Big news on campus in the last week is the annulment of the College Council election results for CC co-presidents. Below the fold is the all-student e-mail which summarizes the main details. The Record provides excellent coverage here. Kudos to their live streaming via Twitter. Comments:
1) Nothing wrong with a little election controversy! It gets everyone involved and talking. We now have another election with a more competitive set of candidates.
2) Nice job by the Administration to stay (completely?) away from the issue. Administrators are always tempted to “step in” and fix things when student government spins out of control. Wise administrators know that it is precisely these out of control situations that provide the best learning experiences for students. So, the best course of action is to let the students figure things out themselves.
3) The Elections Supervisory Committee seems to have done a good job and handled their responsibilities in a mature fashion, giving no preferences to the CC insiders.
4) Credit is also due to the drafters (who? when?) of the current CC Constitution, who wisely provided a mechanism (which worked!) to handle election irregularities.
From: Erica Moszkowski
Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Subject: A Statement from the Elections Supervisory Committee
To the Williams Student Body:
In light of text messages that circulated during the final hours of the election, the Elections Supervisory Committee is recommending an annulment of the Spring 2015 Presidential Election. This recommendation will be voted on by the full College Council in an emergency meeting on Tuesday, March 3rd at 8:00pm in Hopkins 001. A two-thirds vote of the full College Council body is required to annul the election. In the event of an annulment, self-nominations will be solicited for Presidential/Co-Presidential tickets, followed by 2 weeks of campaigning and a new all-campus election. All candidates from the previous election would be allowed to run. As per the College Council Constitution and Bylaws, the Vice President-Elect for Operations, Lia Lee ’17, would assume the position of Interim President beginning at the conclusion of Wednesday’s weekly Council meeting. If College Council does not approve this recommendation, Teddy Cohan ‘16 and Meghana Vunnamadala ‘16 will assume the Presidency on Wednesday evening.
On Saturday afternoon, Emily Dzieciatko ‘15, College Council Co-President and member of the Elections Supervisory Committee, without any knowledge of vote count, sent a text to Vunnamadala and Cohan. The body of this text read, “I’m not supposed to be telling you guys this, but you really need to get more people to vote for you before elections close. You can do it! 6 more hours!” The Committee learned of this text only after the closure of the elections. Dzieciatko recused herself from Committee proceedings.
The Committee would like to emphasize that, despite poor judgment, Dzieciatko’s actions do not a constitute a violation of any CC bylaws, nor does her personal endorsement of Vunnamadala and Cohan constitute the views of the Committee. Her statements comprised her personal desire for the ticket to increase turnout and do not reflect a knowledge of the state of the election, which remained confidential throughout. The intent of Dzieciatko’s message was also not to portray incorrect polling data; rather, it was entirely to encourage the Co-Presidents-Elect to continue campaigning.
Following Dzieciatko’s text message, Vunnamadala and Cohan reached out to members of the student body with a final campaign push. One element of this push was a series of text messages from Vunnamadala, at least one of which read “I’m not supposed to know this so don’t tell people but Teddy and I are losing rn [right now].” Again, the Committee learned of this message only after the closure of the elections.
After much deliberation, we have found that Vunnamadala’s language violates the College Council election campaigning rules as found in Article VIII, Section 3d of the College Council bylaws. The bylaw reads, “violations include but are not limited to the failure to adhere to campaign rules put forth in these bylaws, or other acts of bad faith (such as the destruction of campaign materials, deliberate misinformation etc.)” Furthermore, as stated in Article VIII, Section 3j, the bylaws read, “[i]n the case of grievous wrongdoing and/or violations of the campaign rules, the committee may recommend the annulment of an election to College Council.”
Thus, our recommendation for annulment of the election rests on two factors: did a violation(s) occur, and if so, were these violation(s) grievous? First, the Committee has concluded that violations did occur. Vunnamadala’s actions were a violation due to the insinuation that she had inside information in an attempt to gain an advantage. Second, we feel the violations were grievous. The role of the Elections Committee is to ensure that “campus-wide elections are free and fair” (College Council Bylaws, Article VIII, Section 2a). Because College Council is a democratic institution that derives its legitimacy from these elections, we feel that the Co-Presidential ticket’s actions constitute a violation of those closely held principles. We have come to these conclusions after many hours of debate. However, we realize that the terms “violation” and “grievous” are subjective. If you disagree with our analysis, please discuss your views with your representatives or come to the emergency meeting of Council to voice your concerns.
As per the College Council bylaws, the Committee also considered disqualification of the presidential ticket and forfeiture of votes. We conclude that disqualification is not an appropriate sanction, because the actions of Vunnamadala and Cohan are not the only factors at play. Forfeiture of votes after the aforementioned texts were sent was also considered, but not deemed commensurate with the offense at hand. Because of the complex circumstances surrounding the interplay between the actions of candidates and a member of the Committee, a full annulment of the Presidential election is the most appropriate response.
The Committee would also like to correct some of the facts relating to elections. A Record article (“CC co-presidents elects’ campaign tactics suggest inside information”) published online on Monday, March 2 suggested that “no one had access to the poll information until the polls closed.” The Record claims that Dzieciatko and Moszkowski confirmed this; however, this was confirmed without full understanding of the question from the Co-Presidents. Erica Moszkowski ‘15, CC Co-President and Elections Administrator, did have access to BigPulse, the online voting system. This has been the procedure for all College Council elections. As Moszkowski, Dzieciatko, Vunnamadala, and all other parties attest, Moszkowski did not share any information relating to the polls until after the polls closed at 8:00pm on Saturday. Furthermore, Moszkowski’s comment, “The [Elections Supervisory Committee] is completely satisfied that this was a fair election and the results speak for themselves,” was taken out of a context in which Moszkowski made clear that the Committee had yet to meet and that she could not speak for the Committee.
As outgoing officers of College Council, we, the members of the Committee, recognize the ever-present need for growth in these election procedures and hope that this is a topic that will continue to be discussed. As stated in Article VIII, Section 2a, an essential goal of the Committee is to ensure “free and fair” elections, and our recommendation results from deliberations centered on this point. The Committee would like to emphasize that this was a decision reached solely on the basis of the actions that took place during the elections period, beginning at 4:00pm on Thursday, February 26 and continuing through until 8:00pm on Saturday, February 28. Regardless of the severity of the issues surrounding the current Co-Presidents Elect, the Committee has been committed to addressing only the issues that fall within its jurisdiction, and hope that the additional concerns of the community will be addressed with all the expediency that due process allows.
The Committee would like to thank all who took part in this election. We hope this trend of strong student participation will continue in the future.
Recommendation approved on March 3, 2015 at 1:26 AM
4 in favor, 1 opposed, 0 abstentions
Letter approved on March 3, 2015 at 3:09 AM
5 in favor, 0, opposed, 0 abstentions
The 2014-2015 Elections Supervisory Committee
Erica Moszkowski ’15, Co-President (Chair, non-voting)
Quinn Pitcher ‘15, VP for Academic Affairs
Griffith Simon ’15, VP for Student Organizations
Ellen Finch ‘16, VP for Student Affairs
Matthew McNaughton ‘16, VP for Operations
Alphayo Nyarera ‘16, VP for Community & Diversity
Emily Dzieciatko ‘15, Co-President (recused from Committee)