Chris Kouyoumdjian vs. Anup Atwal; How an Independent Candidate’s Interaction with SCSYou Presidential Candidate, Anup Atwal, left him feeling threatened and misunderstood.
By: Sergio Arangio, Senior Editor
When Chris Kouyoumdjian decided to run for a director position in the SCSU elections, he had no clue he would be walking into a poorly-written political drama.
Then, hours ahead of Anup Atwal’s disqualification from the SCSU elections, the independent candidate for director of psychology came to the Underground with a potentially damning story: that the now disqualified presidential candidate Anup Atwal had tried to coerce him into breaking SCSU election policy in early January 2019, and later had threatened to use his influence within the student body to jeopardize Kouyoumdjian’s votes. Both Atwal and Kouyoumdjian have provided screenshots of their online interactions.
As Kouyoumdjian’s story goes, the second-year neuroscience and psychology (then a biochemistry student) began the process of running independently for the director position, garnering enough signatures to secure his nomination. Meeting Atwal through mutual friends, Kouyoumdjian warmed up to the idea of joining Atwal’s slate – though was displeased to find that the director of psychology slot was taken at the SCSYou slate. In response, Atwal had advised Kouyoumdjian to take his already signed nomination form and change his desired position to director of environmental science. The idea was that Kouyoumdjian could then change his field of focus after being elected.
He wasn’t comfortable doing something that would later turn out to be a policy violation, and so opted for remaining independent – all the while holding out for a guilt-free position on Atwal’s team. When asked about the advice, Atwal admitted that he didn’t pay enough attention to the morality and legality of such a move, viewing it as a corporate role with the ability to shift seats as needed.
“I recommended it but, looking back, it’s a mistake,” Atwal said in an interview. “I was trying to get him to stick around.”
In their online conversations, Kouyoumdjian mentioned that he needs the director of psychology position to support his family – to which Atwal corrected him by saying the position was actually unpaid.
The following interaction took place on January 18th, 2019:
When this exchange was brought up in both candidates’ interviews, Atwal took it to mean that the money was Kouyoumdjian’s only motivation for running. Kouyoumdjian clarified that his main drive for running is for the benefit of students, a statement he asserted in a later phone call.
Their interactions would continue and seem to deteriorate as Kouyoumdjian started to feel slighted by the faces that would be switched in and out of the SCSYou director of psychology slot, all the while being passed over for the role that he believed was promised to him at the start of the race. He says he began airing his frustrations to peers, which eventually made its way back to Atwal and prompted the following statement:
To Kouyoumdjian, the message sounded like a threat to steal his votes, which he took to the union’s chief returning officer, who handles election disputes, voicing his concerns.
“Me looking at that … I don’t feel comfortable having read that text,” Kouyoumdjian said in an interview.
Supposedly, the CRO suggested he ignore Atwal and informed him that he cannot intervene unless he sees a clear violation being made.
A document found by the Underground labelled as the SCSU’s elections policy outlines that threatening or coercive pressure is not permitted during the election period. The SCSU’s online constitution, however, does not appear to have a document with the same policy.
Where Atwal’s account differs, is that he believed Kouyoumdjian was slandering him and his slate out of spite, once by interrupting a class announcement by SCSYou members. In retaliation, Atwal said his plan was to expose Kouyoumdjian’s poor sportsmanship, which would as a consequence cause potential voters to wise up and go with a different candidate.
Kouyoumdjian said in a message that he was invited to speak in that class and that, other than an offhand remark about Atwal’s leadership, he doesn’t believe he said anything slanderous.
As part of our goal to ensure full-transparency, Chris shared his entire conversation history with Anup - which we’ve made available for students.
To read the full conversation between Anup and Chris, click here.
Meanwhile, the mudslide of dirty politics accusations have been abundant in this year’s elections season, with demerit points aplenty slapped on candidates for misrepresentation of facts – and allegedly more accrued by candidates at the Underground’s executive debate for potentially slanderous comments made during the event.
As for the now disqualified Atwal, he says he has not yet made plans for his involvement on campus post-election.
Kouyoumdjian is still running for director of psychology independently.
Atwal did make a couple instagram posts against Kouyoumdjian: