constricted the role of the Student Government for years? 

Student Government Institutional Erosion

Behind the scenes, the Student Government has become a shadow of its former self. It’s been stonewalled by the creation of new departments and bureaucratic red tape. It had its budgets redacted and reduced from approximately €150k in 2019 to roughly €35k this year. Now, the Student Government is asked to make parties and reels rather than actual change – it’s a miracle anything gets done. 

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Snapshot of the 2017-18 budgets, courtesy of Fmr. Student President Calum Hedigan.
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Snapshot of the 2018-19 budgets, courtesy Fmr. Student President Giulia de Oliveira Camargo.

The same is true of the larger democratic body: the Student Representatives, where this year over 20% of the Classes had single Representatives run alone and unopposed. Several didn’t even have any students run for the position, and over 10% of positions remain unfilled.

By Vice-Rector Antonio de Castro’s own account at the last semesterly meeting, despite more students being enrolled and more classes being created each year, proportionately less students are running to be Representatives, and voting remains low in Representative elections. 

In truth, Representatives and the Student Government hold no more influence or institutional importance than any other student. The role of Class Representatives has become a meaningless position that entitles students to two meetings per semester, one with program direction and another with the Vice-Rectors, where they can be told their complaints will be taken under consideration. 

Perhaps that’s why matters like the attendance policy, the ‘Student Parliament,’ and ‘greater transparency’ are brought up so routinely at those meetings. The only power the Student Government or the Representatives have is to act as the ‘voice’ of the student body. Beyond that, they serve no purpose other than essentially internal marketing. True change, historically, has only come from other students or clubs acting on their own.  

“Complacency is the Forerunner of mediocrity”

Don Meyer

This is not the first time such issues have been written about. They have long plagued the university and its students. For three years straight, from 2019 to 2021, such matters were brought to the attention of the student body on the Stork and other mediums. Besides a few half-hearted complaints by losing running teams and a very select few others, they were largely ignored by the student body as a whole. 

All that said, there is a level of appreciation to be garnered for our university. Systemic as these problems may be, they are the natural growing pains of a young institute of higher education. As cynical as one can be, the actions taken this year collectively by the Student Government and the teams, the Stork, the various clubs, their officers and even the administrators of the university should genuinely give students hope for betterment and change. 

That does not excuse their inabilities or failures this year or in the years prior; but it is to say that the acknowledgement of their shortcomings is there. However, it is only through a demand by a student majority that any difference will be brought about. Don Meyer once said “complacency is the forerunner of mediocrity,” and indeed it is students’ current common complacency with our democratic systems that has bred such mediocrity in our ‘governance.’

So, if students are truly interested in bringing about meaningful change, then make your voices heard… 

Explanations of Violations: 

Bribery: promising SG funding/equipment to athletic teams, clubs, or persons in return for votes. 

Campaign Finance Violations: exceeding the campaign budget or spending the budget in prohibited ways. 

Campus Representation Quota Violations: failing to meet the minimum representation from both Segovia and Madrid campuses in team composition.

Covid Policy Violations: campaigning in manners which violated health and safety protocols. 

Extended Campaign Violations: campaigning after the authorized period.

False Start: campaigning before the authorized period. 

Officer Composition Violations: failing to fill all required officer positions in team composition. 

Prohibited Affiliations: the unauthorized promotion of a team by an IE Club/Organization. 

Prohibited Promotions: campaigning using illicit materials or mediums, such as paid ads. 

About the Author: Since 2020, Adam Rose has been both directly and indirectly involved in the Student Government Elections. As a former Debate Club President and former Stork Assistant Editor-in-Chief, he moderated Election Debates, organized media coverage, arranged for student representation by the Ethics and Compliance Club onto the election oversight committee, and investigated accusations and pursued indictments for electoral violations to present to said committee. He has served as a Class Representative for 4 years.

Cover Image courtesy of MidJourney and ChatGPT.

*Editorial Note: The article formerly incorrectly stated Team Impulse had improperly campaigned after the campaign period had ended; their and other posts promoting voting made during the voting period were confirmed as allowed by Student Experience Office. Team Catalyst of 2021 was also formerly stated as having Extended Campaign Violations - these allegations cannot be confirmed. The article has been amended to reflect these corrections, in addition to adding hyperlinks with more documentary photo evidence of violations.       

Adam Rose
Adam Rose
Adam is an IEU Class of 2023 Business Administration and International Relations alumnus. A United Nations Millennium Ambassador and a UNSSC Social Impact Award Recipient, he has an affinity for strategic partnerships, sustainable enterprises, and crisis management. Adam has affiliations with societies such as MCN, Nova Talent, and the National Academy Foundation. He has served on the Stork's Advisory Board since its founding in 2020.

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  1. Perhaps the “spirit” of IE may be what helps create these issues. The LinkedIn business mentality that seeks career placement, added to the nature of the institution (very top-down) foments apathy towards Student Government and their activities, making it all CV-building theatre. If IE is only a 4-year pit-stop in our career path, what incentive is there to participate?

    If we’re supposed to be connected to IE forever, the relationship between teacher and student must become more organic and be centered *first and foremost* on education, logos, and pursuit of the truth – foundational pillars of the great learning centres of the world.


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