An anonymous email might cause trouble for one duo campaigning for Undergraduate Student Government elections Thursday and Friday.
Presidential candidate Taylor Stepp, a second-year in Russian and public affairs, and his running mate Kevin Arndt, a third-year in political science and public affairs, are the subject of the email sent Monday to more than 200 leaders and members of the Greek community at Ohio State.
The email, which informed recipients of “platform points that might be of interest” to members of the Greek community, had a screen shot attached. The screen shot was of a separate email from Stepp and several portions of a Google document.
Some highlighted portions of the screen shot seem to be early platform ideas from Stepp and Arndt’s campaign.
The email highlights sections of campaign notes, which Stepp, and Stepp alone, acknowledges writing most of. However, Stepp denies writing a portion that deals with a plan to push toward “tougher sanctions” on any future sexual violence acts committed by members of the Greek community.
The fraternity Phi Kappa Psi is mentioned in the platform as an example of a fraternity that commits sexual crimes against women.
The platform mentions ideas such as “publicizing fraternities that constantly roofie drinks … Phi Si (sic), for example.”
“Girls should know about this and I believe that this is completely essential to maintaining a safe campus,” a portion of the platform read – which Stepp denies ever seeing or writing.
Stepp said he is disappointed with USG, and the email has caused damage to his and Arndt’s campaign.
“Kevin (Arndt) is a part of the Greek community, and this is very unfortunate to our reputations, and also to (Phi Kappa Psi),” Stepp said. “They’ve been hurt by this a lot and I think that’s something we need to keep in mind … It was completely unjust.”
Matthew Kotapish, president of Phi Kappa Psi, said the email sent out was very disappointing.
“The statements made about Phi Psi are false and misleading. Under no circumstances does the organization condone that kind of behavior,” Kotapish said. “We were hurt that this was the perception (of our fraternity) … Not a single thing in that document about us is remotely true.”
Jake Bruner, a speaker of the Senate for USG and third-year in political science, said it is his job to keep the best interest of USG in mind at all times. Bruner’s email address is included in the screen shot.
Bruner said he is considering filing a brief to a judicial panel against another campaign team, because of the anonymous email.
Bruner said he has reason to believe that Travis Skaggs, a second-year in economics and a presidential candidate, or a member of his campaign team sent the email.
Bruner did not present any evidence to The Lantern about the origin of the anonymous email.
The Lantern, however, obtained a copy of the original email used in the screen shot sent to the Greek community. The email, which has the identity of the recipient private in the screen shot, depicts correspondence between Stepp and Skaggs. Skaggs’ name was hidden in the screen shot.
Skaggs, who also denies having anything to do with the anonymous email, said he forwarded the original message to multiple people, and he said they could have sent it to others.
“I am denying any responsibility for that email, and I’m also denying any responsibility of my team,” Skaggs said.
Danielle Meyer, a third-year in political science and vice presidential candidate alongside Skaggs, said she did not send the anonymous email.
“I find it incredibly sad that this kind of finger pointing is occurring so late during this campaign season,” Meyer said. “USG, as an organization has been constantly fighting to send the message to the student population that student government is more than political science majors playing sandbox politics, and this anonymous email has derailed almost all of our efforts.”
Meyer said there are a number of people within USG and other organizations who had access to the documents.
“Data is so easily shared these days that it is almost impossible to pinpoint who all had access to various documents,” Meyer said.
Stepp said he would not talk on speculation, but only comment on the email he sent to Skaggs.
“All I can speak on is the facts, and all I know is that email that was quoted, and the collage of screen shots they sent out, was only in an email I sent to Travis (Skaggs),” Stepp said.
Stepp, who again denies writing anything about sexual violence or mentioning any particular fraternity, said the focus should be on the students.
“This is exactly what we shouldn’t be spending our resources on,” Stepp said. “This is about reaching out to students, this is about getting our ideas out there and having students actually voting on it.”
Meyer said that while no one on her team is responsible for the email, she hopes whomever did it is caught soon.
“As a member of the Greek community, I am appalled that someone used a listserv to send slanderous material,” Meyer said. “I am saddened to see the effect it has on public opinion of student government. It’s disheartening that this election season has been so overly negative, and I do hope whoever sent that email is brought to justice.”
Bruner echoed Meyer’s statement, and said he was disappointed with all the negative campaigning he witnessed this year.
“If you tear an organization down in the process of trying to become president, then you are becoming president of an organization that no one cares about,” Bruner said.